Stakeholder engagement with local fisheries create a positive outcome for CGG

The Gippsland 3D Marine Seismic Survey was undertaken by CGG as a multi-client seismic survey to acquire improved imaging of the subsurface in the Gippsland Basin in south-eastern Australia. CGG commissioned RPS to prepare a detailed Environment Plan (EP) for National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) using the best available data and scientific expertise. As part of the Environment Plan preparation phase, and throughout the survey, RPS engaged with local stakeholders which included local communities, fisheries representatives, conservation association and regulatory bodies.

 

The impact the survey might have on local fisheries and sea users was a primary concern. Fishing industry stakeholders were worried over the loss of access to fishing grounds during the survey and the impact of cumulative effects of seismic sound on fish. In southeast Australia, seismic surveys have been blamed for devastating scallop beds, though there is not enough scientific evidence to confirm this. It was essential to CGG that the survey be safe and cost-effective while minimising and mitigating its impact on fisheries.

In preparing the environmental plan, an RPS underwater acoustic specialist performed underwater sound propagation modelling to determine the worst-case sound impacts from the survey. In addition to modelling, they conducted a review of the scientific literature to qualify the effects of underwater noise on marine ecosystem. The environmental scientists at RPS identified and classified the impact of underwater sound on various marine life. The environmental plan detailed the mitigation requirements so that there would be no long-lasting effect. In biologically important areas, identified in the EP, CGG reduced the area of seismic acquisition.

RPS supported CGG throughout the consultation process with the fishing industry. Consultations included email, phone and in-person conversations with government departments, fishing industry associations and public information on webpages and through media inquiries.

The fisheries raised several concerns during the consultation process with RPS. CGG incorporated the feedback from the consultation process into the survey planning. As a result, CGG made changes to the survey and undertook additional mitigation efforts. RPS sent regular updates to stakeholders to keep them informed and engaged throughout the consultation process.

Key changes were

  • Increasing transparency by sharing peer-reviewed scientific data from the EP on the sound source modelling and risk assessment.
  • Fishing activities would not be disrupted beyond that required for safe passage of the seismic vessel, except for octopus fishers with fixed equipment.
  • Timing the survey to avoid peak commercial fishing season, including the months leading up to Christmas to prevent impacting holiday seafood sales.
  • Removing the South East Reef and the Horseshoe Canyon KEF from the survey region as octopus fisheries would not be able to fish in the active zone during acquisition.
  • Reducing the survey area by approximately 20% to ensure seismic noise does not overlap an area of relatively high scallop density in nearshore waters. Reduce overlap with trawl and squid fishing areas in the northern area.
  • Reducing the power of the seismic airguns in some regions of the survey and increasing the buffer zone.
  • Limiting seismic activity near the South East Reef to March and April. These months have been identified as having the lowest sensitivity for spawning of commercially important fish and invertebrate species.
  • Allowing for 24 hours between shooting of adjacent survey lines to enable the recovery of fish species.
  • Early notification of survey commencement, 7 to 10 day forecast of activities and daily updates of survey activity issued to commercial fisheries operating in the area.
  • Compensate fisheries for short term loss of catch through the development of a contractual/compensation proposal.

Cooperation, along with honest and open communication during stakeholder engagement with local fisheries led to changes to the survey. With all reasonable concerns of the fisheries addressed, NOPSEMA approved the environmental plan and the survey began January 1st, 2020 and finished on July 11th, 2020.

Map of seismic survey area

A positive outcome, whereby the survey is completed safely and cost effectively and disruption of fishing activity is minimized, relies on open communications. CGG wants to work with fishers to minimize and mitigate any impacts and invites cooperation from the fishing industry in providing open and honest information on the key areas fished and where they plan to fish between January and July.

CGG, Corporate Communications

 

To learn more about this project or to download a copy of the Environmental Plan, visit the project page on the NOPSEMA website.

Services provided

  • Environmental planning and risk assessment
  • Sound source modelling
  • Oil spill modelling
  • Stakeholder engagement
Jeremy Fitzpatrick

Jeremy Fitzpatrick

Service Line Leader - Marine Science +61 8 9211 1111 EMAIL
Perth - West Perth | Australia
John Stanton

John Stanton

General Manager - Energy Services +61 8 9211 1111 EMAIL
Perth - West Perth | Australia

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