NSW Greens Marine and Fisheries spokesperson Justin Field is calling on the NSW Government to reject an exploration licence for oil and gas in the waters off Newcastle after a new study found the impacts on migrating whales could be significantly larger than previously considered.

The University of Queensland study published in a recent edition of the Journal of Experimental Biology studied the behavioural responses of humpback whales to the noise of seismic surveys.

It found “the majority of groups appeared to avoid the source vessel at distances greater than the radius of most mitigation zones”[1].

The National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority has already called for revised plans for seismic testing by Asset Energy in the waters off Newcastle as they did not meet environmental regulations.

Mr Field said this new study showed the community could not have confidence in the process designed to protect migrating whales from harm and Asset Energy’s licence proposal should be scrapped.

“The precious coastal waters off Newcastle and Sydney are no place for an oil and gas field, and even the exploration process is fraught with danger for migrating whales and the environment,” he said.

“This new scientific study raises serious questions about the safety of seismic guns on the hearing and navigation of migrating whales.

“Seismic testing in the waters off Newcastle poses an unacceptable risk for ocean habitat, marine wildlife including migrating whales, and productive local fishing grounds.

“The annual whale migration up and down Australia’s east coast is one of our great natural attractions, luring visitors from home and abroad.

“Nature-based visitors to NSW spent $18.3 billion in the year ending September 2016 noted whale watching as one of their most popular activities [2]. Aside from its economic contribution, the annual whale migration is much-loved natural spectacle and holds significance for Indigenous and local communities.

“It’s not worth risking the health of the marine environment, our valuable fisheries resources and good local jobs for oil and gas exploration where the community will never accept a future gas field.”

[1] http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0025326X15302435?via%3Dihub

[2] https://www.destinationnsw.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Nature-Based-Tourism-to-NSW-Snapshot-YE-Sep-2016-1.pdf