Media Releases - 11 August 2021

Regulator concerned about impacts to whales and fisheries and yet still approves King Island seismic blasting

Southern right whales move through this part of the Southern Ocean with their calves and would be severely affected by seismic testing.

Yesterday, the Australian offshore oil and gas regulator NOPSEMA approved ConocoPhillips’ controversial King Island seismic blasting project. This project has been the subject of significant opposition and concern by this remote island community so reliant on healthy oceans and fisheries.

Jess Lerch, National Corporate Campaigner for the Wilderness Society said, “The King Island community has been vocal in its concerns and opposition to this project and the proponent itself has acknowledged that the impacts on both threatened whales and important fisheries can’t be avoided. The revised version of the ConocoPhillips seismic blasting plan was provided to the regulator just five days before the approval decision.

“Yet lo and behold, the approval churns out of the approval machine right on schedule for the oil and gas company. In fact, the company had the seismic boat well on the way to King Island before the approval had landed in ConocoPhillips’ inbox. That’s the equivalent of starting the chainsaw as you wait for the permit to cut down the forest to arrive.

“Frankly, if exploration couldn’t be undertaken without affecting either threatened species or important fisheries, this acreage should never have been released. The mindless acreage release process has now placed an unnecessary, unreasonable and undemocratic burden on the King Island community and our marine environment.

“At every stage there is a presumption that the blasting will go ahead, no matter what the risks. This entire ‘regulatory’ process works for oil and gas companies, not the community or the environment. From the moment the acreage is granted to one of these companies, they get all the rights and the community and environment gets none. Unless the Morrison Government intervenes here it will be crystal clear that it cares more about ConocoPhillips than the King Island community.

“EMRS is currently undertaking a full community survey of all King Island residents to quantitatively assess the community’s level of support and comfort with this project, commissioned by the Wilderness Society. We call on the Morrison Government to intervene to stop this project progressing and to seriously consider the outcomes of the survey in any future decisions about seismic testing in the region," Ms Lerch concluded.

For more information contact Tim Beshara on 0437 878 786 or Jess Lerch on 0423 057 828