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Monday, 7 March 2005
Page: 183


Senator Allison asked the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, upon notice, on 7 December 2004:

   With reference to seismic testing approvals:

   (1)   Did the Minister approve activities proposed by Santos Ltd, and contracted to Multiwave Geophysical Company’s seismic survey vessel, Pacific Titan, as detailed in a letter sent from Santos Ltd to the Australian Democrats, dated 8 November 2004.

   (2)   (a) Will the Minister provide details of the potential interactions with marine mammals that were considered within the assessment process required under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999; (b) were impacts on any other marine animals considered within the assessment process for this activity; and (c) will the Minister provide details of all other seismic activities he has approved to be carried out in Australian waters during the period 8 November 2004 to 30 May 2005.

   (3)   Have aural cavity biopsies been undertaken, either by Commonwealth or state agencies, on any of the whales that beached themselves on Tasmania’s coast in November 2004; if not, will the Minister ensure such biopsies are done in order to assess the degree to which ocean noise may have played a part in the beachings and subsequent fatalities.

   (4)   Is the Minister aware of any evidence linking use of navy sonar or seismic activities to marine mammal strandings in Australian waters; if so, will the Minister provide details.


Senator Ian Campbell (Minister for the Environment and Heritage) —The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:

(1)   The seismic survey by Santos Ltd in the Sorrell Basin off the west coast of Tasmania was referred under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) on 16 September 2004. A decision was made by the delegate on 14 October 2004 that the activity was not likely to have a significant impact and that approval is not needed under the EPBC Act.

(2) (a)   The impact of seismic activity on cetaceans was considered as part of the assessment. (b) Yes. (c) Several such seismic exercises have been referred and considered under the EPBC Act. Details are available on the public website at http://www.deh.gov.au/epbc/.

(3)   Not to my knowledge. Heads from a sample number of animals have been taken from each stranding by Tasmanian agencies. I understand that aural cavity biopsies are not proposed at this stage.

(4)   There is no evidence linking use of navy sonar or seismic activities to marine mammal strandings in Australian waters.