Guidelines fail to protect marine life from seismic oil exploration

Press release - August 1, 2012
Auckland, 1 August 2012 – New Government guidelines for seismic oil exploration will fail to protect New Zealand marine life, says Greenpeace.

The Government's Code of Conduct for minimising impacts of seismic testing were announced late this afternoon.

Seismic testing is known to cause harm to whales and dolphins (1). The acoustic noise from seismic testing can injure or kill marine life when in close proximity. The sound can be detected up to 3000 kilometres away. Seismic testing also has an impact on marine migration, feeding, communication and reproduction (2).

Greenpeace New Zealand Political Advisor Nathan Argent said it was likely seismic testing would continue in ecologically sensitive areas regardless of the Government’s guidelines.

“Greenpeace has deep reservations about the effectiveness of the Code of Conduct as it’s a voluntary scheme. In other countries such as the UK and Australia, they are mandatory,” he said.

Under the Code there are no requirements to conduct environmental impact assessments or to inform local communities before exploration work starts. Despite the known effects that seismic testing can have on whale, dolphin and fish populations, there are no provisions to establish liability or to levy fines.

The Government has proposed that the Code be incorporated under the proposed EEZ Bill, which has been widely criticised for failing to meet New Zealand's international legal obligations to ‘protect and preserve’ the marine environment.

“This Code will do nothing to protect our marine life and ocean ecosystems from reckless deep water oil exploration,” said Argent.

“Our relationship with the sea is vital to New Zealanders. Around one million Kiwis are recreational fishers, and the vast majority of us spend some time in or on the ocean. All deep sea oil and gas exploration in the EEZ should be prohibited,” Argent says.

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For more info:

To organise an interview with Nathan Argent call Jay Harkness, Greenpeace NZ Media & Communications on 021 495 216.


Notes to Editor:

1)    Dr. Barret-Lennard, Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Center. November 3, 2004. “Canada: Seismic Surveys a Danger to Marine Life, Report Warns.” Vancouver Aquarium Aqua News. http://www.vanaqua.org/aquanew/fullnews.php?id=1722

2)    Low-frequency whale and seismic airgun sounds recorded in the mid-Atlantic Ocean. Nieukirk et al 2005 ftp://ftp.pmel.noaa.gov/newport/mellinger/papers/NieukirkEtAl04-AtlanticWhalesAndAirguns.pdf