Seismic deadline passes allowing whales to feast in peace

Wednesday, 3 June, 2015

This week marks the end of the first window of opportunity for Bight Petroleum to start its controversial plan for seismic testing in the waters off Kangaroo Island.


Instead of blasting this pristine marine environment with the continual, deafening sounds of industrial air guns, the window closed to the sound of silence.  


It marks another year of reprieve for blue whales which rely on Kangaroo Island waters as one of only three critical feeding grounds in Australia.


IFAW’s Marine Campaigns Manager Matthew Collis said that Bight Petroleum could have proceeded with seismic testing but that events were now conspiring against the Canadian petroleum company’s unpalatable plan.


“The community is completely opposed to seismic testing in this area – 50,000 people raised their voices in protest, the Government’s own scientists had reservations about it and it now appears investors don’t want to spend money on such a risky venture


“Against the backdrop of low oil prices, investors are rightly questioning the wisdom of putting their money into a project with such widespread community opposition and putting endangered whales at risk. We hope that by this time next year, Bight Petroleum won’t be even considering going ahead with this contentious plan.


“On top of all these issues, we have an industry regulator (NOPSEMA) that is refusing to reveal why Bight Petroleum’s plans were approved in the first place.”


Matthew Collis said that blue whales depend for their survival on this area, which is a feeding hotspot at the same time of year Bight will be conducting seismic testing.


“Whales are found in hotspots critical for feeding and may stay in these areas where food is abundant, even when industrial noise reaches unbearable levels. They need to consume thousands of tonnes of food every day, they can’t just move to another area. The sound of seismic guns has been known to travel thousands of kilometres across ocean basins, smothering the natural sounds of ocean life; sounds that whales rely on to locate their prey, to communicate with each other and to navigate.


“The good news is that the whales are safe for another year.   However, this may be just a one year reprieve; it’s time for the Government and policy makers to realise that there are some areas which are too precious to open up to industry.


“In the meantime IFAW will continue to pursue legal action against NOPSEMA to improve the transparency of their approvals process,” Mr Collis said.

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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
Matt Collis, Director, International Policy
Director, International Policy
Patrick Ramage, Program Director, Whales
Program Director, Marine Conservation