A political voice questioning the alarmist spiels by Greenpeace and other anti-oil activists has made it clear that claims about seismic testing threatening the Maui dolphins was baseless.
New Plymouth National MP Jonathan Young called for balance in the discussion over offshore oil and gas exploration and potential harm to endangered marine mammals off the Taranaki coastline.
The Taranaki Daily News reported that environmental groups recently organised protests to stop seismic testing in the Taranaki Basin, arguing the repetitive sound waves used to collect data disturb marine life, including the endangered Maui dolphin. In fact the term used in social media was that the explorers were undertaking “seismic blasting” – a term earlier discounted by environmental scientists.
Oilfield services company Schlumberger New Zealand was now carrying out testing off the coast of Taranaki in their ship Amazon Warrior.
Jonathan Young, the Opposition energy and resources spokesman, said it was time for "some balance" in the argument against offshore exploration and production.
He told the Daily News that claims offshore exploration would harm endangered Maui dolphins were baseless. No deaths, or strandings of marine mammals, he said, have been directly linked to seismic surveying.
Young said environmental groups, WWF-NZ and Greenpeace, had complained against NZ Petroleum and Minerals awarding an exploration permit to Westside Corporation to explore for petroleum offshore in the Taranaki Basin.
“Their argument is that this permit area is in the Maui dolphin's habitat."
Young said since 1922 only 26 Maui dolphin sightings have been recorded by the Department of Conservation in the Taranaki Basin, compared to 5,157 sightings nationwide. Among the Taranaki sightings were 15 seen from offshore exploration platforms.
“This in itself suggests these installations are not hazardous to the population as made out to be,” he reportedly said.
“The threat of boat strike from recreational fishing and disease, such as toxoplasmosis are likely to be more threatening to the Maui dolphin population.”
Young said research by Massey University in 2012 showed the disease caused the death of seven Hector's-type dolphins from 28 analysed by Massey University.
Two Maui dolphins, from three washed up dead on beaches, were found to have died primarily from the disease caused by the toxoplasma parasite, he said.
There was no definitive answer from studies by the Department of Conservation (DOC) as to how seismic surveying affected marine mammals.
“Some animals or species have been reported as not reacting to the noise at all while others have been observed moving away when the vessel was many kilometres away,” he said.
Jonathan Young said while no deaths or strandings of marine mammals have been directly linked to seismic surveying, naval sonar - which is different type of loud sound - had been implicated in both.
“Naval sonar is often confused with seismic in popular media. Nonetheless, because a genuine concern exists about the potential effects of seismic surveying on marine mammals, DOC has developed the code of conduct to minimise any potential risk.
“While Greenpeace and WWF-NZ may have genuine concerns, scientific research had identified stronger threats to their existence than seismic surveying or petroleum exploration.”
Sources: stuff.co.nz/taranaki-daily-news; nzresources.com data.