Has Bight Petroleum bitten off more than it can chew?

Bottlenose dolphins are one of the many species found in the waters off Kangaroo Island ©IFAW/Scott SheehanFor the last three years, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) has been campaigning to protect critical whale habitat off Kangaroo Island, South Australia, from the threat of oil and gas exploration from Bight Petroleum’s plans to conduct seismic testing in this pristine area.

The rich biodiversity and unique nature of the waters from western Victoria to the eastern Great Australian Bight (GAB) have again been highlighted in a new research paper by the Blue Whale Study. The researchers analysed surveys from 2002 to 2013 and found that not only does the area support blue whales, southern right whales and humpbacks, it is also important to sperm whales, pilot whales, beaked whales and many species of dolphin.

IFAW’s own research off Kangaroo Island in 2013 revealed similarly exciting results about the whales and dolphins found in this special place and heightened our concerns about plans for oil and gas exploration in these waters by oil and gas company Bight Petroleum.

More than 50,000 people have voiced their concerns about these seismic testing plans off Kangaroo Island, concerned about the impacts on whales, tourism, fisheries and the environment.

Seismic surveying in this pristine marine environment was approved by the offshore petroleum regulator, NOPSEMA, back in June last year but Bight has so far failed to complete the survey and seems to be struggling to find investors to support its controversial plan.

This is great news for the whales and dolphins found here, which now have another year of reprieve from the air gun blasts used during seismic testing. These animals are particularly sensitive to underwater noise as it can interfere with their ability to find food, to navigate and to communicate with one another.

Perhaps the strong community opposition, the environmental risks and the hesitancy of the government to originally approve this seismic survey have put off any potential investors from supporting Bight Petroleum’s activities.

IFAW strongly believes that the government should protect Kangaroo Island’s precious marine life from the dangers of oil and gas exploration, which are all risk and no gain for this special place.

--SL

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Experts

Brian Sharp, Emergency Relief Officer, Stranding Coordinator
Manager, Marine Mammal Rescue and Research
Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Regional Director, Russia & CIS
Regional Director, Russia & CIS
Patrick Ramage, Program Director, Whales
Program Director, Marine Conservation