Marine seismic surveys have been conducted since the 1950s, and experience shows that fisheries and seismic activities can and do coexist. There has been no observation of direct physical injury or death to free-ranging fish caused by seismic survey activity. While fish may react to a survey by swimming away, there is no evidence to suggest long-term or permanent displacement. There is a long history of seismic surveying in many regions where fisheries thrive –notably the United States Gulf of Mexico, Norway, and Canada, among others –where active surveying and productive, healthy fisheries have existed simultaneously for decades.
While some studies have reported declines in fish catch as a result of seismic surveying, these studies employed intensive surveying and high levels of fishing activity over an extended period; neither of which are representative of typical activity for their respective industries. Moreover, in some instances reductions in catch were actually reflective of a temporary reduction in fish catchability, where fish temporarily changed behavior while the survey was ongoing. These findings are not indicative of population-scale effects to the fishery.
The EnerGeo Alliance supports scientifically-based mitigation measures. Research does not support speculation that seismic surveys harm fish, eggs, or larvae, over long distances. While surveys may affect fish eggs at close range to the seismic source array, out of an abundance of precaution, surveys are planned to avoid key spawning areas and times, when possible. Additionally, the energy geoscience industry works closely with stakeholders through a consultation process, often including fishery liaison personnel, to make reasonable efforts to limit the potential impacts of exploration projects on fish and fishing activities.
Regulatory requirements and customary practices may vary in different fisheries, regions and operational contexts. Accordingly, the EnerGeo Allliance has developed a “Fishing Industry Interaction Checklist” to guide best practices and procedures to ensure a fair and equitable consultation process, even in areas without specific guidance. With open communication, these industries will continue to successfully coexist, as they have for decades.
- EnerGeo Alliance Seismic Surveys, Fish and Zooplankton Fact Sheet
- Seismic Surveys: Interaction with Fisheries, Presentation to MINEM: August 26, 2019
- IAGC Submission to the Australia Senate Environment and Communications References Committee’s Inquiry to “Impact of seismic testing on fisheries and the marine environment”
- Debunking Offshore Oil & Gas Exploration Myths: Seismic Surveys
- IAGC Fishing Industry Interaction Checklist