Assessing the impact of marine seismic surveys on southeast Australian scallop and lobster fisheries

Project Number:



University of Tasmania (UTAS)

Principal Investigator:

Jayson Semmens

Project Status:


FRDC Expenditure:




Assessing the impact of marine seismic surveys on southeast Australian Scallop and Lobster fisheries

Final Report
Author(s):Ryan D. Day, Robert D. McCauley, Quinn P. Fitzgibbon, Klaas Hartmann and Jayson M. Semmens
Date Published:October 2016
The present study, undertaken by University of Tasmania’s Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies in conjunction with Curtin University’s Centre for Marine Science and Technology, was developed to investigate the potential impact of seismic surveys on economically important fishery species. Substantial overlap exists between important fishing grounds and areas of interest for oil and gas exploration within southeast Australian waters. The fishing industry is now very concerned about the potential of intense low frequency acoustic signals produced during these surveys to disturb, harm or even kill fisheries species. Studies conducted to date generally report that fish can demonstrate behavioural responses to seismic activities, including startle and flight responses, displacement, dispersal, and disruption of feeding or breeding activity. These behavioural responses could in turn result in changes in commercial catch rates. There have been very few dedicated studies of the effects of marine seismic surveys on invertebrates, and the limited information on invertebrates suggests that they may be relatively resilient to seismic sound, however, further research is required before the impacts of seismic activity on commercially important invertebrates can be dismissed. In the light of a general lack of well-designed and scientifically rigorous studies examining the effect of marine seismic surveys on invertebrates and in the absence of any detailed specific studies on commercial scallops (Pecten fumatus) and southern rock lobster (Jasus edwardsii), fishers in Victoria and Tasmania have lobbied for dedicated research targeting these valuable resources. This study aimed to use a field and laboratory experimental approach to determine the impact of marine seismic surveys on these important fisheries species. The results obtained are broadly applicable to scallop and spiny lobster fisheries throughout the world, and bivalve and crustacean fisheries in general. Keywords:  seismic survey, air gun, spiny lobster, rock lobster, Jasus edwardsii, scallop, Pecten fumatus, statocyst, haemocyte, osmoregulation


1. Determine the impact of intense low frequency acoustic signals on adult southern rock lobsters, including berried (egg carrying) females

2. Determine the impact of intense low frequency acoustic signals on adult commercial scallops

3. Outline threshold distances for potential impacts of seismic surveying