Turning the tide on oil and gas

The impacts of offshore oil and gas on our marine environment are hard to fathom. From seismic blasts deafening whales and dolphins to the destruction of small marine life. There is a threat of oil spills from rigs and ships involved in the drilling and shipping of these polluting fossil fuels.

Offshore oil and gas damages our oceans, our wildlife and our coastal communities.

Right now, the offshore oil and gas industry is expanding around Australia, with massive seismic blasting proposed in the whale-rich waters off the Victorian and Tasmanian west coast.

The proposed expansion of the offshore oil and gas industry from our southeast waters to the north west of our vast continent is threatening the future of our oceans, critical whale migration routes and marine ecosystems found nowhere else in the world.

At a time when Australia needs to drastically reduce our emissions to meet our 2015 Paris Agreement commitments, new oil and gas will simply lock in decades of disastrous climate pollution, and inflict serious harm on our marine environment and wildlife.

Let’s turn the tide on new oil and gas. Help us stand up to the fossil fuel industry’s damaging plans to expand in our oceans.

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How offshore oil and gas harms our oceans

Seismic blasts are how the oil and gas industry surveys the ocean floor. Seismic vessels (boats) tow an array of air guns and audio receivers (hydrophones) behind them in the water. These powerful air guns fire loud blasts of compressed air every 10 to 15 seconds, 24 hours a day. The sound waves produced penetrate deep into the seabed, and those that bounce back to the sea surface are detected by the audio receivers. From the sound patterns detected, companies can work out the most likely place to find oil and gas reserves trapped in the ocean bedrock. The next step is exploratory drilling. These blasts are among the loudest human-made sounds in the ocean, just short of those caused by explosive devices, and have a devastating effect on marine life.

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Seismic blasting can cause stress and harm, potentially displacing nearby fish and other marine life. Evidence shows that these seismic blasts can kill shellfish and tiny zooplankton more than a kilometre away.¹ The impacts of seismic blasting marine mammals including whales, dolphins and seals include temporary and permanent hearing loss, abandonment of habitat, disruption of mating and feeding, beach strandings, and even death2. Research has indicated seismic blasting may even affect the immune system of lobsters3.

Despite mounting evidence of the harm seismic blasting can have, Australian law does not currently consider seismic blasts a threat to our marine life. Seismic blasting is still allowed in marine parks and in many critical ocean habitats.

1. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41559-017-0195
2. Koper, R. P., & Plön, S. (2012). The potential impacts of anthropogenic noise on marine animals and recommendations for research in South Africa. Endangered Wildlife Trust.
3. https://www.abc.net.au/news/rural/2019-07-26/rock-lobsters-impacted-by-seismic-surveys/11343240

Whistleblower reveals risks to marine life from seismic blasting

A Special Prospecting Authority is a specific type of permit that allows oil and gas companies to buy access to large areas of our oceans for a nominal sum. This enables companies to bypass the usual bidding process which is overseen by the federal government.

As each SPA is assessed in isolation, multiple companies can conduct seismic blasting in the same area of the ocean, repeatedly. The offshore regulator (NOPSEMA) does not take into consideration the cumulative impact of multiple blasts on marine life.

Special Prospecting Authorities allow seismic blasting companies to run amok in our oceans, seismic blasting in marine parks and other critical ocean habitat. There are currently two SPA application processes underway in the Otways basin.

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Proposed offshore oil and gas projects in our south east oceans

The oil and gas industry is planning to expand their seismic blasting surveys and test drilling projects in our south east oceans.

Risky carbon capture storage (CCS) proposals threaten to pump climate pollution under our oceans with unproven and unsafe methods. We must stop the polluting and dangerous fossil fuel industry from exploiting our oceans.

TGS/SLB-Schlumberger project

ConocoPhillips project

CGG project


Carbon Capture and Storage

Flyer: Offshore oil and gas in Australia