Jaclyn Townsend (00:04):
Welcome to Beneath the Subsurface podcast, brought to you by TGS. During this chat, we're going to dive a bit deeper into the Ghost Net Initiative (GNI). One of the ESG topics we touched on in episode eight. I'm Jaclyn Townsend, back as your host with guest speakers, Gabriel Rolland HSE manager at TGS and Alex Loureiro, director of marine environment and biology at the IAGC. Welcome back, Gabe and welcome Alex.
Alex Loureiro (00:31):
Hi, thanks for having me.
Jaclyn Townsend (00:33):
So in our last episode of Beneath the Subsurface, you mentioned the Ghost Net Initiative, Gabe, which is a collaborative effort by seismic and vessel contractors for ocean debris, removal. An initiative that helps reduce pollution and protects marine wildlife from debris. Alex, can you start by telling us a little bit more about what the Ghost Net Initiative is? What does it aim to do?
Alex Loureiro (00:57):
Sure. So the Ghost Net Initiative is the IAGC's effort to directly support removal of marine debris. So this is something that we've been working on with our members for a long time. And it's really an opportunity for us to quantify the scale of debris that the seismic industry is removing from the environment during their normal operations.
Jaclyn Townsend (01:16):
Okay. And what is ghost gear?
Alex Loureiro (01:20):
Is anything that is lost or abandoned at sea, and it's no longer under the control of a fishing operation. This is a particular concern because these nets are designed to catch marine life and they continue to do so after they've been set adrift. There's an estimated 640,000 tons of ghost gear at sea. And that comprises up to 10% of marine litter. So that's 10% of marine litter that is directly designed to trap and entangle animals. It's a major problem, when you look at the scope of marine debris worldwide. I think it's important to give some context around the scale of marine debris, about 8 million tons of plastic enters the marine environment each year. And plastic pollution causes at least $13 billion worth of damage each year to fishing, shipping, tourism, and the seismic industry.
Alex Loureiro (02:04):
Studies have found that at least 1 million seabirds and a hundred thousand marine mammals die each year due to plastic pollution. And that's to say nothing of sublethal effects that might affect the health and fecundity of individuals and populations. And because plastics are designed not to break down, they can remain in the environment upwards of 600 years. And it's not just from that, itself is a problem either. As plastics break down, they form microplastics and leach chemicals that can adversely affect marine life as well as humans. And of course, even other problem to contend with this year, that's the increase in waste associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Obviously we've seen a major increase in single use medical supplies and personal protective equipment. That's critical. We need to use those things, but our habits have changed in other ways, too. I know my personal consumption of Clorox wipes has increased dramatically as has the frequency of my takeout food ordering. But these habits are likely to stick with us long past the end of the pandemic. So we're anticipating a lot of challenges moving ahead. And that goes to the initiative is the industry's most direct effort to intervene in the fight against marine debris.
Jaclyn Townsend (03:07):
So when did this initiative come to be and how did it come to be?
Alex Loureiro (03:12):
So like many of our best ideas at IAGC, the GNI was born out of a conversation with members back in 2016. There was a desire to centralize and quantify the scale of the industry's efforts, combating marine debris. And so that program was started and fully implemented in 2017. The program originally started with an emphasis on public outreach to bring attention to the scale of the marine debris debris problem globally and share how the geophysical industry was working to combat it. And the public response, when we're able to share a story from one of our members where a large net was removed or a turtle was disentangled is always positive. And I think it's particularly striking because our members are really the only vessel in some of these remote areas that are able to render any sort of aid. If they encounter distressed marine life, this is still an important cornerstone of the program, but starting in 2021, we're implementing some changes in data collection and reporting to facilitate more in depth analysis of debris encounters. I'm looking forward to sharing these data with the broader scientific community and hopeful that they can provide a mechanism for identifying areas where marine debris intervention is most seriously needed.
Jaclyn Townsend (04:16):
What does the IAGC require for Ghost Net Initiative partners? So if someone wants to get involved, what's the process for that?
Alex Loureiro (04:25):
Well, first of all, I hope you do get involved. Because I think it's a really great opportunity for the industry to engage constructively with local governments and communities. And the requirements to participate are actually really minimal and that's by design. We want to make it easy to participate. And what we've found is that our members are often already tracking this type of information for in-house purposes. So IAGC members are able to access a simple submission form through our website and they can share their debris removal with us. And of course we always encourage members to share pictures and stories with us so that we can promote their good work to the public.
Jaclyn Townsend (04:58):
And where are those pictures and stories? Where can people find more information about what you guys are doing?
Alex Loureiro (05:06):
So you can find more information on our website, it's iagc.org, or you can visit our LinkedIn or Twitter page. We're always keeping those up-to-date as we receive new information.
Jaclyn Townsend (05:15):
And, one last question is how has the Ghost Net Initiative made an impact? What are some of the impacts that you guys have tracked?
Alex Loureiro (05:25):
I think the biggest one is just the volume of debris that our members have removed just in the last couple of years. So since the program's inception, IAGC members have removed nearly two and a half million pounds of marine debris. And it's kind of hard to get your head around as something that large, but it's enough to fill 82 40-foot shipping containers. And that's an exciting accomplishment, but I think what excites me even more is that that's just, what's been reported by a couple of our members. We suspect the actual amount of debris removed as much higher, and I'm really looking forward to seeing even more progress with updates to our reporting form to make it even easier to participate. But I think perhaps just as important is that the GNI has inspired top level executives of many of our members and industry partners to prioritize marine debris as part of their ESG goals.
Alex Loureiro (06:09):
Watching the industry come together around a common goal to protect the environment is really exciting for me, I'm a biologist by background. And so this is something that is, it's a priority to me personally. And I'm proud that IAGC can be an industry leader on this issue.
Jaclyn Townsend (06:21):
Amazing. So Gabe, Alex gave us a quick tour if you will, of the Ghost Net Initiative, why it's important, how partners can join and the impact they're making. Can you tell us a little bit about from a supplier's standpoint, how TGS promotes this effort with our contractors during acquisition projects?
Gabe Rolland (06:46):
Yeah, sure thing. And, actually let me start by saying that, I think this very effort where IAGC and TGS are getting together to talk about the Ghost Net Initiative is in itself a great way to promote and even encourage this effort. As I mentioned in our previous podcast, which was centered partly on a discussion around how TGS is quantifying ESG efforts, I really think it's important that we, as an industry, highlight and communicate and also promote efforts like the GNI. I Also want to take a moment to recognize the fact that there are several IAGC members who have contributed to this effort since its inception, and they really deserve big kudos and recognition because if it wasn't for them, then we probably wouldn't be talking about the GNI today. So back to your question, we've had discussions internally on how we can promote this effort with vessel service providers.
Gabe Rolland (07:40):
And I think there's several ways we can go about doing this. So, first of all, I think it's important that internally we establish the GNI as a key performance indicator within the host of HSE KPIs that we currently track because by creating this new GNI KPI, which can be as simple as recording the weight of waste removed from the ocean on a project-by-project basis, we generate a metric that is recordable and also trackable across some of our internal applications and systems. Now, this is not only valuable to us, but also to our vessel contractors, to our clients, et cetera. So by having a GNI KPI, we can then look at requiring that our vessel providers report this to us and to the IAGC as well, by including this as an obligation and service agreements. So this way, that expectation is set early in the acquisition process and keeps ourselves at TGS as well as our contractors accountable on reporting this.
Gabe Rolland (08:41):
Now with that said, you know, I really think that we as a company have to do more than simply create a new reporting requirement because that in itself, isn't really going to promote the effort. Now, one way we can do this. And particularly with vessel contractors who may not be familiar with the initiative is by introducing the GNI through startup presentations and taking that as an opportunity to highlight the importance of that great initiative. So what's great about bringing the GNI up during startup presentations, is that not only are you bringing attention and encouraging this reporting effort with the crews onboard those vessels, you're also potentially highlighting this to various local authorities or clients or third parties that might be present during those startup meetings. Now as one final example of how TGS can promote this effort. We can do this by recognizing or rewarding crews that really go above and beyond in their GNI reporting efforts.
Gabe Rolland (09:44):
So in the past, here at TGS, we've given out annual HSE awards to contractors that really went above and beyond in their HSE efforts. And here, I think we could consider doing something similar or maybe taking the GNI into consideration when we're determining who should receive that annual award. And I mean, recognition can really be a great way to motivate crews and contractors to continue to report on marine debris they've recovered at sea. And I think it also helps to highlight the importance of this effort by showing that TGS really does value this.
Jaclyn Townsend (10:20):
So how long has TGS been a supporter of the GNI with IAGC?
Gabe Rolland (10:26):
Well, we've really had an interest in this initiative from the very beginning. And I mean, what's not to like about removing dangerous debris that can harm marine life from our oceans, right? But I would say that it wasn't until 2018 or so before we really started paying attention and really started to discuss this internally, specifically discussing how we, at TGS could make an impact and specifically enhance reporting to the IAGC.
Jaclyn Townsend (10:53):
Gotcha. And how, how do you think this initiative has changed marine operations? Has it, has it changed marine operations?
Gabe Rolland (11:01):
Yeah. You know, seismic vessels have been removing debris from our oceans for decades. I mean, when, when I worked in marine operations as an acquisition project manager for TGS, I honestly can't recall any surveys where we didn't snag or retrieve some kind of ghost net or other ocean debris. Now, with that said, you know, we, as an industry, haven't necessarily done a great job of tracking these efforts or really making it a collective effort by the industry. So by making this an industry effort that is essentially reported to the IAGC in a way we're giving folks who work offshore recognition for this great effort. And honestly, I think that builds a sense of pride on board. I mean, it's fair to say that those who choose to work offshore for a living, they're proud of this, right? And so it's a unique career and in a lot of it's not an easy job. So by highlighting this marine debris removal initiative, we're potentially increasing that sense of pride, which is great. And I think generally people feel good when they're making a positive impact on the environment.
Jaclyn Townsend (12:08):
And what else do we do with our partners and vendors to minimize our impact with marine operations? Are there things similar to that Ghost Net Initiative or?
Gabe Rolland (12:17):
Sure. So, you know, and I touched on some of this in the podcast we recorded previously, but a lot goes into survey design and planning, especially when it comes to mitigating any potential impacts that we may have on the environment. So just to give you a couple of examples, before we go out and acquire a survey, we spend a lot of time piecing together a very important document, that we call an EIA or an environmental impact assessment. So these documents are quite extensive and they try to account for every possible environmental impact and also outline how we as TGS and, you know, in partnership with our vessel, contractors can mitigate them once we start data acquisition, to give you another quick example, we also hire and place protective species observers and passive acoustic monitors or operators on board, our surveys, and these, folks are specifically tasked with keeping an eye or in the case of passive acoustic monitoring an ear, on marine wildlife that might be encountered during the course of a survey. So generally as an industry, we have put a lot of effort towards mitigating potential impacts on the environment. And I know that the IGC has also been heavily involved in this as well.
Jaclyn Townsend (13:34):
Okay. Any final words from either of you guys?
Gabe Rolland (13:38):
I just wanted to touch real quick on something that I think is important, which is, you know, how TGS and, and really other asset-light providers are positioned to make an impact, through this initiative. And, for us here at TGS, I, I really think it's as simple as the fact that as a multi-client company that does not own vessels, we, we end up working with nearly all of the existing seismic vessel providers. And therefore, if you think about it, we're in a unique position to assist the IGC and highlighting this effort with some of the contractors who may not necessarily be active IAGC members, or who may not necessarily be, reporting this on a project-by-project basis. And I think it also gives us an opportunity to discuss this effort with, as I said, vessel contractors, who aren't familiar with the initiative and in turn, we can encourage them to report on something that really they're essentially already doing. Right? Because I mean, like I said earlier, you know, there's very few marine operations where some type of debris or ghost net is not snagged on the gear and, and retrieved from the ocean
Alex Loureiro (14:43):
And Gabe, I'm glad you mentioned that because this is really something that the industry is already doing. You know, these are, these are efforts that are ongoing I've I've said before some of our members That I don't think anyone cares more about the ocean than people who have chosen to make their living out there. They want to help, they want to support. And I think the IAGC is kind of uniquely positioned to centralize all of this and create a tool that can be used to improve management practices in the future.
Jaclyn Townsend (15:06):
Well, this is such a great initiative. Thank you so much, Alex and Gabe for your time today and giving us more insight into the topic. I know that I was really excited to learn more from our chat today, and I think our listeners will also find the content interesting too. So thanks again, and thanks to our audience for tuning in. If you want to learn more from this episode or more specifics about the Ghost Net Initiative, be sure to check out our show notes where we've included some useful links. And of course, if you liked this episode, don't forget to subscribe to this podcast wherever you listen to podcasts or by visiting tgs.com search podcast. Thanks for listening to a quick dive Beneath the Subsurface.
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