The offshore oil and gas industry is a very important component of Western Australia’s economy and a significant player in the shared marine environment.

Although the economic scale of WA’s commercial fishing industry is smaller than oil and gas by some orders of magnitude, fishing, pearling and aquaculture remain a crucial part of the State’s social, cultural, environmental and heritage perspective – particularly in regional WA.

WAFIC continues to work closely with the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA) – the offshore oil and gas sector’s peak body.  In recent years, along with our associate commercial fishing representative bodies in other Australian states and with APPEA representatives, we have developed a Memorandum of Understanding via the APPEA Commercial Fisheries RoundTable.

This push for an MoU was prompted by the rapidly escalating amount of petroleum and gas sector activity, in particular seismic activity, occurring off WA’s coast and its potential impact on resources and resource access for pearl oyster, finfish, prawns, rock lobster and other crustacean fisheries.

WAFIC identified the need to develop an improved method of cross-industry communication in order to manage and resolve competing interests and together with APPEA, we developed a MoU that agrees on a framework to foster cooperation, communication and consultation between WA’s fishing sector and the offshore oil and gas industry.

A key gap between open and transparent consultation between the commercial fishing and oil and gas sectors is the limited research related to the impacts of seismic surveys on marine species.  Commercial fishing peak bodies, APPEA, NOPSEMA and other industry representatives have acknowledged the lack of scientific consensus surrounding this issue with the intent to collaborate on an agreed position on available research following various literature reviews by industry and government.

Unfortunately despite the issue of potential seismic impacts being acknowledged and recognised there has been little progress in recent years.  As a result of meetings held at the national seafood industry conference in Sydney in September 2017 – Seafood Directions – WAFIC has (successfully) applied for funding via the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC) for a three-year project – Oil and Gas: National coordination – seismic and other issues.

Key project outcomes include:

  • Deliver a publicly accessible portal – a “one-stop-shop” for seismic research bibliographies, case studies and other relevant commercial fishing and O&G information
  • Deliver ongoing identification and qualification of relevant research papers and reference cases
  • Deliver a set number of supported research applications relevant to the effects of oil and gas activities on commercial fishing / commercial fishing stocks etc, ie gap analysis and prioritisation
  • Deliver a best practice document for commercial fishing representative bodies to use as a strong base for environment plan submissions

For further information on this project please contact Mannie Shea via oilandgas@wafic.org.au .

In addition to facilitating this national seismic coordination role, WAFIC also offers oil and gas proponents, on a fee-for-service basis, commercial fishing stakeholder consultation for NOPSEMA and other environment plans.

This approach will in time provide greater certainty for the fishing industry by improving engagement with the oil and gas sector and achieving positive research, communication and consultation outcomes.