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Survey (research) project results

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2019 trial cetacean observer system project
Date:2021-03-12
Unit:Ocean Conservation Administration

Noise produced by offshore wind farm piling work has a significant impact on cetaceans. Light impact may include changes to cetacean swimming behavior (such as the Chinese white dolphins leaving their habitat), while severe impact may affect cetaceans’ hearing (loss of their original hearing) or even cause immediate harm or death. Thus, the offshore wind farm developers’ environmental impact assessment commitment items stipulate that developers must hire trained cetacean observers to monitor the areas affected by underwater piling noise (alert areas) as an effective measure to reduce underwater noise. This noise reduction measure is based on the European and American marine mammal observer (MMO) system as the last line of defense to protect cetaceans from harm by underwater noise. Taiwan currently has no legal basis or marine mammal observer system specifications; developers have to set their own proposals in their respective environmental impact assessment documents. This may subsequently result in increased difficulties in supervision or poor noise reduction results. Thus, the establishment of cetacean observer specifications and operating standards must be accelerated.
The recommendations that this Project is advocating in the Taiwan Cetacean Observer (TCO) system initially utilized the MMO system used by Britain’s Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) as its primary basis. The JNCC’s operation guidelines, records forms, category system, training, certification method, and oversight mechanism were used. To effectively introduce the system, the “Cetacean Observer Operating Standards and Procedures” (draft) and the “Cetacean Observer Reporting and Assessment Mechanism” have been completed. The contents have been revised according to the opinions from the review committee members and feedback from students during the training course. It is recommended that the stakeholders’ opinions continue to be gathered before and after the announcement to implement continuous updates and revisions.
To further effectively introduce the TCO system, this Project organized three system meetings. The first two meetings invited government agencies (the Bureau of Energy and Environmental Protection Administration) and environmental groups to participate. The main conclusion is that the TCO system should be rapidly established, including accelerating its legalization, expanding the number of training sessions and the subject base, and realizing effective oversight mechanisms. The third meeting was expanded in scale, and TCO-related stakeholders were invited to participate in the discussion. Attendees provided opinions regarding the legalization of the TCO system, the obtaining and publication of information, whether training can satisfy market demands, and difficulties in site work. Moving forward, this Project recommends that proposals be revised according to feasible legal sources, the feasibility of the Fisheries Agency cooperating in fishermen training be explored, and the review of the information turned in by cetacean observers and level of publication for this information be discussed.
The planning of the TCO training material has already completed 12 modularized syllabi to be taught in academic courses. This year’s trial course recruited 57 students (originally set at 40 students) and completed three student recruitment events, one course start seminar, three tiers of indoor academic courses, and six tiers of outdoor offshore internship courses. The 50 students that passed training received the course completion certificate issued by the Ocean Conservation Administration, and were recorded in the Ocean Conservation Administration’s database. Among them, 12 engaged in practical operations in Zhunan, Miaoli, in October. The graduates conducted visual monitoring and kept records at Formosa 1’s Zhunan offshore wind farm, as well as compiled work forms and completed a day of Cetacean Observer Operating Standards and Procedures. Personnel who participated in training and actual operation all went offshore for actual work, whereby they could understand that cetacean observers need accumulation of experience, while hoping that the cetacean observer system can be legalized to realize cetacean conservation.

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