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Oil Survey Explosions a Threat To Sick Whales
By Wendy Heller, February 2, 2008 @ 02:00 AM (EST)
Source: Smh.com.au

THE EFFECT of seismic exploration on Australia's best-known blue whale feeding ground is set to intensify, just as signs emerge that the endangered ocean giants are increasingly sick.

Surveys with exploding airguns are planned for 5900 square kilometres of waters that blue whales use at the same time, off Victoria and South Australia.

Whales avoid seismic noise and concern is growing that these blue whales will miss out on prime feeding opportunities. Some already show signs of being emaciated and parasite-ridden, scientists studying them say.

A Melbourne company, Exoil, is seeking approval for the seismic work following the Rudd Government's decision before Christmas to permit a much smaller 320 square-kilometre survey by Woodside in the same waters.

In seismic surveys, echoes of the explosions bounce off the seafloor and are caught by hydrophones near the surface, giving vital information on subsea geology in an area being examined for oil and gas deposits.

Exoil says the timing of its seismic work depends on the availability of a specialised ship in these waters. This claim is questioned by scientists. And with the Government taking a global profile on whale protection, environmentalists and the Federal Opposition are challenging the Environment Minister, Peter Garrett, over the permit.

The largest animals on earth, blues are yet to recover from their near annihilation by 20th-century commercial whaling. Acoustic pollution from sounds such as seismic testing is identified as a threat to them by the Environment Department.




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