The Hail 3D transition-zone seismic survey, carried out by Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) in 2013–14, was located within an area considered to be of significant national and international environmental importance. Falling within a designated marine protected area (MPA) that was ratified by Abu Dhabi ministerial decree, as well as in a United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) world-biosphere reserve, high standards of environmental and ecological management throughout the acquisition program were of paramount importance.

Effective environmental and ecological management throughout the project was attained through the design and implementation of numerous working procedures and monitoring programs. These included the development of specific sets of mitigation guidelines for use during transition-zone surveys for minimizing disturbance and injury to marine mammals and turtles and for operating within mangrove areas, and the use of environmental profiling, auditing, and post-operational monitoring in both the terrestrial and marine environment for collecting new data on the biodiversity and ecology of the area.

For the first time, we present ecological and environmental data collected over a period of 12 months within the Hail shoal area. In addition to data on species numbers and distributions, we present a method for effectively managing complex seismic surveys being carried out simultaneously in both the marine and terrestrial environment.

For marine-mammal and turtle species, visual observations were compared over time and analyzed against seismic activity by use of a regression analysis. Our results demonstrate seasonal variation in total numbers throughout the year, with no significant reduction in observed numbers occurring as a result of seismic-exploration activities.

We further demonstrate how a complex seismic survey can be managed and supervised to mitigate and minimize the environmental footprint or negative impacts on biodiversity as a result of the exploration and resource development considered crucial to the socioeconomic development of Abu Dhabi.

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