The UK Oil and Gas Authority has released seismic data for the Rockall Trough and mid-North Sea High areas acquired during a £20 million Government-funded seismic survey carried out last year.
Data is available online and the UK government is energetically promoting oil and gas exploration in these regions, as well as providing incentives for companies and researchers in what appears to be a new cycle of exploration and licensing.
Much of the grounds are those that NGOs have been campaigning to be protected from deep sea trawling, citing the dangers to marine life and habitats if fishing is allowed to continue. The western grounds across the Rockall Trough coincide with the areas that NGOs have fought to protect and and one NGO in particular has stated in the past that fishing is up to 3000 times more damaging than oil and gas exploration.
The announcement also comes just as the main French fishing company involved in deep sea fisheries has also announced its withdrawal from deep sea fishing after having already limited its activities to water shallower than 800 metres.
So is trawling genuinely 3000 times more damaging than oil and gas exploration? If the new round of exploration goes ahead, we are likely to find out, and so far NGOs have remained strangely silent on the implications of all this potential new activity on deep water grounds.