New Zealand MMO(Marine Mammal Observers) Course for people new to the industry

Marine Mammal Observers (MMOs) wishing to work on marine seismic surveys in New Zealand waters must successfully complete a training course consistent with the standards outlined in the 2013 Code of Conduct for Minimising Acoustic Disturbance to Marine Mammals from Seismic Survey Operations. Blue Planet Marine’s NZ MMO Course is one of the few courses approved by the New Zealand Government as meeting these standards. It is suitable for candidates new to MMO work right through to experienced MMOs or industry/government personnel keen to better understand this role.

Candidates whom successfully complete the BPM NZ MMO Course will be capable and confident in undertaking the duties of a MMO under the Code of Conduct, and will be recognised by the New Zealand Government as ‘trained’ MMOs, able to work on marine seismic surveys in New Zealand waters.



The BPM NZ MMO Course consists of online distance learning and a three-day practical component, including a final written examination.



Online distance learning covers 13 modules and takes about 1-2 weeks to complete depending on previous experience/knowledge. Module content is enhanced by diagrams, images, supplementary reading materials, and videos to reinforce learning. Modules also include assessment questions that enable candidates to gauge their understanding and progress. Each assessment must be passed in order to progress to the next module. Online support is available via email and candidates can re-sit an assessment should they not pass the first time.

The 13 modules are:

  • Course introduction
  • NZ law and requirements of the Code
  • The role of observers
  • NZ marine mammals
  • Marine mammal acoustics and underwater sound
  • General seismic operations
  • Visual observations
  • Navigation
  • Weather and environmental conditions
  • Passive Acoustic Monitoring operations
  • Vessel health and safety
  • General observer issues



The three-day practical component includes classroom, shore- and seabased activities designed to consolidate online distance learning, and introduce and then practice techniques essential to the role of MMO. An experienced MMO will deliver the practical component, with additional tutors dependent on group size. Group size is limited to a maximum of 12 candidates.


The core components of the practical include:

  • MMO equipment
  • Navigation – compass use, calculating compass bearing, angle boards
  • Calculating distance – reticle binoculars, measuring sticks, sextant, accounting for observer height and distance to acoustic source
  • Plotting marine mammal detections and track logs
  • Marine mammal identification
  • Detection procedures
  • Completing DOC Reporting Forms

Following the practical exercises candidates will sit a final written examination, which will test knowledge from all aspects of the course. A mark of 75% or higher must be achieved in order to pass the exam and gain accreditation.




For an application form or more information please contact:



Blue Planet Marine also has a New Zealand Government-approved twoday assessment process for experienced MMOs. In order to be eligible for this process candidates must have at least 12 weeks’ experience in the role of MMO on marine seismic surveys. Following this two-day assessment successful candidates will be recognised by the New Zealand Government as a ‘trained’ MMO, able to work in New Zealand waters. For more information please contact: