BSP disputes studies, points to huge losses as fishing nets damage equipment
Bandar Seri Begawan - The Committee for Local Purse Seiner operators is currently seeking financial assistance from Brunei Shell Petroleum (BSP) for allegedly causing sharp drop in catches off Brunei Waters due to the seismic survey conducted recently.
The concern of local Purse Seiner operators was voiced out yesterday during a discussion session between them and BSP as well as government agencies including Fisheries Department at the Marine Complex.
Radin Hj Idris, the Secretary of the committee during a question-and-answer said, "Our boats are experiencing a huge drop in (fish) catch after BSP conducted its seismic survey last year and in 'September this year, BSP will conduct another survey. We feel that the seismic survey has had a negative effect on our catch. This is because we are targeting pelagic fishes which are highly migratory, therefore conducting seismic survey in west area will continue to affect their migration."
BSP said an estimated US$10 to $15 million of seismic survey sensitive equipment of BSP and other companies have been damaged by fishing nets as well as fishing aggregating devices left behind by fishermen who are not supposed to fish in areas where seismic survey is conducted.
To improve the situation, BSP is seeking the cooperation of local fishermen to remove their fishing navigation devices as well as nets in the areas where seismic survey will be conducted.
Pg Shahminan Pg Ali of BSP spoke at the event. Also in attendance was Hj Abdul Halidi bin Hj Mohd Salleh, Acting Director of Fisheries.
Meanwhile, recalling his own experience, Radin, who has two Purse Seiner boats, said, "Early this year, our boats were deployed to look for pelagic fishes and surprisingly, we didn't catch many compared to previous years in west area.
"The issue here is the potential revenue is now gone. We feel that the migratory fishes are affected by the seismic survey because we are sharing the same area which is small compared to other countries. According to research seismic survey does affect the migration of fish and if the fishes move away from Brunei, they have already migrated out of Brunei's waters to waters of neighbouring countries. The impact collectively is that our catches have dropped tremendously, while boats in neighbouring countries have managed to haul in tonnes of fishes.
"We feel that our income is adversely affected, therefore we are seeking assistance from BSP to help us to reduce our burden," he added.
With more seismic survey to be done, he said, "We are worried that our catches will continue to decline."
Pg Shahminan responded by saying, "Currently, it's not just Brunei Shell Petroleum who are operating in Brunei waters, there are also Total and Petronas. Seismic surveys have been done for a long time with the most recent one done last year in West Deep. There have been contradicting studies which show that seismic survey does not affect fish migration and there are also studies that show it does."
He said, "I can't comment much on the matter now, however, we might hold a discussion with the Fisheries Department on the issue."
According to Pg Shahminan, three separate seismic surveys will be done in the coming months namely Mampak 4D from September 16 to November 16, Champion 4D from October 1 to December 10 and East Deep from December 1, 2012 to April 14, 2013.
"Oil and gas continue to be the main contributor for Brunei economy since the discovery in 1920s. The sector currently contributes 87 per cent in Gross Domestic Product," he said adding that BSP would continue to explore for new oil and gas resources to increase the reserves for the development of the country.
"BSP will continue to carry out seismic survey in new as well as other areas where previously seismic survey was conducted. The method of looking for oil and gas now is vastly different from 1920s. With rapid development of technologies in seismic equipment, we still think that there may be oil in places that we have already conducted seismic survey using the old method.
To help the Fisheries Department and fishermen understand the operation of seismic survey, he said, "BSP would like to invite relevant individuals to look at our operation."--Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin