Strategic Assessment of the Risk Posed to Marine Mammals by the Use of Air Guns in the Antarctic: Concepts, Methods, Results, and Controversies

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During the past two years, the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) prepared a comprehensive, strategic assessment of the risk posed to marine mammals by the use of air guns for scientific, geophysical research in the Southern Ocean around Antarctica (Boebel et al. 2009). This strategic risk assessment focuses not only on a single activity (e.g., a specific expedition) as a risk assessment would but more generally considers the use of research air guns in this region’s typical operational and environmental contexts, which show little interannual variation. The study attempts distinguishing between aspects of analysis (based on scientific knowledge and numerical calculations) and evaluation (based on a set of risk criteria and associated thresholds). The term assessment is used to describe the overall process, involving both analysis and evaluation.