Assessing the impact of marine seismic surveys on southeast Australian scallop and lobster fisheries
University of Tasmania (UTAS)
Seismic surveys are commonly undertaken within southeast Australian waters, often overlapping commercial fishing grounds. The fishing industry is now very concerned about the potential of intense low frequency acoustic signals produced during these surveys to disturb, harm or even kill fisheries species. The limited number of studies conducted to date generally report that fish can demonstrate behavioural responses to seismic activities, including startle and flight responses, displacement, dispersal, and disruption of feeding or breeding activity. These behavioural responses could in turn result in changes in commercial catch rates. Conversely, the bulk of the available literature examining the effect of seismic surveys on invertebrates suggests that they may be relatively resilient to seismic sound. However, there have been very few dedicated studies of the effects of marine seismic surveys on invertebrates, and as such the testing protocols have not directly considered invertebrates. In the light of a general lack of well-designed studies examining the effect of marine seismic surveys on invertebrates and in the absence of any detailed specific studies on commercial scallops and southern rock lobster, fishers in both Victoria and Tasmania have lobbied for dedicated research targeting these valuable resources. This study aims to use a field and laboratory experimental approach to determine the impact of marine seismic surveys on these important fisheries species. The results obtained will also be broadly applicable to scallop and spiny lobster fisheries throughout Australia, and mollusc and crustacean fisheries in general.
1. Determine the impact of intense low frequency acoustic signals on adult southern rock lobsters, including berried (egg carrying) females
2. Determine the impact of intense low frequency acoustic signals on adult commercial scallops
3. Outline threshold distances for potential impacts of seismic surveying