Marine seismic survey

Seismic surveys gather data about geological formations below the ground or seabed using sound waves.

A seismic survey is conducted to get information about the geology of the seabed, or the structures beneath the seabed. It is carried out by projecting pressure waves into the layers beneath the seabed and detecting and measuring the reflected signals.

Seismic surveys can be used to detect resources below the seabed, like oil and gas reserves, but also to study fault lines to further the understanding of tectonic movements which could cause earthquakes and tsunamis.

Seismic surveying in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) is regulated under the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects - Permitted Activities) Regulation 2013.

Permits for seismic surveys Plus

If you want to carry out a seismic survey in New Zealand, you first need a permit from New Zealand Petroleum and Minerals (NZP&M). This is issued under the Crown Minerals Act 1991. 

If you want to conduct seismic surveying in the EEZ, you must comply with the Department of Conservation (DOC)’s 2013 Code of Conduct for Minimising Acoustic Disturbance to Marine Mammals from Seismic Survey Operations.

Under normal circumstances this includes notifying DOC, and submitting a marine mammal impact assessment no less than three months and one month before the survey commences, respectively.

There are also reporting requirements that needs to be met. These include the submission of marine mammal observation data, and a survey report. The survey report must be submitted to DOC no later than 60 days after the completion of the survey.

Two guidance documents have been produced. These provide answers to commonly asked questions, recommendations for good practice, as well as pointers on how to comply with the Code of Conduct.

Guidance - Seismic Surveying for Operators (pdf 506KB)

Guidance - Complying with the Code of Conduct (pdf, 570KB)

To see the relevant regulations visit the Legislation New Zealand website and search for the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects - Permitted Activities) Regulation 2013. To find out more about the Code of Conduct or to download the document, visit the DOC website and search for the Code of Conduct.

If you are planning a seismic survey or have questions about the Code of Conduct, contact DOC well in advance of any activity to get full details of what is required.

Forms and submissions Plus

All submissions and reports required under regulation 7 of the Permitted Activities Regulations 2013 and the Code of Conduct are to be directed to DOC.  A link to DOC's website is provided at the bottom of this page.

Monitoring and compliance Plus

We monitor compliance of seismic surveys carried out in the EEZ under the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Act 2012, the Permitted Activities Regulations 2013, and the Code of Conduct.

We may carry out an inspection of your vessel during seismic surveying, to further check your compliance with the requirements. We will also request that you provide us with copies of your submissions and reports to DOC.

For enquiries about compliance or enforcement of the Code of Conduct, contact