Marine Protected Species
Versar offers a variety of services focused on the research, conservation, and management of marine species protected by state, federal, and international policies. Our multidisciplinary staff of expert marine scientists specializes in marine mammal and sea turtle biology; ornithology; fish and fisheries; coral reef ecology; and acoustics. We have performed a variety of marine protected species projects in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans; the Gulf of Mexico; Caribbean Sea; and Mediterranean Sea for commercial, private, and government clients, including assessments in the Navy's operating areas across the globe.
Versar provides technical protected species expertise that enables our clients to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Endangered Species Act (ESA), Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), and related regulatory requirements:
- NEPA – Environmental Impact Statements and Environmental Assessments
- ESA – Biological Assessments and Biological Evaluations
- MMPA – LOA and IHA applications for military and commercial activities
Marine Resources Documentation
Versar specializes in developing comprehensive assessments of marine resources, which include data and information on the status; habitat; distribution; behavior/life history; and acoustics/hearing information for protected species found in specific areas. Clients use this baseline information to identify the resources that may be affected by operations, fill data gaps, and provide other critical information needed for environmental planning.
Versar conducts and manages systematic visual surveys to determine the occurrence of protected species. We conduct line-transect surveys for estimating abundance/density; assessing behavior and habitat utilization; and determining the spatial/temporal distribution of marine mammals, sea turtles, and seabirds. We conduct these surveys using both aerial and boat-based platforms, often combining survey techniques with passive acoustic monitoring and other research methods to provide a more complete understanding of species occurrence.
Versar analyzes survey data to assess distributions in abundance/density via Conventional Distance Sampling (CDS) and Density Surface Modeling (DSM) methods.
- CDS – Used to generate robust estimates of abundance/density of a species or group over an entire study area.
- DSM – Used to model abundance/density as a function of environmental covariates so that we can predict abundance/density at a fine spatial resolution (useful for marine spatial planning).
- Model results allow clients to effectively plan operations and assess the potential impacts that proposed operations may have on species.
Versar acousticians conduct passive acoustic monitoring (PAM), sound pressure level (SPL) monitoring, and acoustic data analysis.
- PAM – Used to detect marine mammal calls, track movements, identify habitat use, determine effects of noise, monitor baseline ambient noise, and document anthropogenic noise.
- SPL monitoring – Used to monitor noise levels associated with activities such as construction and seismic surveys.
- Use software programs to analyze ambient noise, anthropogenic noise, fish sounds, and marine mammal vocalizations, as well as software detectors to identify specific endangered whale species.
A primary component of regulatory compliance for protected species is monitoring and mitigation during activities that may adversely affect these species. Our certified visual observers and expert acousticians provide monitoring and mitigation for marine mammals, sea turtles, and seabirds during activities such as offshore development, construction, G&G surveys, and seismic surveys.