Marine wildlife fears after release from oil and gas exploration

The Albanian government’s release of huge swaths of Commonwealth waters for offshore oil and gas exploration, including three in established marine parks, is of deep concern for these sensitive environments and at odds with the government’s own climate goals, l ‘Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) says.

Two of the discharges are in the Oceanic Shoals Marine Park in the Timor Sea off the Northern Territory, an area known for its rich sponge gardens, corals and diversity of fish life. Sea turtles also use this area for feeding and breeding.

A third outing crosses the Kimberley Marine Park off the coast of Western Australia, which is used by humpback whales for breeding and calving. It is also a nursery area for three species of dolphins – the Australian snubfin dolphin, the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin and the spotted bottlenose dolphin.

Two other versions are close to other marine parks – one at the Montebello Marine Park boundary and the other near the Gascoyne Marine Park boundary off the coast of WA.

AMCS Marine Parks Campaign Director Dr Cat Dorey said the direct impacts of oil and gas exploration are significant on marine habitats and species, and a Senate seismic inquiry held in 2020 did not recommend no seismic exploration in or near marine parks.

“Seismic testing is the first step in oil and gas exploration in our oceans and there is growing evidence that it is harming marine life,” Dr Dorey said.

“The sound of seismic blasts used to locate oil and gas reserves is extremely loud and can travel hundreds or even thousands of miles. It can kill or injure nearby sea creatures and damage the hearing of whales and dolphins, species that rely on sound to navigate, communicate and find food.

“Of course, the infrastructure and increased shipping traffic that comes after deposits are discovered is also a huge problem for marine life. Oil and gas exploration and development has no place in marine parks. , which are meant to protect critical marine habitats and species.

“By opening these parks up for exploration, the Albanian government risks treating these areas only as paper parks. Given the deplorable state of our environment recently identified in the release of the 2021 State of the Environment Report, the government must be clear on its intentions: to protect our unique marine environment or to exploit it. »

Opening up new oil and gas fields is also incompatible with keeping warming below 1.5C, a very important temperature threshold for our coral reefs, Dr Dorey added.

“Devastating climate impacts are already being felt in our marine environments,” she said.

“Another marine heat wave caused the fourth mass bleaching event in seven years on the Great Barrier Reef earlier this year, and there was a concurrent bleaching event in Ningaloo Marine Park.

“The land release off southeastern Australia is right at the epicenter of a global warming hotspot. The southeastern oceans off Tasmania, Victoria and South Australia are warming at 3 to 4 times the global average, where marine heat waves lead to the loss of kelp forests and lead to changes in species distributions.

“We must stop the reckless exploitation of our oceans if we are to protect their health and wealth for future generations.”

/Public release. This material from the original organization/authors may be ad hoc in nature, edited for clarity, style and length. The views and opinions expressed are those of the author or authors. See in full here.

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