OSC’s newest publication on ‘Underwater Visual Records of Marine Megafauna Around Offshore Anthropogenic Structures’ has been released today

We are pleased to announce publication of our newest 2020 paper entitled: ‘Underwater Visual Records of Marine Megafauna Around Offshore Anthropogenic Structures’, in a special issue titled ‘Seafloor heterogeneity: artificial structures and marine ecosystem dynamics’ of the peer-reviewed journal Frontiers in Marine Science. In this study, we investigated how archived video data collected routinely by the offshore industry can be re-analysed for scientific purposes. Using recordings collected by Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) and commercial divers can provide additional insights into the unknown interactions of marine megafauna with anthropogenic infrastructure. Both of OSC’s Directors (Dr Victoria Todd and Ian Todd) and five additional OSC staff authored this paper, with collaboration from Professor Peter Macreadie from Deakin University, and Dr Dianne McLean from the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS). This is now Dr Todd’s fourth co-authored ROV publication. Two previous papers have been published, entitled ‘Quantitative analysis of fish and invertebrate assemblage dynamics in association with a North Sea oil and gas installation complex, and ‘Characterizing the first wave of fish and invertebrate colonization on a new offshore petroleum platform, while the third ‘Enhancing the Scientific Value of Industry Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) in our Oceans’ is published in this same special issue. 

In oceans and seas worldwide, an increasing number of anthropogenic offshore structures (e.g. platforms, pipelines, manifolds, windfarms, etc.) are reaching the end of their operational life and facing full or partial removal. To inform the decommissioning process, studies on potential importance of subsea infrastructure to marine megafauna (defined as: cetaceans, pinnipeds, sirenians, large fish – such as sharks, rays, billfishes, and tuna, as well as marine reptiles, and seabirds) are required. Dedicated scientific ROV surveys around offshore installations are rare, but there is a wealth of archived industrial data, and noteworthy species sightings posted publicly on various social media platforms.

A total of 79 video clips and 3 still images of marine megafauna near offshore structures 

were examined, resulting in 67 sightings of 178 individuals, identified to 17 different species of marine megafauna. Results demonstrated proximate presence of marine megafauna (many of which are threatened species) to anthropogenic structures, with most animals displaying foraging or interaction behaviours with the structures. Observations included the deepest (2,779 m) confirmed record of a sleeper shark (Somniosus spp.) and the first confirmed visual evidence of seals following pipelines.

Examples of marine megafauna captured in still images close to anthropogenic structures sourced directly from industry partners and YouTube. © OSC 2020.

These ROV observations demonstrate a latent source of easily accessible information that can expand understanding of marine megafauna interactions with offshore anthropogenic infrastructure. Consequently, other workers in this field should be encouraged to re-analyse archived datasets, commence further collaborative research projects with industrial partners, and/or expand Internet search terms to additional species assemblages, in a bid to quantitatively elucidate relationships between offshore infrastructure and marine species.


McLean, D., Gates, A., Benfield, M., Bond, T., Booth, D., Bunce, M., Fowler, A., Harvey, E., Macreadie, P., Rouse, S., Parsons, M., Partridge, J., Pattiaratchi, C., Thomson , P., Todd, V.L.G., and Jones, D. (2020): Enhancing the global scientific value of industry remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) in our oceans. Frontiers in Marine Science 7, 220.

Todd, V.L.G., Lavallin, E.W., and Macreadie, P.I. (2018): Quantitative analysis of fish and invertebrate assemblage dynamics in association with a North Sea oil and gas installation complex. Marine Environmental Research 142, 69-79.

Todd, V.L.G., Williamson, L.D., Cox, S.E., Todd, I.B., and Macreadie, P.I. (2019): Characterising the first wave of fish and invertebrate colonisation on a new offshore petroleum platform. ICES Journal of Marine Science fsz077.

Todd, V.L.G., Lazar, L., Williamson, L.D., Peters, I., Hoover, A.L., Cox, S.E., Todd, I.B., Macreadie, P.I., and McLean, D.L. (2020): Underwater visual records of marine megafauna around offshore anthropogenic structures. Frontiers in Marine Science 7, 230.

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