'No hope of stopping it': Fishers warn against seismic testing in Bass Strait


May 16, 2019 18:53:54

Tasmania’s fishing industry is “astounded” seismic testing has been given the green light by a national petroleum authority in Bass Strait as part of exploration plans by an oil and gas company.

Key points:

  • Approval is granted to 3D Oil for exploration east of King Island
  • Fishermen say the company has changed some boundaries but concerns remain about crayfish
  • The Greens want a moratorium on seismic testing

Approval has been given to 3D Oil to use seismic testing when it explores for oil and gas reserves later this year in the Otway Basin, 18 kilometres west of King Island.

The approval was given this week by the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA).

NOPSEMA accepted the company’s environment plan as the final step in its approvals process, but commercial fishers are worried about the impacts, and the Greens are calling for a seismic testing moratorium.

Researchers from the Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) and Curtin University found in 2017 that noise from seismic airguns used for marine oil and gas exploration significantly increased mortality in scallops and zooplankton.

John Hammond, a longtime fisherman and chairman of the Tasmanian Scallop Association, said seismic testing would be “very destructive”.

After negotiations with 3D Oil, the company had changed some of its testing boundaries to help protect crab fisheries, but cray fishing was expected to be impacted.

“We’re a little piddly fishing industry you could say, facing the petrochemical giants,” he said.

“We’ve got no hope of stopping it.

“We do know that this is a very destructive process, and we can just hope for the best result we can get out of it by negotiating with them.”

Mr Hammond said the industry has pushed for the testing to be delayed until after rock lobsters have finished spawning, in about November.

Fears for long-term impacts

Tasmanian Seafood Industry Council chief executive Julian Harrington said he was astounded that the proposal had been approved by NOPSEMA.

“The marine resource is obviously a shared resource, and our members, in particular the rock lobster and giant crab sector, have access rights to share the marine resource,” Mr Harrington said.

“Recent [IMAS research] has highlighted that there are greater impacts of seismic [testing] and potentially unknown impacts that research hasn’t discovered yet, that we believe will negatively impact our fisheries both now, in the short-term, but also in the future.

“I have engaged with a lot of rock lobster and giant crab fishers who hold significant concerns about the impact of seismic activity on larvae of rock lobster in particular.”

Mr Harrington said the council was yet to see the environmental plan that was approved by NOPSEMA.

3D Oil was contacted for comment. According to the company’s proposal, seismic testing would occur for 35 days in September and October.

The company still needs to submit an environment plan summary within 10 days of the environment plan being accepted on Monday.

It also has to notify NOPSEMA 10 days prior to the commencement of any activity.

Tasmanian Greens Senator Nick McKim said there should be a moratorium on seismic testing until the impact is better known.

“Ultimately this is bad for our fisheries, it’s bad for our marine ecosystem, and we should not be prospecting for fossil fuels and mining for fossil fuels in the middle of a climate emergency,” he said.












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