A French company’s plans to undertake a massive seismic survey over 17,000 square kilometres of Eastern Bass Strait has concerned local MP’s Tim Bull and Darren Chester and attracted criticism from the local fishing industry.
Nationals Gippsland East MP, Tim Bull, has written to the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) asking that it consider the potential ramifications of the survey after raising the matter in Parliament last week.
“This would make it one of the largest seismic surveys seen in this country, covering an area eight times the size of Port Phillip Bay,” Mr Bull said.
“Under this proposal, the industry is being asked to leave fishing grounds for five months and then accept the risk of reduced catch rates for a year or more following the survey as evidence continues to build that it has a detrimental impact on marine life.
“I understand that in certain cases seismic testing must occur, but the scale of this proposal over vital fishing grounds raises massive concerns.
“I am also advised that no oil or gas company is requesting this, the proponent is planning it with the intention to (hopefully) on-sell the results, so basically, no-one is seeking this to be done.
“The fishing industry in South Eastern Australia is proud of its history of working in partnership with oil and gas companies. More than ten surveys have been completed over the last ten years, but this one represents exceptional risk,” Mr Bull said.
Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester has also raised his concerns about the prospect of seismic testing.
He said he supported the local fishing industry and had already raised the potential impacts of seismic surveys with several of his Parliamentary colleagues and with the State Government directly.
Mr Chester has made formal representations to the Federal Minister for Resources, Matt Canavan; Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Anne Ruston; as well as the Victorian Minister for Major Projects Jacinta Allen.
Mr Chester said he would continue to work with the Lakes Entrance Fishermens Co-op, Leftrade Limited, Seafood Industry Victoria and the South East Trawl Fishery Industry to advocate on their behalf to the key decision makers.
“I don’t want to see the livelihoods of local fishermen jeopardised by more seismic surveys and a consultative process which has been dubious at best,” Mr Chester said.
“Fishermen and their families should be treated with more respect and like them, I am not convinced by the merits of this proposal.
The Roberts Evaluation in 2014 found the direct output generated from the commercial fishing industry and related industries in East Gippsland to be around $35m a year.
“The industry is vital to our local economy and a vital employer for our region; it has my full support,” Mr Chester said.
Wednesday, August 15, 2018