The fishing and the oil/gas industries have rights to operate their respective businesses in the marine environment. At sea, there is a degree of spatial/temporal overlap between marine seismic activity and established fishing grounds. For shared access to work effectively, a high level of respect, cooperation, communication, coordination and compromise is required between industries.
With some notable exceptions, many fishing operators in areas of high offshore prospectivity report this doesn’t always occur. They feel as a result, their businesses are negatively impacted, with little if any recognition by the oil/gas industry. Importantly this does not only relate directly to loss of catch, possibly arising from seismic activity, but to disruptions at an operational and business level including; time and resources to input into the process, reduction of fishing opportunities during peak/open seasons and marketing/staffing issues (onshore and offshore) due to unplanned variations in fishing activity. Oil and gas explorers also report that interactions can negatively impact on their operations at high cost.
These issues were highlighted at a FRDC supported ‘Empowering’ workshop in 2011 attended by the fishing and oil/gas industries, agencies and researchers. It was agreed that a project designed to examine and improve processes and policies to minimise impacts of seismic surveys on operations and businesses was a priority.
Since then, National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) was established. This authority is the national regulator for a range of offshore oil and gas operations, including environmental management.
DPI Vic indicated the project approach is a long time coming and stressed the need for discussions before exploration leases are released, the benefits in educating both sectors on impacts of their activities on the other and the value this will provide in forward planning for both sectors to minimise negative interactions and optimise efficiency and profitability.