JNCC-recognised MMO training course

This course is aimed at personnel who will be acting as Marine Mammal Observers (MMOs) in UK waters. The MMO training course introduces the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) guidelines for geophysical surveys, piling and explosives operations. The course content aims to equip MMOs with all the necessary knowledge to fulfill this role effectively, including the implementation of the JNCC guidelines, the reporting requirements and the identification of marine mammals. Running for more than twenty five years, the course is continually updated to reflect current knowledge and practice.  It has been reviewed and accepted by the JNCC. 

Who can do the course?

MMO training course content

What do delegates receive?

MMO training course details

Bookings for the next course

Who can do the course?

This course is for those who intend working as an MMO in UK waters.  There are no prerequisites for attending the course, but delegates with some prior marine mammal experience or other environmental/ scientific/ seagoing experience are likely to be most successful in passing the course and obtaining work as an MMO.  Delegates with enthusiasm but without a relevant background who wish to work as MMOs should seek to gain some experience after the course; there are many marine mammal projects that welcome volunteers. Those in managerial positions in the offshore industries may benefit from attending the course to learn about the mitigation requirements that may apply to their projects. 

The course is presented in English, so delegates should have sufficient understanding of the English language to follow the presentation and complete the practice examples.

Please note that to work as an MMO offshore you will need appropriate offshore survival and medical fitness certificates. See Links for further information on centres that provide these.

Back to top

MMO training course content

The MMO training course follows the syllabus set out below:

Marine mammals and noise -

  • what is a marine mammal?
  • importance of hearing
  • vocalisations
  • functional hearing groups
  • impulsive vs. continuous noise
  • potential effects of noise - disturbance, masking, injury, death

Activities that require mitigation -

  • geophysical surveys - seismic surveys (site, 2D, 3D, 4D, OBC/OBN, VSP), high resolution surveys
  • piling - offshore wind farm construction, coastal construction
  • explosives - well abandonment, construction, UXO clearance

Background to the JNCC guidelines -

  • origin and development of JNCC guidelines over time
  • legal protection for cetaceans - Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations, Conservation of Offshore Marine Habitats and Species Regulations, Wildlife and Countryside Act
  • legal protection for seals
  • legal protection for other marine megafauna - turtles, basking sharks
  • licensing - geophysical survey licence, marine licence, seabed survey licence, EPS licence, wildlife licence

Detailed examination of requirements of the JNCC guidelines (geophysical, piling and explosives) -

  • planning - consent, noise abatement, project design, species present, areas of importance for marine mammals, visual and passive acoustic monitoring
  • use of MMOs/ PAM - equipment, training, experience, requirement for dedicated/ non-dedicated MMOs
  • mitigation zone - size of zone for different activities
  • pre-activity searches - location of observer, timing and duration of search, importance of communication
  • delays in operations - when to delay, shutdowns during soft starts for piling
  • soft starts - purpose of soft start, duration of soft start, soft start procedures
  • geophysical survey line changes - duration of line change, when to stop firing and when to continue, repositioning geophones on VSP
  • breaks in operations - planned and unplanned, requirement for monitoring, requirement for soft start
  • airgun testing - requirement for soft starts
  • undershooting on geophysical surveys - why and how this is achieved, location of MMO
  • high resolution surveys - small airgun arrays, sub-bottom profilers, side scan sonar, multibeam, requirements for mitigation
  • post-detonation search for explosives - duration, observations
  • Acoustic Deterrent Devices - when to use, how to use
  • compliance - how to deal with issues of non-compliance with guidelines/ breach of consent
  • role of the MMO/ PAM operator - monitoring marine mammal presence, provision of advice, monitoring compliance, reporting
  • example situations that may be encountered and how to deal with these

JNCC guidelines reporting requirements -

  • MMO report - what to include, submission
  • JNCC Marine mammal recording forms - Excel forms and Deckforms
  • demonstration of use of recording forms
  • delegates will complete a practice example of the recording forms

Visual monitoring -

  • choosing an observation position
  • timing of search - use of navigation screens
  • scanning techniques
  • visual cues
  • influence of weather
  • visual range estimation - rangefinder stick, reticle binoculars, comparison with known reference points
  • use of binoculars - choosing binoculars, diopter adjustment
  • assessing weather conditions - wind direction, wind force, sea state, swell, visibility, sun glare, precipitation

Overview of Passive Acoustic Monitoring (PAM) -

  • advantages and disadvantages
  • types of PAM systems - towed arrays and static buoys
  • acoustic range estimation
  • software - Pamguard
  • using PAM for mitigation
  • reporting PAM data

Working as an MMO/ PAM operator -

  • certificates needed
  • working through agencies
  • lone working/ team working
  • role of the MMO/ PAM operator - tasks before, during and after a project
  • equipment needed
  • communication with the crew - mobilisation meetings, ongoing communication whilst monitoring, discussing compliance issues
  • professional conduct
  • health and safety

Identification of marine mammals -

  • identification guides
  • features used in identification of pinnipeds
  • features used in identification of cetaceans
  • demonstration of identification features of species that may be encountered
  • practice at identifying marine mammals

Exam -

  • multiple choice format
  • completed online for remotely-delivered courses
  • pass mark 80% (as set by JNCC)
  • delegates get two initial attempts (remedial learning/ targeted revision may be necessary for further attempts)

Post-training support for MMOs, which could include -

  • answering any questions that may arise
  • review of report(s) (optional)

Back to top

What do delegates receive?

  • A comprehensive resource pack (electronic)
  • A course certificate (upon successful completion)
  • Post-training support available

Back to top

MMO training course details

The MMO training course is a 2 day course. Courses are held in Inverness, usually starting at 9:30 am and finishing by 5:30 pm each day. Tea/ coffee and a light lunch are provided each day (overnight accommodation is not provided). Please Contact us for dates of future courses.

Inverness is served by good air and rail connections.  Inverness airport connects with a number of other airports within the UK, including London Gatwick, London Heathrow, London Luton, Manchester, Bristol, Birmingham and Belfast, as well as Dublin in Ireland and Amsterdam for international connections.

Alternatively, courses for groups can be held at a venue of your choice. Please Contact us for group rates and to arrange a suitable date.

Courses can also be delivered remotely by Zoom.  Live sessions comprising a mix of lectures and exercises are presented over 1.5 days - any exercises not completed during the course will need to be completed as homework. The final exam is done online after the course at delegates’ convenience. Delegates on remote courses will need a laptop/ PC (a phone screen is not suitable for viewing the presentation or completing exercises) with Word and/or Excel, and a good, reliable internet connection.

Back to top

Bookings for the next course

Dates:       Thursday 30th November 9:00am - 5:00pm

      Friday 1st December 9:00am - 1:00pm

      Online exam at delegate’s convenience

      (All times UK time - GMT)

      Registration form

Delivery:  Zoom

Cost:        £180 per person

You will need a laptop/ PC (a phone screen is not suitable for viewing the presentation or completing exercises) with Word and/or Excel and a good, reliable internet connection. Spaces are limited to maximise opportunity for questions/ discussion and involvement in exercises. Each delegate gets individual written feedback on exercises and the exam. 

To reserve a place (subject to availability) please download and return the registration form. You will then be sent a Paypal invoice to confirm your reservation by paying the course fee (free cancellation with full refund more than 7 days before the course - full details are on the registration form).

Back to top


JNCC-recognised MMO course

Certificate checks:


Contact us to check the authenticity of any certificate.

Site last updated 15/11/23

Copyright © 2005-2023 C.J.S. Barton

Next course dates:


JNCC MMO course

30 Nov & 1 Dec 2023

Remote delivery

£180 per person



PSO course




Carolyn Barton - MMO training
common dolphin2