Tuna re­prieve in oil bat­tle but whales in fir­ing line

The Advertiser - - NEWS - MILES KEMP SATUR­DAY DE­CEM­BER 8 2018

THE tuna in­dus­try is cel­e­brat­ing a win over planned seis­mic test­ing for oil in the Great Aus­tralian Bight dur­ing the species’ au­tumn ju­ve­nile mi­gra­tion.

Test­ing com­pany PGS has aban­doned plans to test in an area off Kan­ga­roo Is­land in March, telling the fed­eral um­pire that must ap­prove the plan, NOPSEMA, that it will move its ac­tiv­i­ties to Septem­ber next year. But the de­ci­sion to fo­cus on Septem­ber ac­tiv­i­ties has pit­ted PGS against the en­vi­ron­men­tal lobby be­cause this is when south right whales will be calv­ing in the re­gion.

“There is no safe time to un­der­take seis­mic blast­ing,’’ Greens Sen­a­tor for South Aus­tralia, Sarah Han­son-Young, said.

Aus­tralian South­ern Bluefin Tuna In­dus­try As­so­ci­a­tion Chief ex­ec­u­tive Brian Jef­friess said nei­ther March nor Septem­ber were ideal, but the in­dus­try had lob­bied against March be­cause of the mi­gra­tion pe­riod for ju­ve­nile tuna. He said the in­dus­try had taken a close in­ter­est in the PGS plan be­cause it was so close to the cen­tre of the fish­ery; 51km from Cape Carnot, Eyre Penin­sula, 90km west of KI and 80km south­west of Port Lin­coln.

“We have made a per­sua­sive, ev­i­dence-based case (about March test­ing),’’ he said. “Septem­ber is still a ma­jor prob­lem for other species and other ac­tiv­i­ties and this is a very ma­jor sur­vey.’’

Aus­tralian Petroleum Pro­duc­tion and Ex­plo­ration As­so­ci­a­tion spokesman Matthew Do­man said seis­mic test­ing had been used for decades in Aus­tralian wa­ters, with no ev­i­dence of harm.

“The oil and gas in­dus­try has a proud of track record safe, sus­tain­able op­er­a­tions over many decades in Aus­tralian con­di­tions un­der Aus­tralian reg­u­la­tions,’’ he said.

NOPSEMA has given it­self an ad­di­tional month to rule on whether the PGS test­ing can go ahead at all be­cause of the com­plex­ity of the is­sues. The sur­vey area is 30,100 sq m and test­ing would run non-stop for three months from Septem­ber in 2019 and in 2020.

Seis­mic test­ing in­volves in­ject­ing large air bub­bles into wa­ter be­hind a test ship to record sounds as they bounce back from the ocean floor to de­tect oil and gas de­posits.

VIC­TORY: Seis­mic test­ing for oil in The Bight won’t be held in March, dur­ing the ju­ve­nile mi­gra­tion pe­riod for tuna.

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