Calming troubled waters

Relations between fishing and oil off Norway are to be improved. Measures include special courses for fishery experts on seismic survey ships, readily accessible activity data and an identification system for such vessels.
  • Eldbjørg Vaage Melberg / Emile Ashley (photo)

Øystein Dretvik

Øystein Dretvik coordinates the NPD’s work on fishing and seismic surveying.


Seismic survey work has increased on the Norwegian continental shelf in recent years, partly because the government wants more offshore activity. This has heightened conflicts with fishermen.

Appointed in the autumn of 2007, a working party drawn from the NPD and the Directorate of Fisheries reported on 1 April on ways of improving relations between these industries. The measures recommended are now being put into effect.



A dedicated course for fishery experts serving on seismic survey vessels is due to be established during the first half of 2009.

Some 200 people are currently on the fisheries directorate’s list of such specialists, reports NPD coordinator Øystein Dretvik. But only about 60 of them are active.



Every seismic survey is announced on the NPD’s website, with details about which vessel will do the work, the client and when and where data are to be gathered.

This system is now to be comprehensively overhauled to ensure that an overview of all survey activity can be obtained at any given moment by a simple key press. 

Both the Norwegian Fishermen’s Association and the seismic survey industry have contributed their views on this upgrade, which is due to become operational from 1 April 2009.



The fleet of survey ships will also be adopting an automatic identification system (AIS) similar to the one used by fishing vessels.

Mr Dretvik explains that this will make it easier to establish what had actually happened should conflicts arise between seismic surveyors and fishermen out in field.



Seismic surveys have a documented effect in scaring fish, but no account has been taken of such impacts in the regulations governing this activity.

A joint project has now been established by the NPD, the Directorate of Fisheries and the Norwegian Pollution Control Authority (SFT) to study scaring and other negative effects of seismic waves on fish and marine mammals.

Due to report by 1 April next year, this work in intended to recommend minimum distances between surveys and fishing activities, aquaculture and catching.

Mr Dretvik adds that work is under way to amend the regulations so that it becomes easier for the seismic survey and fishing industries to co-exist off Norway.

Topics: Seismic