EPBC Act Policy Statement 2.1 - Interaction between offshore seismic exploration and whales: Industry guidelines

Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, 2008

About the policy statement

Seismic surveying is widely used in the marine environment, mainly by the oil and gas exploration and production industry, to define and analyse subsurface geological structures. Seismic surveying utilises a technique that directs acoustic energy (sound) into the rock beneath the sea floor from equipment towed behind a purpose-built seismic vessel. The loudest sound sources used in seismic survey operations are produced by air-guns which generate short, intense pulses of sound directed at the seafloor.

The aim of the policy is to:

  1. provide practical standards to minimise the risk of acoustic injury to whales in the vicinity of seismic survey operations
  2. provide a framework that minimises the risk of biological consequences from acoustic disturbance from seismic survey sources to whales in biologically important habitat areas or during critical behaviours, and
  3. provide guidance to both proponents of seismic surveys and operators conducting seismic surveys about their legal responsibilities under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).

The policy updates and replaces the previous policy (May 2007). The policy should be read in conjunction with the associated background paper.

Seismic surveys already referred under the EPBC Act that have committed to implementing the May 2007 policy statement should continue to operate in accordance with the May 2007 version.

Compliance and sighting reports

In accordance with section A.4 of the policy, a report on the conduct of the survey must be submitted to the department within two months of survey completion. Contact details are outlined within the Policy.

Any whale sightings during the seismic survey should also be reported to the department. Sightings information should submitted as follows:

Before 10 November 2008 sightings information should be provided using reporting forms which can be requested by sending an email to portsandmarine@environment.gov.au.

From 10 November 2008 sightings and survey information should be recorded within the 'Cetacean Sightings Application' software which is available on request from sightingsdata@aad.gov.au. Upon completion of the survey the information entered into this application should be exported as a text file and emailed to sightingsdata@aad.gov.au as per the instructions within the application. An emailed confirmation will be sent upon receipt of each submission.