The team gets out on the road, the Great Ocean Road that is

Photo: southern right whales (mother and calf) at Logan’s Beach, Warrnambool. c. M.Watson, DSE, 2010 The Great Ocean Road in Victoria is a world famous tourist destination; renowned for its sweeping ocean views and abundant wildlife.  Offshore, the waters are literally brimming with marine life.  In the summer months endangered blue whales come to feed in the nutrient-rich upwelling and during the winter endangered southern right whales arrive to calve in this whale hotspot.

Unfortunately, it is these very waters which are earmarked for exploration next April as petroleum company WHL Energy searches for more gas. Seismic testing is planned offshore, between the coastal towns of Warrnambool and Port Campbell, over a 1000km2 area. Closer to shore, extensive seismic testing has already occurred, but this latest proposal covers the eastern edge of arguably Australia’s most important feeding area for blue whales, in far deeper waters and along the shelf edge.

At the International Fund for Animal Welfare, we’re seriously concerned about the impacts of increasing ocean noise from oil and gas exploration, particularly in such essential whale habitat.

So, in partnership with local conservation organisation, Victoria National Parks Association, we invited interested members of the public to our information sessions in Warrnambool and Port Campbell to raise awareness of these issues.

At these sessions, local people expressed their worries. They feel pushed out of the planning process and the absence of a proper public consultation means their opinions are not even heard. These issues, along with the overall lack of transparency and independent scientific monitoring of marine species and the environment were major worries for these residents.

Concerned supporters can keep updated by signing up for IFAW e-alerts, follow us on Facebook and Twitter and we’ll notify you to write to the Environment Minister to ensure your voice is heard when the time comes. IFAW will continue the fight to stop oil and gas exploration in these essential whale habitats; areas that we believe are just too special to hand over for development.

--SL

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Experts

Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Regional Director, Russia & CIS
Regional Director, Russia & CIS
Dr. Ralf (Perry) Sonntag, Country Director, Germany
Country Director, Germany
Isabel McCrea, Regional Director, Oceania
Regional Director, Oceania
IFAW Japan Representative
IFAW Japan Representative
Patrick Ramage, Program Director, Whales
Program Director, Whales