Seismic Whales

August 11, 2020

Sadly a further attack on our ocean environment has been given the green light by the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA). CoconoPhillips Australia will use 3D seismic blasting to explore for gas and oil in the Otway Basin, 18 km west of King Island, 56 km south of Cape Otway.

To discover oil and gas deposits under the ocean floor, repetitive blasts of 250 decibels go off every 10 seconds, sometimes for months on end.

Recently, the ABC reported that fishermen off Lakes Entrance had a 70% to 90% drop in catch for whiting, flathead and octopus as a result of seismic blasting. Researchers from the Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies from Curtin University found that noise from seismic airguns significantly increased mortality in scallops and zooplankton.

Apart from the disastrous effects on our fishing industries, whales & dolphins are also severely affected. Whales are believed to change direction, alter song patterns, reduce feeding, suffer increased stress and hearing loss when impacted by seismic blasting.

Located between Cape Otway and the Great Australian Bight is the vitally important Bonney Upwelling. The Bonney Upwelling is the largest and most predictable upwelling in Southern Australia and is one of twelve widely recognised feeding areas worldwide where Blue Whales are known to aggregate in considerable numbers.

Other whales that are known to frequent Bass Strait include the rare Shepherd's Beaked Whale, Pilot Whales, Southern Right Whales and dolphins including Bottlenose Dolphins and even the critically endangered Burrunan Dolphin. The Bonney Upwelling area harbours in total 26 listed threatened species under the EPBC Act.

Added to the direct physical impacts and food chain disruption caused by seismic surveys, the burning of fossil fuels will lead to increased global warming which will further impact upwelling events by changing ocean currents across the globe, and as a result further impact threatened species. The world is moving to renewable energies. We do not need to discover new deposits of oil and gas. We haven’t got time to “transition” via gas we must act now.

Deb Bradfield for OCEAN


For Otway Climate Emergency Action Network, contact us to get involved and see more here.

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