Largest ever sighting of blue whales underlines risks from seismic survey

Saturday, December 22, 2012
Sydney, Australia

IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare – www.ifaw.org) expressed concern for the fate of endangered blue whale after scientists (i)  revealed they had seen 70 individuals, including mothers and calves in an area off the coast of Warrnambool where WHL Energy Ltd is proposing to conduct deafening seismic surveys next year.

Matthew Collis, IFAW Campaigns Officer said: “The proposed WHL seismic survey is in a whale hotspot that has seen the largest gathering of blue whales ever recorded in Australian waters.  If ever Minister Tony Burke needed proof that this area is too special to open up to oil and gas exploration then this is it.

“This new information proves that WHL has not adequately assessed the likely numbers of whale species in the proposed seismic survey area, and demonstrates why oil and gas companies should be required to fund independent scientific research before exploration is allowed to happen.  On this basis alone, Minister Burke must insist on more information before any application is allowed to proceed.  As was the case with the super trawler, Minister Burke must adhere to his own reasoning that “environmental decisions should be based on sound science and quality information”.   

In what appears to be a cynical move to avoid public scrutiny of the proposal, WHL submitted its application during the busy Christmas period.  The public has until 31st December to give their views on WHL’s plans to conduct a seismic survey in this.  
IFAW is urging anyone who cares about whales to email Minister Burke asking him to do the right thing and protect the region from the dangers of oil and gas exploration.  Just log onto http://www.ifaw.org/australia/get-involved/whale-hotspot-great-ocean-road

The proposed survey timings would also coincide with the migration of endangered southern right whales, either heavily pregnant females travelling to the coast in April/May or mothers and calves departing for Antarctica in November. These whales have made Warrnambool and the surrounding area an iconic whale watching spot in Australia. An IFAW report in 2011 showed that these whales bring over 37,000 visitors to the region every year, generating over $2.6 million in tourist revenue.

This region is also of critical importance to Great Ocean Road fishing communities, particularly rock lobster and squid fisheries.

While IFAW accepts that the oil and gas industry is a reality in Australia for now, the future of the blue whales and other marine creatures that come to feed in in waters off the Great Ocean Road are just too important to risk.  Matthew Collis, concludes “The risk of significant impacts to whales in this special marine area are too high.  How many whales is a barrel of oil worth?”

(i) Blue Whale Study Inc saw 70 endangered blue whales south-east of Warrnambool, in December 2012 and more than 20 in a previous survey in November 2012.

About IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare) Founded in 1969, IFAW saves animals in distress all over the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW provides hands-on assistance to animals in need, works to prevent animal cruelty, and advocates protecting wildlife and their habitats. For more information: www.ifaw.org Follow us on Facebook and Twitter
 

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