Temporary reprieve from seismic testing - a small victory for Kangaroo Island’s whales

Thursday, 14 February, 2013
Sydney, Australia

IFAW (The International Fund for Animal Welfare - www.ifaw.org) welcomes the announcement that seismic testing off the coast of Kangaroo Island has been delayed, giving the area and its unique marine life a brief reprieve from oil and gas development.

“The fact that Bight Petroleum has been pressurised into withdrawing their application for this year is testament to the high levels of community concern. While IFAW welcomes this temporary reprieve for Kangaroo Island’s marine life, this delay and Bight’s intention to change the timing of proposed seismic surveys next year to accommodate the tuna industry, does nothing to address the threats to whales from seismic surveys in this area that sparked the IFAW campaign,” said IFAW’s Marine Campaigns Manager, Matthew Collis.

Bight Petroleum announced its intentions to withdraw its application to conduct a seismic survey off the west coast of Kangaroo Island in a media release on the 13 February.  However, the company intends to resubmit an application to conduct the same seismic testing at a slightly different time of year in 2014.  Tuna fishers in the area have since welcome the proposed change in timing,

“The imminent threat to this area’s spectacular marine life has been temporarily halted, but the long-term well-being of the 20 plus species of whales and dolphins, including endangered blue and southern right whales which feed and nurse their young in the area, still remains uncertain, ” said Mr Collis.

The withdrawal and resubmission of the application also removes the requirement under Minister Burke’s decision of the 9 January for Bight Petroleum to publish further documentation in relation to their plans. While Bight Petroleum has announced they intend to publish this information, stakeholders will now only get 10 days to comment rather than the 30 days that would have been required under the Minister’s previous decision.

“IFAW sincerely hopes this withdrawal and resubmission by Bight Petroleum is not a cynical ploy to try and avoid the further scrutiny that Minister Burke’s decision required. We are calling on Bight Petroleum to publish related documents immediately to ensure stakeholders have more than 10 days to study these documents,” added Mr Collis.

This small but unprecedented victory is a reflection of the combined efforts of the local community and organisations like IFAW to ensure the waters off Kangaroo Island continue to support many whale and dolphin species and local livelihoods dependent on fishing and tourism.

“This temporary reprieve is an important step towards safeguarding a whale hotspot but, ultimately, IFAW believes there are extremely strong grounds to reject this proposal completely; there is quite simply no time of year when industry can conduct exploration activities without the risk of harm to whales in this area,” concluded Mr Collis. 



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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