Coker calls for halt to seismic blasting

March 9, 2024 9:52 am in by
Hundreds paddled out against drill plans for the Otway Basin in 2019, and are expected to again later this month over renewed fossil fuel plans there (Surfrider Foundation)

A government MP has called for a stop on plans to seismic blast a mass area of the Southern Ocean.

With a decision imminent on whether to green light the controversial proposal backed by multinational fossil fuel prospectors SLB and TGS, Corangamite MP Libby Coker says she’s asked Australia’s offshore energy regulator not to approve it.

“I’ve just asked NOPSEMA (National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority) to halt the process for the seismic blasting in the Otway Basin,” she said.

The 3D survey mapping for an area of ocean floor stretching from Victoria and South Australia down to Tasmania would be one of the largest of its kind, and would involve a ship towing seismic blasting apparatus through protected whale sanctuaries for hundreds of days.

Article continues after this ad

Going off every 10-15 seconds, the sonic cannons emit blasts of 256 decibels and are described as ‘one of the loudest man made sounds on the planet’ according to opponents of the practice.

Seismic blasting of the ocean is facing increasing pressure from coast watchers (Australian Institute of Marine Science).

The TGS/SLB proposal attracted around 30,000 submissions to NOPSEMA, one of the largest responses to any proposal before the regulator in its history, and prompted a summer of protests along the coast.

The Surfrider Foundation along with other environment groups are planning a paddle out at Cosy Corner in Torquay on March 23 against the plan, as they did in 2019 against the now-ditched plan by Norwegian company Equinor, who wanted to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight.

Then, as now, the actions coincided with an expected federal election later in the year where ocean issues are of particular prominence for the coastal electorate of Corangamite. So much so that former Liberal MP Sarah Henderson broke ranks with her parties support of the proposal, and turned up to the 2019 paddle out to express her disapproval of the drill plan.

Article continues after this ad

It was not enough to save Ms Henderson in the seat, who lost the marginal electorate to Labor MP Libby Coker.

A former Surf Coast Council Mayor and resident of the coast, it’s now Ms Coker’s turn to intervene on an issue that’s largely backed by her government; that of expanding Australia’s offshore gas and fossil fuel industry.