After some 30 years of oil and gas exploration and exploitation in the North Sea and the Norwegian Sea there is now a move into new pastures to the west of the Shetland Isles. This coincides with a move by the fishing industry into deeper water in the same area.

For both industries the risks are considerably higher as a consequence of weather and the depth of water. But there is also a greater risk of conflict between the two industries. Much can be done to minimize this by co-operation at this early stage in understanding each other's point of view and by agreeing to share information of a non-classified nature but in ways which are easily understood and rapidly communicated.


The co-existence between fishing and the oil and gas industries in the North and Norwegian Seas over the last 20 years has at times been stormy Fisherman who in the past enjoyed a virtually unrestricted access to the seabed have had to accept limitation on where they can fish, and there is the ever present risk of dangerous encounters with manmade structures on the sea bed. Today thanks to the work of the liaison groups and others there is a better understanding of the various point of view, backed up by a healthy flow of information through the Yellow Card, Fortnightly Bulletins and Kingfisher Awareness Charts. The telecommunications industry too have come to recognize the importance of consultation rather than conflict in the use of the seabed.

There is now a general movement of all offshore industries into deeper water of 500 m or more to the north and west of the British Isles. This is due to the gradual exhaustion of fossil fuels and fish resources from the North Sea and the Norwegian Sea and the increased interest in mineral resources in deep water.

What may not be obvious at first sight is that the exploitation of deep water resources significantly changes the rule of the game. Not only do the oil and gas industries have to adopt more substantial structure and mooring systems but the fishing industry has had to invest in more powerful vessels and heavier fishing gear. The players in the game in the North and Norwegian Seas are generally well known due to the restricted fishing access rights but in the deep water there are several new players including a number of ‘flags of convenience’ trawlers. These vessels do not necessarily conform to the rules of the game and are unlikely to be represented on any liaison group. Another factor is that large scale pelagic trawling although not a new technology is more widely practiced in deep water than the more shallow waters of the North Sea. This has particular implications for the risk of encounter between trawls and the mooring systems for platforms.

Complicating all of these factors is that the fishermen are having to get to grips with new fishing grounds which by their standards are relatively uncharted

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