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Seismic surveying code a step forward for marine mammals

Forest & Bird media release for immediate use

Seismic surveying code a step forward for marine mammals

Forest & Bird says the new seismic surveying Code of Conduct for Minimising Acoustic Disturbance to Marine Mammals from Seismic Survey Operations is a “major step forward” in protecting marine mammals.

Forest & Bird Marine Conservation Advocate Katrina Subedar says New Zealand waters are abundant with marine

mammals, and without proper regulation industrial activity could severely affect wildlife.

“Marine mammals are extremely sensitive to sound. Sound pulses emitted from oil and gas exploration seismic surveys can be detected up to hundreds of kilometres away. The effects of these are not fully understood, but we know from overseas research that whale strandings and deaths have occurred in areas near where these types of surveys have been carried out.”

“The Code identifies this kind of activity as risky for marine mammals in our waters and sets requirements to minimise that risk,” Katrina Subedar says.

While not perfect, the Code “puts New Zealand in line with international best practice and in some cases beyond”. For example, companies will be required to carry out marine mammal impact assessments in the area before surveying begins. “That’s a really positive step,” Katrina Subedar says, “but it will be up to the Department of Conservation to uphold its responsibility under the Code to determine whether further mitigation is required.”

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When regulations of the new EEZ Bill are implemented the Code will be enforced for all companies conducting seismic surveys for oil and gas exploration, seabed minerals prospecting and scientific research operating between 12 to 200 nautical miles offshore.

“Of course we’re disappointed this is not mandatory for areas between the shore and 12 nautical miles, but it’s a step in the right direction and proves collaboration between government, industry and environmental organisations can achieve mutually beneficial outcomes,” she says.

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