An Island Under Seige
Twenty-five kilometres off King Island’s west coast, the seismic testing will be used to locate the best spots to drill for natural gas reserves. In the meantime, it will impact the ecosystems that not only thrive there, but ensure the natural beauty and acclaimed produce for which the island is world-renowned.
The seismic testing process involves blasting the sea floor on a recurring basis, every 10 seconds, for 24 hours a day. It can go on for weeks, even months, on end. The echoes that penetrate the sea floor and can provide information about geological structures up to 40 kilometres below; though water they can travel on for thousands of kilometres. Airgun noise reads over 200 decibels at its source – akin to a jet engine flying over at 100-feet or being at the front barrier of a very loud rock concert. Remember General Noriega lasted just over a week subjected to such "psychological warfare", before surrendering.
Senator Surfer, aka Peter Whish-Wilson, initiated a Senate Inquiry into seismic testing earlier this year. He told The Mercury “the island’s fishing legacy could be decimated for some short-term fossil fuel interests”. And highlighted that New Zealand, Greenland, Spain, Denmark, Costa Rica, France, Belize, and Portugal had all implemented bans on new oil and gas exploration because of the risk to marine life.
The Inquiry called for the Australian government to study the cumulative impacts of seismic testing and recommended seismic testing for gas reserves off King Island be halted until it could be proved that they will not harm rock lobster stocks. Yet two months on, ConocoPhillips can continue.
Running out of Houston, Texas, they are the world's largest independent exploration and production company (based on production and proved reserves). In Australia, they’re involved in involved offshore exploration, and own a third share in the Australia Pacific LNG. Self-proclaimed as ‘the people safely finding and delivering energy to the world’, ConocoPhillips' track record has some significant side-steps to that mission, including this, this and this. They were also the first U.S. oil company to join the U.S Climate Action Partnership... before exiting just four years later.
The planet's code red alarm has been blasted loud and clear. King Islanders, Australians and all global citizens can’t afford any more damaging exploration, new fossil fuel extraction infrastructure, nor the compounding risks that follow.
Banner image – iconic King Island coastline, Tasmania. Photo: Stu Gibson.