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Is Seismic Research Driving Tuna Away? Australia, October 3, 13

A proposed seismic survey in the Great Australian Bight is raising concerns throughout the local tuna industry over the impact the research could have on the fishery’s season. TGS-NOPEC, which collects data for oil and gas exploration companies, is hoping to undertake the seismic survey in the Bight between December 2013 and May 2014.

The Great Australian Bight is a large open bay off the central and western portions of the southern coastline and mainland Australia. The Australian Southern Bluefin Tuna Industry Association chief executive officer, Brian Jefferiess, outlined that the tuna industry would wait until the company had made its full application to the federal government before giving its final view on the survey.

He said: “The tuna industry has had an initial meeting with the seismic company TGS, and been shown the proposed seismic exploration area. The industry’s starting position is that we want to see sustainable oil and gas and mineral development in South Australia. The state needs these developments.”

“Our problem is that TGS wants to start the survey in December 2013, generally the same time that another company did its seismic survey in the same area in 2011.”
Mr. Jeffriess said with that survey, the January to March 2012 CSIRO aerial survey showed very low level of sightings of tuna. He said these sightings were totally against the upward trend seen in the previous four years.”

“However, in 2013, with no seismic survey, the CSIRO results showed a return to the increased trend in sightings,” he said.

“The problem for us is that it is effectively the CSIRO survey which sets the international tuna quota. The bad 2012 survey result had already resulted in the quota increase being less than it should have been.”

Mr. Jeffriess said the industry was concerned about the TGS survey, especially as it would take place over two years. He said the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT) scientific system was of high quality but it had no knowledge or flexibility to consider the results of poor CSIRO surveys, which may be due to seismic surveys or extreme climate for that year.

“This is an international tuna issue because the southern bluefin tuna stock is a shared international stock,” he said.

“It is something that the international body managing the stock, the CCSBT, needs to address.”