Gulf of Mexico PSO course

This course is specifically aimed at personnel who will be acting as Protected Species Observers (PSOs) on seismic surveys in the Gulf of Mexico. The PSO course introduces the regulations that apply in the Gulf of Mexico and aims to equip PSOs with all the necessary knowledge to fulfill their role effectively. The course trains delegates in the requirements of BOEM NTL 2016-G02 Implementation of seismic survey mitigation measures and protected species observer program, the reporting requirements, and the identification of marine mammals and sea turtles.  The course content follows that laid down by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE); course materials have been reviewed by the BOEM/ BSEE and the course is accepted by them. 

Who can do the course?

PSO course content

What do delegates receive?

PSO course costs etc.

Bookings for the next course

Who can do the course?

This course is for those who want to work as a PSO in the Gulf of Mexico.  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 obtaining work as a PSO.  Delegates with enthusiasm but without a relevant background who wish to work as PSOs should seek to gain some experience after the course; there are many marine mammal projects that welcome volunteers.  Those in managerial positions in the geophysical industry 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 PSO offshore you will need appropriate offshore survival and medical fitness certificates.

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PSO course content

The PSO course syllabus includes the elements required under BOEM NTL 2016-G02.  The full syllabus covers the following topics:

Introduction to marine mammals -

  • taxonomy
  • biological functions including senses and vocalisations
  • functional hearing groups
  • issues affecting marine mammals, including acoustic disturbance

Sound -

  • sources of man-made noise in the oceans
  • measurement of sound
  • sound propagation
  • potential effects of acoustic disturbance on marine mammals
  • acoustic thresholds for injury of marine mammals

Legislation -

  • Marine Mammal Protection Act and how this relates to seismic acquisition, including Small Take Regulations
  • Endangered Species Act, including listed species, and how this relates to seismic acquisition
  • National Environment Policy Act
  • Right Whale Ship Strike Reduction Rule
  • Special Prohibition for Endangered Marine Mammals

Introduction to seismic surveys -

  • principles - basic theory and aims of seismic surveying
  • practice - operational procedures and equipment
  • types of survey - site, 2D, 3D, 4D, 4C, OBC, VSP, multi azimuth, wide azimuth, rich azimuth
  • overview of seismic acquisition in the Gulf of Mexico

Requirements of the Notice to Lessees (BOEM NTL 2016-G02: Implementation of seismic survey mitigation measures and protected species observer program) -

  • application - where the NTL applies
  • definitions - exclusion zone, whales, dolphins
  • ramp-up - requirement for and how to achieve, visual clearance of the exclusion zone, use of the mitigation gun, daylight silent periods
  • shut-down - requirement for and conditions for recommencing operations
  • visual observations - requirement for, personnel used, conditions regarding length of watch etc.
  • borehole seismic - silent periods
  • reporting - items that must be included in report, submission schedule, submission address
  • passive acoustic monitoring - use during reduced visibility

The role of the Protected Species Observer -

  • legal requirement for Protected Species Observer and his/ her function
  • assigned duties, including what can and cannot be asked of the observer
  • monitoring marine mammal presence
  • provision of advice on compliance with mitigation measures
  • monitoring compliance with mitigation measures, including integrity
  • pre-survey and mobilisation meetings
  • personnel involved - interaction with the Protected Species Observer
  • authority of Protected Species Observer to call for shut-down
  • reporting, including reporting of violations and coercion
  • situations that may be encountered and how to deal with these, including professional behavior

Data collection and reporting requirements -

  • recording forms - use of JNCC recording forms or suitable alternative
  • demonstration of use of recording forms
  • practice examples of recording forms
  • other information to report
  • submission of reports - routine reports and shut-down reports

Requirements of the Notice to Lessees (BOEM NTL 2016-G01: Vessel strike avoidance and injured/ dead protected species reporting) -

  • background to the NTL
  • protected species identification
  • vessel strike avoidance - maintaining a watch, slowing down or stopping vessel, minimum distances, actions to take whilst underway, mother-calf pairs/ pods/ large assemblages, submerged animals, animals in vesselís path/ close proximity
  • injured/ dead protected species reporting - marine mammals, sea turtles, stranding networks, NOAA, BSEE, what to include in report

Cues and search methods for marine mammals and sea turtles -

  • choosing an observation position
  • how to maintain awareness of when visual observations are required
  • scanning
  • visual cues
  • influence of weather
  • communication with crew
  • interpretation of navigation screens
  • visual range estimation - rangefinder stick, reticle binoculars, comparison with known reference points
  • use of binoculars - choosing binoculars, diopter adjustment

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

Identification of marine mammals and sea turtles -

  • identification guides
  • features used in identification of cetaceans
  • features used in identification of sea turtles
  • demonstration of identification features of species that may be encountered

Post-training support for PSOs, which could include -

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

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What do delegates receive?

  • A course manual and comprehensive resource pack on CD
  • A course certificate
  • Attendance recorded on a register forwarded to BSEE
  • Post-training support available

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PSO course costs etc.

The PSO course is a one-day course.  Courses are held in Inverness, usually starting at 9:30 am and finishing by 6:00 pm.  Tea/ coffee and a light lunch are provided. The cost is £130 per person. Delegates also attending the UK MMO training course with Carolyn Barton will have already covered some parts of the syllabus that are common to both courses and so may complete the PSO course in half a day and therefore benefit from a discounted rate of £55.   Please Contact us for dates of future courses.

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.

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Bookings for the next course

The next PSO course will be held following the JNCC MMO course in August.  It is only open to those who complete the JNCC MMO course the day before or who have done it with Carolyn Barton previously.

Wednesday 28th August 2019,  9:30 am - 1:00 pm.

The Waterside at Glen Mhor Hotel, Inverness, UK.

Cost £55 per person.


Booking form for 27th/28th August MMO/ PSO course.


Completed booking forms should be returned to . You will then receive a Paypal invoice for the course fee to complete your booking (you donít need a Paypal account for this). Course fees must be paid by 16th August (late bookings may still be accepted if there is space available).

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BOEM/ BSEE accepted PSO course

Site last updated 25/06/19

Copyright © 2005-2019 C.J.S. Barton

Next course dates:


JNCC MMO course

27th August £130


PSO course

28th August £55


Carolyn Barton - MMO training
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