No Evidence that Seismic Surveys Impact Fishes: IAGC Commends Australian Institute of Marine Science & Partners on Publication of Large-Scale Field Experiment of the Effects of Seismic Surveys on Fishes

Houston, Texas, UNITED STATES

Houston, TX, US, July 19, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Dr. Alex Loureiro, IAGC’s Director of Marine Environment & Biology today issued the following statement regarding the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) Study, “A large-scale experiment finds no evidence that a seismic survey impacts a demersal fish fauna” published by the  Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

“On July 19, the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS), with collaborative input from an extensive group of research scientists, commercial fishers, fishing associations, fisheries research agency, seismic specialists, seismic contractors, and oil and gas representatives, published a paper entitled, A large-scale field experiment finds no evidence that a seismic survey impacts demersal fish fauna in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The paper represents the culmination of a highly intensive, multidisciplinary, and collaborative effort undertaken as part of the AIMS North West Shoals to Shore Research Programme and was funded under a Good Standing Agreement.

 “To accurately capture the impacts of realistic survey operations, AIMS conducted an eight-month long study within a 2,500 square kilometre study area using the BGP Explorer, a commercial survey vessel, as the seismic source. The study employed acoustic telemetry to track the movements of red emperor fish within the survey area, as well as baited remote underwater video systems (BRUVS) to assess movements, feeding patterns, and abundance of the entire demersal fish community. A total of 135 species were detected during BRUVS surveys, 35 of which are commercially important. This study is the first to utilize a dedicated seismic survey vessel to measure noise and vibration from the survey concurrently with potential impacts to fishes.

 “As the authors note, ’Multiple lines of evidence from our study suggested that seismic surveys have little to no impact on the composition, abundance, behaviour, and movement of demersal fishes in the coastal shelf environment off Northwest Australia.’ The eight-month time period allowed for assessment of abundance and behaviour over short (days) to long (months) timeframes. Results from the BRUVS analyses indicated no changes in movements, feeding patterns, or abundance of the entire demersal fish community following exposure to the seismic survey. This research fills a critical knowledge gap regarding the potential effects  of seismic surveys on fish species, and should serve to mitigate and allay concerns of stakeholders regarding the use of seismic surveys.

 “Seismic surveys are a critical first step to energy development, used in applications ranging from oil and gas exploration to wind farm site selection. However, there are conflicting views regarding the potential impacts of surveys on fishes and whether commercial catches may be affected. While numerous studies have been published, the methodologies are typically not representative of real-world seismic survey activities due to the time and expense necessary to complete such a study, and the results have been contradictory and often difficult to interpret.

 “The IAGC celebrates the work of the hundreds of individuals involved in this rigorous scientific study, and is grateful for the opportunity to collaborate during study development. This ground-breaking research is essential to IAGC’s mission to promote fact- and risk-based environmental protections during scientific surveys. The study adds to the scientific evidence proving that seismic surveys have no negative impacts on marine life populations, including fish, and have been safely conducted extensively for over 60 years around the world.”