Woodside Energy wanted to conduct a new round of seismic testing for oil and gas off Victoria’s Port Campbell, potentially disrupting the feeding season of the endangered blue whale, wrote Ewin Hannan in The Australian (8/10/2007, p. 4). Testing period would coincide with peak abundance of whales: Woodside had applied to the Howard Government to undertake the testing between November and May 2008, a period coinciding with the peak abundance of blue whales in the region. The survey area was about 20km south of Port Campbell, the coastal town west of the giant rock stacks known as the Twelve Apostles. Peter Gill, a long-time blue whale researcher, had said the survey area lay well within the blue whale feeding area. “If the survey occurs during the blue whale feeding season, and the whales are usually present between November and May, it is possible that blue whales may be displaced from preferred feeding areas,” he had said.
Survey needed to map sub-surface geology: In its application to the federal Environment Department, Woodside had said the survey was designed to map the sub-surface geology and ascertain the potential of sub-surface oil and gas deposits for further investigation. A survey vessel would operate an airgun that released bursts of compressed air that pushed the water away, creating a pressure wave that was used as a seismic signal. The survey would involve 23 days of testing.
‘Temporary’ displacement of whales: As the holder of a petroleum permit, Woodside had said it was required to undertake exploration to deduce the area’s potential for oil and gas production. In its submission Woodside acknowledged that 23 species listed as threatened under federal environmental legislation might occur within, or travel through, the project area. They included three species of whale, the great white shark, 12 albatross species, and the critically endangered orange-bellied parrot. “There may be some temporary displacement of (whales) as a result of the seismic survey and localised impacts on feeding behaviour,” Woodside had said in its submission.