Falklands : Falkland Islands Offshore Hydrocarbons Environmental Forum
Submitted by Falkland Islands News Network (Juanita Brock) 22.04.2012 (Article Archived on 06.05.2012)
The Forum comprises representatives of the oil industry, environmental organisations and relevant Falkland Islands Government departments.
Falkland Islands Offshore Hydrocarbons Environmental Forum
Synopsis of Forum meeting
The second meeting of the Falkland Islands Offshore Hydrocarbons Environmental Forum took place on 3rd April in the Chamber of Commerce. The Forum comprises representatives of the oil industry, environmental organisations and relevant Falkland Islands Government departments. The Forum meets to provide a means for structured formal and informal consultation on proposed and ongoing hydrocarbon exploration and production activities that may affect the natural environment in and around the Falkland Islands.
The meeting largely focussed on the work undertaken by a data gap analysis group which was formed on the advice of the first meeting of the Forum to consider gaps in environmental data and current knowledge with relevance to the hydrocarbons industry.
Department of Mineral Resources Guidelines for Offshore Oil Development Project Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs)
Stephen Luxton and Sam Cockwell introduced this document which has been produced by the Dept of Mineral Resources to give guidance to companies regarding Environmental Assessments related to offshore hydrocarbons exploration and development. This was an opportunity for industry to give feedback to the Department on the document. Several company representatives provided positive comments on the document. A number of technical issues were raised which will be considered before the document is published.
Rockhopper Exploration Environmental Baseline Survey
Ken Humphrey of Rockhopper Exploration gave some background to the baseline surveys which are currently being undertaken in the North Falkland basin. Grant Munro gave an update on the effort to date which represents roughly half of the planned surveys.
Gap Analysis Group Presentations
Paul Brickle introduced the gap analysis work undertaken and the format for presenting the initial findings. Presentations were provided on seven key areas; oceanography, near shore environment, off-shore benthic environment, cetaceans, pinnipeds, seabirds and fish.
Paul Brickle gave a presentation on oceanography in Falkland Islands waters. He provided a summary of important gaps in knowledge and data, notably regarding the complex bathymetry and currents, fish spawning movements and the variation in frontal zones and high productivity upwelling areas in Falkland’s waters.
Near shore environment
Paul Brewin gave a presentation on the near shore environment. He began by emphasising the globally high proportion of oil spills which take place in the near shore environment. Paul stressed that any spill can lead to long-term irreversible change. This is notable in the context of the Falkland Islands due to the near pristine shallow marine environment present and the large knowledge gaps in this field. Paul discussed the notable gaps in knowledge understanding; habitat gaps, intertidal habitats and species gaps. He noted the poor knowledge of Polychaetes and Amphipods, both of these animals being useful as pollution indicators.
Off-shore benthic environment
Paul Brewin gave this presentation on deep water seabed features and impacts. He noted deposition of drill cuttings, muds and waters near offshore platforms noting the literature identifying high impact zones within 500 metres of drilling platforms. Paul stressed the need for baseline data to meet gaps regarding spatial, temporal and species prior to drilling.
Grant Munro presented on the topic of data gaps regarding cetaceans in Falkland Islands waters. He summarised the work that has been done to date, noting the JNCC seabirds at sea surveys, the coastal stranding data collation work undertaken by Helen Otley and the independent seabird and marine mammal observer work undertaken during recent seismic survey and exploration activity.
Grant Munro went on to present an assessment of gaps regarding pinniped (seals and sea lion) species in the Falkland Islands. Grant noted previous census, survey and tracking work on the resident species, namely South American Sea Lions, South American Fur Seals and Southern Elephant Seals. Grant emphasised that JNCC survey data is lacking on pinniped observations and that tracking data is limited to small sample sizes on all three species.
Anton Wolfaardt of JNCC gave a presentation on data gaps in relation to seabirds found in Falkland Islands waters. Anton outlined the three main potential interactions between seabird species and oil development: oil contamination, bird strikes with vessels and platforms, and disturbance caused by helicopter activity.
Anton outlined the complex nature of seabird distribution, which is subject to species and colony-specific variations in foraging trends, variations in food sources, inter-annual variation and seabird movements from outside Falklands’ waters.
Paul Brickle gave a presentation on the data gaps regarding fish species in Falkland Islands waters. He opened the presentation by noting that fish mortality has never been observed even after catastrophic spills in the open sea and that publications suggest that adult fish are capable of detecting and avoiding zones of heavy pollution.
Chair thanked all the speakers for their presentations and contributions to the gap analysis group. It is planned that detailed documents on each the topics presented will be considered prior to and at the next Forum meeting in September 2012.
Chair Phyl Rendell
Deputy Chair Andrea Clausen