Seismic Testing Plans in Australia Threaten One of the World’s Healthiest Reefs

3 Mins read

In an earlier post, we talked about a planned seismic survey project by a multi-billion dollar oil and gas company that was threatening to harm Africa’s marine life. Now there is a reckless plan to use seismic testing to search for oil and gas in Australia, putting one of the world’s healthiest reefs at risk.

Image: Ian D M Robertson/Shutterstock

One of the Last Coral Reefs Free From Human Disturbance

Conservationists are concerned about a plan to search for more oil and gas near Rowley Shoals in Australia.

The area is an isolated archipelago of reefs that lie about 161 miles off the coast of Kimberley in Western Australia. It’s the home to three atolls named Clerke, Imperieuse, and Mermaid which are about 19 miles apart. Mermaid Reef is actually a marine park that is managed by the Australian government where no fishing is allowed. The other two are managed by the Western Australian state government, which has also imposed fishing restrictions around the reefs.

Rowley Shoals is recognized as a thriving marine ecosystem that has escaped the harm seen in other reef systems around the globe. A study that was published in April suggested that the beautiful area represented what a tropical reef would look like if it could escape the man-made perils of overfishing and global heating.

The amazing collection of coral cover and its isolation allows the area to sustain threatened species and rich biodiversity during a time of unprecedented global degradation of coral reefs. The location has surprised scientists due to its lack of evidence of any decline and has given hope to many that this part of the world is doing so well.

The diversity of fish at Rowley Shoals stands out and the high numbers and range of marine life make this particular coral ecosystem more resilient. There are 96 different protected marine species living or migrating through the area including 25 species of whales and dolphins, six types of sea turtle, 10 different shark and ray species, and 31 species of fish. 18 of the 96 species are classified as threatened or endangered.

The Dangers of Seismic Testing

Seismic testing involves sending sound pulses underwater in powerful blasts to create a 3D map of what lies beneath the surface.

The noise that the testing generates can reach 250 decibels as the waves penetrate the seabed. To put that in perspective, the loudest whale noises range between 140 and 190 decibels.

Seismic Searcher, a Perth-based company, is planning to conduct seismic testing to search for oil and gas across a 5,333 square mile area, which is next to the Rowley Shoals area. According to the National Offshore Petroleum Titles Administrator (NOPTA), the exploration permits for these areas are held by 3D Oil, Pathfinder Energy, and Santos.

The survey company wants the testing to take place less than three miles from the boundary of the Mermaid Reef Marine Park and about seven miles from the Rowley Shoals Marine Park boundary. The project will send powerful sound pulses every 5 to 8 seconds over a 70 day test period.

Experts say that seismic waves don’t acknowledge borders in the sea and that the testing proximity is too close. Any effect from the testing will bleed over into marine park areas, disrupting the “untouched” environment. Noise pollution can undermine the ability of the ecosystem to function naturally.

Seismic testing alone is bad for marine life but what makes it worse is that oil and gas findings could lead to further development of the area which will disrupt the peaceful marine world even further.

Fuel companies have been wanting to explore these valuable spots for some time and if this seismic testing plan is approved, the company will have permission to begin its disruptive work as early as January 2022.

At Karmagawa and SaveTheReef, we are upset by this news. The whole purpose of a marine park is to protect the environment and its inhabitants. Allowing disruptive actions like seismic testing around them totally undermines their purpose! We’re using our media channels to spread the word so that more people can speak out and get people in charge to make the right decisions. We have to do better for our planet!

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram and stay informed of what is happening to animals and the environment all around the world.

Also … please spread our information so that your friends and family are aware, as well.

Have them watch this powerful video …

The director of this video, Amir Zakeri, created a masterclass for anyone in the Karmagawa and SaveTheReef community who would like to tell visual stories about the causes they care about. If you’re interested, here’s 50% off.  

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What do you think about the plans for seismic testing near Rowley Shoals? What do you think should be done to stop these types of things from happening? Leave a comment below.

(Cover image: V_E/Shutterstock)

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