Woodside gas exploration threatens whales and dolphin species

From June to mid November, the inshore waters (landward of the 100m isobath) between the Lacepede Islands and Camden Sound (off the Kimberly coast) are used as a calving area for the humpback whale (Jenner et al. 2001).

Peak numbers in winter: It has been reported that peak numbers of the northbound humpback whales approached the Kimberley coast near Quondong Point and the Lacepede Islands in mid to late July.

Offshore until Camden Sound: The majority of humpbacks pass to the west of the Lacepede Islands and remain offshore until they reach Camden Sound.

Southern migration: By mid August most migrants have ended their northern migration. When migrating south, in September, the whales parallel the coast on the 20-30m isobath.

Rare at Scott Reef: While the vast majority of both north- and south-bound humpback whales appear to remain landward of the 100m isobath (about 300 km from Scott Reef), they have been rarely seen near Scott Reef.

Spinner dolphins sighting: Large numbers of spinner dolphins (Stenella longirostris) were also observed on some of these expeditions (AIMS 2004) and during previous open water seismic surveys undertaken in the area.

Unlikely in survey area: According to the Centre for Whale Research it is likely that sperm, blue and beaked whales also occur in the general area at certain times of the year (Curt Jenner pers. comm.) But they were unlikely to occur in the restricted lagoon waters where the survey will take place.

But unpredictable migration path: While it is known that sperm and blue whales undertake extensive migrations, there are few data to help predict when they are most likely to be present in the general area.

Unlikely coastal gathering: However, all blue whale subspecies appear to breed during winter in warm open seas at relatively low latitudes. Thus it is possible blue whales may move through the general area between May and September.

Possibility remains: While breeding activities may not be present, the possibility that one or more groups of female and juvenile sperm whales may be encountered in the general area between April-September should not be discounted.

Reference: Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, Referral Form for Woodside, seismic survey of Scott Reef. Person making the referral: Ceri Morgan, Environmental Adviser, Woodside Energy, GPO Box D188, Perth Western Australia 6840. Tel: (08) 9348 6160, Fax: (08) 9220 1948. Corporation or individual(s) proposing to take an action: Alec Cumming, Development Manager – Browse, Woodside Energy, GPO Box D188, Perth Western Australia 6840. Tel: (08) 9348 6792, Fax: (08) 9214 4453.

Erisk Net, 24/7/2006

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