Whales May Be Deafened by Ultrasound Gas Hunt, Greenpeace Says


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(Bloomberg) — A Woodside Energy Group Ltd. plan to use ultrasound to hunt for gas off Australia’s coast could damage the hearing of endangered whales and should be banned, Greenpeace said. 

The Perth-based liquefied natural gas supplier is waiting for approval to start seismic exploration at the $12 billion Scarborough project, a huge reserve off Western Australia that could account for about a 10th of the nation’s LNG exports. The technology uses ultrasound to search for deposits, but may impact wildlife that is reliant on sound for communication. 

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“Seismic blasting is the one of the loudest sounds in the ocean, and the noise pollution can cause irreparable harm to whales’ hearing,” Greenpeace Australia Pacific Senior Campaigner Richard George said in a statement on Tuesday. “Whales use their hearing to communicate and find food, so a deaf whale is a dead whale.”

The gas producer could get permission from the regulator to carry out seismic exploration as early as next month, a peak time for whale migration in the area, according to Greenpeace.

Woodside has carried out scientific studies that “demonstrate the activities will be performed in a manner that prevents injury to whales, and minimizes the potential for biologically significant behavioral disturbance,” the company said in a statement. 

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The chances of encountering endangered pygmy blue whales and other species had “been assessed and is expected to be low, even if the timing of the activity overlaps peak periods for northbound and southbound pygmy blue whale migration,” the producer said.  

Greenpeace has for years campaigned against Woodside’s plans to develop the site, arguing that it threatens to disrupt threatened marine wildlife including whales and turtles. Scarborough was approved by Woodside last year and would produce 8 million tons a year of LNG for export to Asia — about 10% of current exports from Australia, one of the world’s biggest suppliers of the fuel. 

—With assistance from David Stringer.


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