Seismic blasting inquiry should lead to permanent ban on offshore oil drilling

SYDNEY, Sept 17 2019 - Greenpeace welcomes the Senate’s decision to examine the impact of seismic blasting on Australia’s fisheries and the marine environment in response to demands from scientists, conservationists, and the fishing and tourism sectors.

Yesterday every party in the Senate, except the Coalition and Cory Bernardi, voted to put jobs in the seafood and tourism industries before the profits of foreign oil companies by supporting the inquiry.

Greenpeace Australia Pacific Senior Campaigner Nathaniel Pelle said the move was a positive one, as the harmful impacts of seismic blasting on marine life were well established.

“Research has proven that seismic blasting kills crustaceans like lobsters, shellfish, and plankton and may also cause death to animals like dolphins and whales that rely on sonar for navigation,” Mr Pelle said.

“It’s beyond doubt that seismic testing is dangerous and deadly, the Senate inquiry recognises the fact that we just don’t know exactly what impact it may be having on our environment and industries that rely on a healthy ocean. 

“The government cannot allow oil companies to conduct activities that it knows are not only unsafe but lethal to wildlife –  in the last year it has approved seismic blasting in whale hotspots like the Great Australian Bight and off the coast of Sydney and Newcastle.”

Seismic surveys typically involve ships towing an air gun that fires a pulse of sound every 8-12 seconds. Noise from a single seismic airgun survey can blanket an area of over 300,000 km2, raising background noise levels 100-fold (20 dB), continuously for weeks or months. 

Mr Pelle said commercial fishers and tourism operators across Australia would also welcome the inquiry, which they have repeatedly called for in light of studies showing the impact of seismic blasting on marine life.

He said it was crucial that the committee held its hearings in the locations where industries are most impacted like Newcastle, Port Lincoln, Tasmania, Bass Strait and the Otway Basin.

A recent Australian study found that seismic activity can impair rock lobsters’ ability to evade predators [1] which follows groundbreaking Australian research that the blasting kills scallops and plankton.

The lobster study, conducted by the Research by the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies in Hobart and Curtin University in Western Australia, found that seismic blasting damaged lobsters’ statocysts, which impacted their ability to right themselves after being flipped over.

“Seismic blasting poses a deadly threat to marine life and could jeopardise the viability of fishing and tourism businesses all around Australia,” he said.

“Australian scientists are leading research into seismic but we still don’t know the population impacts on important commercial species. To encourage further seismic activity in the absence of the knowledge of its impacts on species like rock lobsters, would demonstrate that the regulator is as reckless with the livelihoods of families, who depend on fishing jobs, as it is with the lives of sea creatures.”

 

Notes

[1] https://www.abc.net.au/news/rural/2019-07-26/rock-lobsters-impacted-by-seismic-surveys/11343240

 

Contact

Greenpeace Australia Pacific Communications Campaigner, Martin Zavan

0424 295 422

[email protected]