Tuna reprieve in oil battle but whales in firing line
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.