| Belinda Baggs
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PEP 11 (Petroleum Exploration Permit 11) is a 4,500 square km zone of the ocean from Manly to Newcastle that will be opened up for oil and gas exploration. Despite opposition from Newcastle, Central Coast and Northern Beaches local councils, the federal government continues to push this harmful and risky project on our community.
Map of PEP 11. Photo: Jarrah Lynch
Following the small scale 2D seismic testing in 2018, 3D seismic testing is now being planned for the zone. This involves airgun blasts every 2-3 seconds, 24 hours a day, continuously for days or weeks at a time.
Seismic testing uses these powerful noises to penetrate the ocean floor and retrieve data that helps companies identify oil and gas deposits. Each blast is 256 decibels and can be heard underwater up to 4,000 kilometres away. It has been shown to kill plankton, cause malformation in oysters, as well as cause death and injury to fish, turtles and other marine life. It is also reported to interfere with the communication and navigation of whales and dolphins and has been linked to strandings.
Humpback Whales migrate through the PEP 11 zone. Photo: Craig Parry
This project is often justified by the Government on the grounds of economics – this project will free up additional gas reserves to ease pressure on domestic markets. The fact of the matter is that Australia is the largest global exporter of natural gas and while there are shortages in the domestic market, we ship two-thirds of our gas supply overseas. This argument doesn’t stack up.
On top of that, the industrialisation of PEP11 will contribute to the climate crisis at a time when we should be switching to renewables. In this climate emergency, it is irresponsible to continue to open up new fossil fuel projects. Offshore gas fields have negative impacts on marine and coastal ecosystems and habitats, and overall planetary health. Methane is the main component of natural gas and is 84 times more powerful than carbon dioxide in terms of its ability to destabilise our atmosphere.
Belinda Baggs hold a gas rig displaying the potential industrialisation of the horizon. Photo: Jarrah Lynch
We all have a deep connection to this beautiful coastline and the marine life that also calls these waters home. As a strong ocean-loving community, we must mobilise now to ensure our coast remains pristine, thriving and wild.