The 2014 Oil and Gas Season in Review

11th August 2014

Fishermen share the fishery with companies that hold leases to explore for, and extract, oil and gas. SETFIA’s policy on the oil and gas industry is that we love their product, want to act like good neighbours but expect the oil and gas proponent to understand who fishes where, when and how the effects of their activities on the fishing industry might be lessened. The oil and gas exploration Act states that their effects on the fishing industry must be no more than absolutely necessary. SETFIA tries to be highly responsive to oil and gas companies making a genuine effort.

Fishermen own Statutory Fishing Rights within the fishing zone and pay significant levies to the fishery manager as the owners of rights to fish. All fishermen put together a “catch plan” carefully planning their activities and each year buy, lease and sell quota, domicile their vessel and plan maintenance and crewing around this seasonal fishing plan. Research such as fishery surveys is planned sometimes over a 10 year horizon to support the fishery and ensure that it is sustainable.

However, the value in the fishing rights are threatened if an oil and gas company does not take their responsibilities to limit effects seriously. For example; a rushed seismic survey can scare fish out of entire areas of the fishery meaning that a fishery survey might find an unnaturally low number of fish which will unnecessarily reduce future quotas and a badly placed well head or pipeline can reduce already limited fishing grounds.

Without prejudice SETFIA has spent some time reviewing the performance over the last 12 months of the numerous oil and gas companies that operate in the south east.  Companies were marked on actual actions taken to reduce their effects, whether their activities are described on-line, if the company was represented by a person known to the Association, the lead time provided before activity, the genuineness of their efforts to understand who/when/where will be fishing in an area, responsiveness and whether they had visited regional ports.  A review of the 2014 oil and gas season is as follows:

Roc Oil are the Premiers in 2014. After planting Basker Manta Gummy (BMG) right in the middle of the trawl fishery they have over many years tried to reduce its affects by putting smaller exclusion zones in place, decommissioning equipment and re-opening areas, running Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV) surveys to ensure they left nothing behind that will snag a trawl, understanding the risk that trawl vessels might pose to their infrastructure, contacted SETFIA when BMG was sold, met with the Association several times and even implementing a damages protocol under which fishermen can make a financial claim if their gear snags on old equipment jettisoned during construction of BMG. BMG has recently changed coaches (owners) with Cooper Energy taking over. Time will tell whether Cooper can keep their performance up next season.

Finishing second on the ladder is Geoscience Australia (GSA). Even though they are planning a very unpopular seismic survey they delayed their seismic survey instead commissioning work to understand the effects of seismic on catch rates and completed a study into what fishermen might be in the area and when the survey could be best scheduled. GSA might go deep into the finals next year depending on if and when they schedule their survey.

3d Oil are planning the Flanagan seismic survey in western Victoria. A 3d Executive was brave enough to drive across western Victoria escorted by a SETFIA contractor stopping in fishing ports to meet with affected and very unhappy cray, crab, shark and gillnet fishermen. They are planning to set up a text alert system for affected fishermen that will run during the seismic survey.  3d have only missed out on the double chance by a single game.

Interestingly both Roc and 3d use the same coach; a Melbourne based oil and gas consultant specialising in the environment plan process.

Only in 4th place on percentage is Hibiscus Petroleum who has made genuine attempts to limit their effects by re-orientating a new wellhead near the West Seahorse well so that fishing area is maximised. It will be interesting to see if the flowlines connecting well heads can be fished over.

Just out of the top 4 is power club ExxonMobil who didn’t play finals this year only because they did not play many games (there has been very little activity in their very large field). ExxonMobil has previously involved SETFIA in the design of pipelines so they can be fished over, ROV surveys of suspected snag points, the first ever damages protocol and financial support for an ongoing project to reduce interactions between trawlers and seals.

Also out of the finals after changing operator is Tasmanian Gas Pipelines (TGP) who has gone very quiet of late. In place since 2002 the TGP is the only gas pipeline supplying 500,000 Tasmanians. TGP completed some work a few years ago to raise awareness of the pipeline’s presence within the fishery.

WHL are well out of finals contention, they are planning a seismic survey in western Victoria, their performance has been mechanical at best and crowd attendance was down.

The wooden spoon in 2014 is shared by Origin Energy and ION.

Origin is planning two seismic surveys but only contacted SETFIA after repeated communications from the Association.

Newcomer to the league, ION gave notification in July that they were planning the largest ever seismic survey in the south-east, covering almost the full extent of the fishery, over three years with a proposed start date in less than two months.

The Association opposes the ION and Origin programs in the absent of a meaningful understanding of the likely impact to the fishing right holders and as such hopes that their last place finish will see ION and Origin pick up some early draft picks and perhaps copy the form of the top oil and gas teams and improve their performance in 2015.