PERTH (miningweekly.com) – The Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (Appea) has welcomed research by the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS), which showed that marine seismic surveys used in oil and gas exploration are not affecting the abundance or behaviour of commercially valuable fish.
The research is the first of its kind to use dedicated seismic vessels to measure the impacts of the survey’s noise in an ocean environment, with the eight-month experiment conducted within a 2 500 km2 fishery management zone near the Pilbara coast.
It involved using multiple acoustic sensors, tagging 387 red emperor fish and deploying more than 600 underwater cameras to track and measure fish behaviour before and after firing seismic air guns into the ocean.
AIMS principal researcher and project leader Dr Mark Meekan said the large-scale experiment measured the short-term and long-term effects of seismic airguns on the community of commercially important species in the region, such as red emperor.
“What makes this research unique and robust is we used an actual seismic vessel in a real ocean environment and some of the most advanced technologies to track and measure possible impacts,” he said.
“Commercial fishers are concerned seismic survey noise could change the abundance and behaviour of key fish species – this research directly sought to determine if commercially valuable fish leave the area or hide when exposed to the seismic noise.
“The results reveal there were no short-term or long-term effects on the abundance, behaviour and movement of bottom-living fishes. This suggests seismic surveys have little impact on commercially valuable fish species in this environment.”
Appea CEO Andrew McConville said the industry has always treated its responsibilities of protecting Australia’s flora and fauna with the utmost importance and this is further proof.
“We don’t deal in ideology, the oil and gas industry has science on its side. The AIMS research backs up what we have said all along, Australia’s oil and gas industry is world class, highly regulated and committed to protecting our marine environment,” McConville said.
“After decades of research, there is no conclusive evidence that this crucial activity has any harmful impacts on marine species or fisheries. The AIMS research backs up independent studies by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and Geoscience Australia into seismic surveys in the Bass Strait and Gippsland regions, respectively, have also found no clear negative effects of seismic surveys on scallops, fish or catch rates.”
McConville said Australia’s oil and gas industry is committed to preserving the country’s marine environment, supporting marine industries and responsibly managing all offshore operations.
“Our industry is investing millions in research and environmental protection measures to safeguard Australia’s marine environment. We also strongly support the stringent environmental regulations governing seismic surveys and the role of the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority to ensure compliance.
“Seismic surveys are crucial for new oil and gas projects that create thousands of jobs and bring millions of investment dollars to our regions. Based on the considerable scientific evidence presented, there should be no hesitation from policy makers, including the Greens, in embracing this important technology.”