A working group composed of representatives from the Directorate of Fisheries and the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate (NPD) has submitted a report to the heads of the two directorates proposing new measures in connection with acquisition of seismic data on the Norwegian shelf.
The report emphasises the importance of good coexistence in the ocean regions, in spite of increased activity in the petroleum sector along with the perception of increasing conflict of interest.
The working group was established by the two directorates in September 2007 for the purpose of reviewing relevant issues and developing proposed measures. There has been dialogue during this process between the working group and the affected industries, as well as other interested parties.
The proposed measures include providing more exact information about the individual seismic expeditions, and that a general deadline of ten working days be introduced for change requests. It was also proposed that the NPD establish a search system on its website which enables searches for specific geographical areas in specific time periods, to obtain information about seismic surveys.
As a rule, a fishery expert must be on board vessels that are carrying out seismic surveys. Two such experts may be required in some special cases. The fishery expert is a link between the seismic survey vessel and the fishing fleet. The working group proposes that the fishery experts obtain enhanced competence by means of course activities and participation in the planning of the survey. The instruction manual for the fishery expert is revised by the Directorate of Fisheries and the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate jointly.
The working group agrees that fishing vessels carrying out active fishing take precedence ahead of other vessels that come to the fishing or harvesting field. This also applies to seismic survey vessels, even if they have permission to carry out seismic surveys in the same area. The same precedence cannot be demanded if the fishing vessel arrives at a harvesting field where seismic surveys are already underway.
The startle response in fish due to seismic surveys has been documented. The authorities lack advice with a sufficient degree of consensus from responsible players in the research community in order to use the startle response as an element in their decisions.
Therefore, the working group suggests that a separate group be established with representatives from relevant research communities, the fishery industry, the petroleum industry and public administration. The group shall accomplish the following within a reasonable time period:
Clarify the status of knowledge regarding the startle response in fish and marine mammals.
Submit a unified recommendation to the public administration for a more precise statement regarding the startle response to be used as a basis for practical implementation in the relationship between fishing/hunting and seismic surveys.
If applicable, evaluate how the legal framework should be adapted to the result arrived at.
This work is important to ensure continued good coexistence between the industries.
The working group believes there is a need to reinforce the follow-up of seismic data acquisition. Furthermore, the activity itself must have a more specific framework through expansion of the obligation to report a survey, as well as a new provision to the effect that the NPD will stipulate the area and time for implementation of each survey.
The working group recommends that the same tracking requirements that apply to fishing vessels should also apply to seismic survey vessels. There must be a clarification of whether the use of satellite tracking can be required for seismic survey vessels, including vessels registered abroad.
The fishery industry has complained that seismic data is acquired over and over again in the same area. However, the working group has no basis on which to claim that various licensees acquire the same lines multiple times, but the NPD will examine this in more detail.
Fishery activity and seismic survey activity are governed by different rules and regulations. The working group proposes that necessary changes be implemented in the regulations so as to implement the proposed changes.
The head of the Directorate of Fisheries and the NPD's director general will meet sometime during the spring to discuss the measures proposed in the report, as well as how they should be followed up.
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