Streamlining Environmental Approvals for Marine Seismic Survey Activities

The NERA Collaboration Seismic Environment Plan (CSEP) Project has achieved fundamental and long-term improvements to the way that seismic activities are planned with consideration for commercial fishing activities.

In 2018, NERA established an industry consortium to create a common framework for seismic exploration in North-West Australia. The CSEP Project sought to establish:

  • A Commercial Fishing Industry Adjustment Protocol to provide a standardised, evidence-based process to understand monetary adjustment to offset loss of catch, gear damage/loss and displacement of fishing effort in areas where fishing occurs at the same time as a seismic survey conducted under the CSEP.
  • A Spatio Temporal Protocol to provide guidance regarding repetition of seismic activities within the CSEP area.
  • A single overarching approvals framework for seismic activities within the CSEP area.
  • A consistent assessment of environmental features, potential impacts and management strategies for seismic activities within the CSEP area.
  • Improved understanding of potential cumulative impacts of seismic activities across the CSEP area.


The project aimed to see improved certainty for both fishing and petroleum industries, greatly reduced consultation burden for all stakeholders, and a strategic assessment of impacts across Northern Australia.

Desired project outcomes:

  • Reduce schedule risks through shorter assessment timeframes​
  • Improve regulatory certainty of approval through standardisation​
  • Reduce approval costs across industry by at least a third​
  • Drive down costs through levelling the playing field for geophysics companies
  • Make Australia a globally competitive location to invest in seismic activities through transforming the business environment.
  • Build a stronger relationship with the fishing sector through more effective communication between industry and stakeholders.
  • Reprofile environmental impacts and risks to enable strategic consideration of what may or may not be acceptable levels of environmental impacts and risks.

The consortium considers that the CSEP is a transformative initiative that ensures that Australia is an attractive location for investment into the seismic surveys that underpin new carbon storage, renewable energy and petroleum exploration and development.

The project outcomes could also benefit emerging offshore industries such as offshore wind.

Project Update

The CSEP was submitted to NOPSEMA on 8 September 2022 and closed for comment on 14 October 2022. To download the Environment Plan, please visit the NOPSEMA website through this link.

The CSEP allowed for 2D, 3D and 4D seismic surveys within the CSEP Operational Area offshore north and western Australia which is within Commonwealth waters with the following restrictions:

  • The total combined 2D seismic surveys conducted under the CSEP within the CSEP Operations Area will not exceed 50,000 survey line km per calendar year.
  • The total combined size of the Acquisition Areas of any 3D or 4D seismic surveys, or survey phases, conducted under the CSEP within the CSEP Operations Area will not exceed 40,000 km2 in any calendar year.
  • The Acquisition Area of any single 3D or 4D seismic survey, or survey phase, conducted under the CSEP within the CSEP Operations Area will not exceed 10,000 km2.
  • Spatial and temporal exclusion zones will be implemented to manage potential impacts to commercial fishers, marine fauna and marine protected areas including the Ningaloo Coast World Heritage Area.

In the light of new guidelines on EP consultation issued by NOPSEMA in December 2022, the CSEP consortium have agreed to withdraw the application.

    Project Timeframe

    Start: October 2018
    End: December 2022


    Project Funding

    Total Project Cost: $852,000

    NERA: $426,000

    Industry: $426,000