In New Zealand the ‘2013 code of conduct for minimising acoustic disturbance to marine mammals from seismic survey operations’, the Code, has varying mitigation measures for different categories of marine mammals (DOC 2013). The most stringent mitigation measures apply to ‘species of concern with calves’, ‘species of concern without calves’, and ‘other marine mammals’. A full list of marine mammals designated as species of concern is found in the table below. For general information on the Code, please see www.codeofconductseismicnewzealand.co.nz.

New Zealand sea lion (Phocarctos hookeri), a species of concern © OSC 2014.

New Zealand sea lion (Phocarctos hookeri), a species of concern © OSC 2014.

Common name Scientific name
Southern right whale Eubalaena australis
Pygmy right whale Caperea marginata
Humpback whale Megaptera novaeangliae
Dwarf minke whale Balaenoptera acutorostrata subsp.
Antarctic minke whale Balaenoptera bonaerensis
Bryde’s whale Balaenoptera edeni
Sei whale Balaenoptera borealis
Fin whale Balaenoptera physalus
Blue whale Balaenoptera musculus
Pygmy blue whale Balaenoptera musculus brevicauda
Sperm whale Physeter macrocephalus
Pygmy sperm whale Kogia breviceps
Dwarf sperm whale Kogia sima
Cuvier’s beaked whale Ziphius cavirostris
Arnoux’s beaked whale Berardius arnuxii
Shepherd’s beaked whale Tasmacetus shepherdi
Southern bottlenose whale Hyperoodon planifrons
Hector’s beaked whale Mesoplodon hectori
True’s beaked whale Mesoplodon mirus
Gray’s beaked whale Mesoplodon grayi
Pygmy/Peruvian beaked whale Mesoplodon peruvianus
Andrew’s beaked whale Mesoplodon bowdoini
Ginkgo-toothed Whale Mesoplodon gingkodens
Strap-toothed whale Mesoplodon layardii
Blainville’s beaked whale Mesoplodon densirostris
Hector’s dolphin Cephalorhynchus hectori
Maui’s dolphin Cephalorhynchus hectori maui
Bottlenose dolphin Tursiops truncatus
Southern right-whale dolphin Lissodelphis peronii
Melon-headed whale Peponocephala electra
Pygmy killer whale Feresa attenuata
False killer whale Pseudorca crassidens
Killer whale Orcinus orca
Long-finned pilot whale Globicephala melas
Short-finned pilot whale Globicephala macrorhynchus
New Zealand sea lion Phocarctos hookeri


The more stringent mitigation measures that apply to species of concern under the Code include larger mitigation zones and longer periods of time where they must be clear of animals before the seismic source is activated.

When arriving at a new location during level 1 surveys (www.nzlevel1seismicsurveys.co.nz) in poor sighting conditions, the mitigation zone must be clear of species of concern for two hours immediately preceding the start-up of proposed seismic airgun activation. In contrast, the mitigation zone for other marine mammals only needs to be clear for 30 minutes, and 10 minutes for New Zealand fur seals (Arctocephalus forsteri).


Extra attention is given to species of concern during all stages of seismic surveys, starting with the planning stage Marine Mammal Impact Assessment (MMIA; www.marinemammalimpactassessment.co.nz). An MMIA must consider how species of concern use the proposed seismic survey areas and avoid, where possible, important biological periods such as breeding, calving, and migration.

During seismic surveys, Marine Mammal Observers (MMOs) and Passive Acoustic Monitoring (PAM) Operators must inform the Director-General of Conservation if there are high numbers of cetaceans or species of concern within the area.


In the Code, other marine mammals are defined as those not designated as a species of concern. Other marine mammals will most often be New Zealand fur seal, common dolphin (Delphinus delphis), and dusky dolphin (Lagenorhynchus obscurus). These marine mammals are not included in the list of species of concern, as they occur in large numbers around New Zealand, and have been observed in close proximity to vessels during active seismic surveys.


DOC (2013) 2013 Code of conduct for minimising acoustic disturbance to marine mammals from seismic survey operations.
p. 36. Publishing Team, Department of Conservation, Wellington, New Zealand.

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