Northern beaches conservation group steps in to help whales

 

Source: SMH - Alexandra Smith

Northern beaches conservation group steps in to help 'mums and bubs' whales


On Sydney's northern beaches, a small dedicated group of ocean lovers has helped halt seismic testing during the peak whale migration season.

Living Ocean, a not-for-profit Palm Beach conservation group that "promotes the awareness of human impact on the ocean", discovered a Perth-based gas company wanted to conduct seismic testing during September in waters 40 kilometres south of Newcastle.

 

Asset Energy planned to do seismic testing during the peak humpback whale migration season.

Asset Energy planned to do seismic testing during the peak humpback whale migration season. Photo: AAP

The area of testing would have covered about 208 kilometres and was scheduled during the peak time for the southern migration of humpback whales and their calves.

Asset Energy applied to the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) to do the seismic testing but their application was unsuccessful and the company has been told to modify and resubmit their application.

The humpback migration tracks in the area that Asset Energy proposed seismic testing.

The humpback migration tracks in the area that Asset Energy proposed seismic testing. Photo: Supplied

Living Ocean president Robbi Newman said the "testing time and location would have been devastating had it gone ahead".

"Once we were notified of the seismic testing application, we were able to share our extensive scientific data with NOPSEMA, as well as carry out meaningful discussions with the gas company", Mr Newman said.

"Asset Energy has taken this all on board and now plans to conduct its testing in the more suitable time frame of January/February 2018, when there are very few whales about."

Sam Barripp, the humpback whale research team leader for Living Ocean, said it was critical that a calf had quality time with its mother during the first 12 months of its life.

"Our main concern was the mums and bubs heading south and bubs only have about 12 months to learn the vital life lessons from their mother so the blasting of massive noise would have been terrible for humpbacks that use sight and sound to survive," Mr Barripp said.

"The noise from this sort of testing would have been like holding a rock concert in a preschool classroom."

Living Ocean has been recording the migratory tracks of humpback whales passing Sydney since 2003, and has been collecting data though an app specifically designed by member Bill Fulton to "safeguard the whales' migratory route against sand mining, fish farms and seismic testing".

Mr Barripp said the group urgently needed donations or access to a boat to ensure they could continue their whale research.

"We have been chartering a boat but the company we use now charges almost double so we need to find another way," Mr Barripp said.


 

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