WAFIC files formal objections to Mid West Eureka 3D Marine Seismic Survey

The Western Australian Fishing Industry Council (WAFIC) has now submitted two formal objections to the proposed Eureka 3D marine seismic survey by Pilot Energy for a large area of water south of Geraldton.

As Western Australia’s peak industry body representing commercial fishing, pearling and aquaculture enterprises, processors, and exporters in the State, WAFIC plays a key role in consultation for offshore development.

WAFIC Chief Executive Officer, Darryl Hockey said that commercial fishing is supportive of many offshore developments but will draw a line when there are scientifically proven impacts on the marine environment and aquatic species.

“Over several months, WAFIC has examined the proposal thoroughly and engaged closely in good faith with Pilot Energy and fishing industry participants. We have given the developers every opportunity to demonstrate their ability and commitment to avoid significant impacts upon the marine environments, aquatic species and the activities of commercial fishing participants. However, following this process we retain legitimate concerns, not only from a technical perspective, but also over the way the consultation process has been conducted,” Darryl said.

“The area in question is located in relatively shallow waters of high benthic habitat value, which will be subject to elevated impacts from underwater noise made during the surveys. In addition, valuable species like western rock lobster are known to suffer damaging adverse impacts from seismic testing and we retain concerns over the likely effects upon octopus, demersal and pelagic species.

“We cannot see how the livelihoods of commercial fishers will not be substantially impacted, so we have no choice but to lodge official objections,” he said.

Darryl said the process was further complicated by the delayed supply of key documents relating to environmental assessments, impact, risk treatment and control measures, which were only provided after repeated requests from industry and after the in-person forums were completed.

“This level of transparency and accessibility to critical information has been disappointing and fails to satisfy the consultation requirement as defined under regulation 11A of the Environment Regulations, which is to provide relevant persons with sufficient information and time to make informed decisions.

“Due to Pilot Energy repeatedly delaying the public release of crucial documents for relevant persons, WAFIC submitted an official objection on 31 August, but is yet to receive an official response addressing the objections raised.   We believe it is essential that all required information is available to the public throughout the community consultation process and forums, not after,” he added.

Darryl said WAFIC is also concerned by Pilot Energy requesting commercially confidential catch and effort information directly from individual licence holders, outside the formal process through DPIRD, and the non-disclosure of the intended use of this information.

“In addition, our members are frustrated that their on-water knowledge from their multi-decade history of working on the water, observations of declines or change in catching patterns, and their direct concerns regarding potential impacts to fish, fish spawning and the food chain appear to have been disregarded.”

“The measures for protection of fish and fisheries as detailed in the Control Measures document, offers no protection or mitigation for impacts to commercial fisheries. Despite all the feedback from our industry regarding potential impacts, the only proposed control measure to protect aquatic resources is to notify the fishers when the survey activities were going to occur.” Darryl said.

WAFIC also retains concerns that the purpose of the proposed surveys may be related to other activities.

In light of all of WAFIC’s concerns on behalf of the commercial fishing industry, a second objection was lodged on 27 October 2023, however no responses have been received.