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08/01/2009 During the last couple of years we have seen a growing level of conflict between seismic acquisition activities and the fishery industry. This is largely due to an increase in seismic data acquisition as a consequence of a generally higher level of petroleum activity.
On this basis, a working group was established in the fall of 2007 between the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate and the Directorate of Fisheries, with the aim of identifying measures that could improve relations between the two industries. Representatives from the industries were also consulted in this work. The initial result of the work was a report containing various suggestions, submitted on 1 April 2008. The work to firm up these proposals is now in progress.
Work is also underway to clarify the status of what we know about the startle response and other harmful effects of seismic acquisition on fish and marine mammals. The objective of this work is to arrive at proposals regarding a recommended minimum distance between seismic activities and fishery activities, aquaculture and catches. A group of researchers will be submitting a report on the status of our knowledge shortly. The next step will be for a group of representatives from both industries to submit a recommendation for such a minimum distance to the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate, the Directorate of Fisheries and the Norwegian Pollution Control Authority. Based on these activities, the authorities will consider implementation of additional measures.
Another measure is a special course for people who are to work as fishery experts on board seismic vessels. All vessels that carry out acquisition of seismic data in Norwegian waters must have at least one fishery expert on board. The purpose of this scheme is to avoid conflicts between seismic acquisition and fishery activities. From the next season, everyone who is to work as a fishery expert must complete such a course under the direction of the NPD and the Directorate of Fisheries.
During the course of this coming spring, the NPD will launch a new interactive system for announcing seismic surveys. The new system will make it easier for fishermen to see where seismic data acquisition is planned, and how long it will last.
The NPD approached the petroleum industry before Christmas with the objective of obtaining an overview of planned seismic data activity in 2009. This will enable planning so as to minimise conflict with the various types of fishery activities that take place during the year.
The proposed amendment of the Petroleum Act, which is currently out for consultation, suggests a tracking requirement for seismic vessels. This could make it easier to document the actual course of events if an incident should occur in the field.
The Norwegian Coast Guard, the Directorate of Fisheries and the NPD are working on a cooperation agreement. One of the features of this agreement will make it possible for the fishery expert on board seismic vessels to contact the authorities at any time of the day or night if consultation is needed.