The Commission issues non-exclusive permits to qualified operators to perform low-energy geophysical surveys of the ocean bottom and marine environment. Operators may conduct surveys using specific types of geophysical equipment – subject to permit terms and conditions that were developed to minimize impacts to marine wildlife and the coastal environment.
Our goal is to reduce impacts to marine wildlife and the coastal environment from survey activities. Common permit conditions include onboard marine wildlife monitoring, the implementation of safety zones, pre-survey notifications, equipment use limitations (i.e., no high-energy equipment [airguns, water guns]), and limits on the number of hours per day equipment can operate.
Low-energy geophysical surveys acquire critical data on a variety of ocean resources and uses. The study area and survey objectives are:
- Scientific research, including surveys of near-shore sand erosion and deposition, seafloor changes, and seafloor topography and bathymetry.
- Surveying existing pipelines to assess any structural damage, corrosion, or spanning that could cause a pollutant release.
- Identifying and avoiding seafloor hazards and faults when designing pipeline-and cable-laying projects, reducing the likelihood of leaks, ruptures and breakages.
- Surveying fiber-optic cables and other seafloor structures to determine how well they are buried or if they can be snagged by fishing gear.
- Developing maps of hard bottom and essential fish habitat or cultural resources that indicate where the placement of permanent or temporary objects (e.g., cables or anchors) should be avoided.
The Commission updated the Program in 2013 and prepared a Mitigated Negative Declaration to establish consistent guidance, limits, and permit conditions to help ensure surveys do not harm marine life and the coastal environment.
Environmental Documents & Reports
The Commission has prepared the following related environmental documents and reports:
- Staff Report – One-Year Program Implementation Report – 10/14/14 (110)
- Staff Report – Adopting the Addendum to the Mitigated Negative Declaration – 04/23/14 (67)
- Mitigated Negative Declaration
- Review of the Current Scientific Literature on Ocean Acoustics, With a Particular Focus on the Effects of Anthropogenic Sound on Marine Biological Resources
EcoSystem Management Services, Inc. - Offshore San Clemente (Orange County), July 5 to October 31, 2019
USGS - Offshore Ocean Beach (San Francisco County), May 18 to November 19, 2019
eTrac, Inc. - Offshore Santa Barbara to Long Beach (Santa Barbara and Los Angeles Counties), August 1 to September 26, 2019
eTrac, Inc. - Offshore Morro Bay (San Luis Obispo County), September 1-30, 2019
Merkel & Associates, Inc. - Offshore Encinitas to Del Mar (San Diego County), September 16 to November 15, 2019
USGS - Offshore Morro Bay, San Francisco, and Humboldt (San Luis Obispo, San Francisco, and Humboldt Counties), September 30 to October 24, 2019
USGS - Offshore Goleta to Point Mugu (Santa Barbara County), September 28, 2019 to September 27, 2020
USGS - Offshore Santa Cruz to Moss Landing (Santa Cruz County), March 1 to November 1, 2019 (survey series)