Surfers: End all search and new drilling for fossil fuels

Photo by Jarrah Lynch

By Belinda Baggs, Surfers for Climate

Surfers across Australia are opposing a proposed seismic survey for oil and gas in the Bass Strait, covering an area of pristine ocean larger than Tasmania, because of the danger to marine life.

Over 2,800 Victorians and counting have backed the calls of Surfers for Climate to end the Offshore Petroleum Acreage Release Process and cease all new drilling for fossil fuels.

Sign the petition: Don’t drill the Otways

A survey put forward by seismic survey company TGS and oilfield services company Schlumberger would cover 7.7 million hectares in the Otway Basin between Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia and is one of the largest of its kind planned anywhere in Australia. 

Seismic surveys consist of explosive underwater airgun blasts between 200-256 decibels – which is far louder than a plane taking off, or even a gunshot – firing every 3-10 seconds for 24 hours continuously for months on end to locate the best drill targets for oil and gas. 

Surveys have been shown to have devastating effects on marine life, the blasts can kill plankton over 1km away. They have been shown to stress, deafen and harm fish, oysters, lobsters, squid, penguins, dolphins and whales, and are linked to the mass strandings of turtles, dolphins and whales. 

If the project goes ahead, the proposed survey will be conducted in close proximity to many regional coastal towns in Victoria. As well as running through offshore locations that play a critical role in supporting high marine species diversity across Australia’s Southern coast.

Surfers For Climate have joined several other community organisations who are up in arms about the proposal. 

Linley Hurrell, Surfers For Climate Campaign Manager & Saltwater Institute teacher said, “This plan is destruction for the sake of destruction and profits. It makes no sense to do such a large scale seismic survey in this bio-diverse rich area to prop up a dying industry.

This seismic surveying will be done using louder blasts than traditional 2D surveying, to produce 3D maps of potential fuel deposits under the sea floor. This plan will disrupt migratory patterns of the endangered Southern Right Whale who returns to the waters of Victoria’s South West to give birth to their young. Food sources for species like the Southern Rock Lobster and Southern Blue-fin Tuna, which are integral to our fishing industry – will also be threatened. This plan has far reaching negative consequences, we need to come together to protect sea country for everyone.”    

Under the environment plan, this specific multi-client survey could be undertaken on multiple occasions over the duration of the five year plan. In any year, the maximum time the survey is run is expected to be 200 days. 

Over and above danger to marine life, seismic surveys are a pathway toward new offshore oil and gas drilling that goes directly against the need to dramatically reduce carbon emissions in the next decade to avoid climate catastrophe and worsening extreme weather. 

Surfers For Climate Co-Founder and Patagonia Sports Activist Belinda Baggs said, “It’s basic common sense that in any energy transition you have to stop the pipeline of fossil fuel exploitation. That means no more new seismic surveying aimed at opening new oil and gas fields. This is a moment for the Federal government to step up, invest in renewable energy and stick to their aim of reducing emissions.”

“A thriving ocean is so much more than a resource for Australian beach lovers; it’s the centre of a healthy lifestyle and a source of life and jobs for our communities. We ask that the government puts citizens, community and marine life above the destructive fossil fuel industries that will only lead to our demise when so many other renewable technologies are plentiful in the area. We aren’t going to sit back and let the ocean be blasted, this needs to stop immediately, preserving all the wild spaces around us.”

In 2019, thousands of Australians hit beaches to paddle out in protest against oil drilling in the Great Australian Bight including many beach lovers from Western Victoria. Last year the group joined a protest in the Port of Geelong opposing a smaller seismic survey off King Island also in the Otway Basin.

Sign the petition: Opposing New Oil & Gas in Australian Waters

→ The Guardian – 24 August 2022:
Biggest seismic testing for oil and gas at odds with Australia’s net zero push, activists say
“Fishers and community groups have expressed alarm over what has been described as the biggest seismic testing for oil and gas ever planned off the Victorian coast, saying it is at odds with the Albanese government’s climate commitments.”

In Australia, 114 new coal and gas projects are currently being considered by the federal government.

“We have a system primarily designed to serve the interest of fossil fuel companies, at the expense of our communities and marine life.”

Peter Whish-Wilson, senator, The Greens

“If they will not stop new oil and gas projects, we will.”

Just Stop Oil, United Kingdom

“Let’s not forget that we’re talking about extinction. Don’t we have a responsibility to take every means of trying to protect life on Earth?”

Aileen Getty, founding donor of the Climate Emergency Fund and granddaughter of Getty Oil founder J. Paul Getty – in the New York Times

→ New York Times – 10 August 2022:
These Groups Want Disruptive Climate Protests. Oil Heirs Are Funding Them.
“Beneficiaries of two American oil fortunes are supporting groups trying to block fossil fuel projects. One donor said he felt a ‘moral obligation’.”

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