It’s high time for some balance in the argument against offshore exploration and fishing.
I’m concerned at the lack of evidence of effects on marine mammals, and equally concerned that the decision-makers have a bias against extractive industries whether in the ocean or on dry land.
No deaths or strandings of marine mammals have been directly linked to seismic surveying, but naval sonar (a very different type of loud sound) has been implicated in both and is often confused with seismic in popular media.
This is just another knock-back of a responsible well-regulated industry that supports the security of supply of energy and electricity in our country.
Department of Conservation’s database which has recorded 5,157 sightings of Hector and Maui dolphins since 1922, reports only 26 are south of New Plymouth. Of those, 15 are recorded sightings from offshore platforms; which in itself suggests these installations are not hazardous to the population as made out to be.
Regarding Seismic Surveys and their effects on marine mammals, the DOC website has said a variety of studies have been reported in scientific literature over the years, but there is no definitive evidence as to the effect of seismic surveying on marine mammals. Some animals/species have been reported as not reacting to the noise at all, others have been observed moving away when the vessel was many kilometres away. Humpback whales have been observed moving rapidly away from the sound source, as well as moving rapidly toward it.
The bottom line is that reactions can be very different depending on the species, location, type of noise, and other factors. Nonetheless, because a genuine concern exists about the potential effects of seismic surveying on marine mammals, the Department of Conservation has developed the Code of Conduct to minimise any potential risk.
I am concerned that the Department of Conservation are not addressing the real culprit of mortality of Maui Dolphins. In 2012, toxoplasmosis was identified as the primary cause of death in seven of 28 Hector's-type dolphins analysed by Massey University and two of three Maui dolphins autopsied after they washed up dead on beaches, were found to have died primarily from toxoplasmosis, an infection caused by the toxoplasma parasite.
The offshore seismic surveying industry has stringently followed the Department of Conservation’s Code of Conduct and has had marine mammal observers on board to cease any activity if marine mammals are sighted within a kilometre of their activity in order to minimise any potential risk.
New Zealand has been known internationally to have the best code of conduct measures for seismic surveying in the world, but the government’s planned measures are taking things even further, to the detriment of exploration, fishing and the Taranaki and New Zealand economy.
Jonathan Young, National’s spokesperson on Energy and Resources