Pilbara Climate Network says ‘No’ to Woodside’s seismic testing

August 27, 2023
A protest against Woodside's seismic testing. Photo: Pilbara Climate Network

Traditional Yindjibarndi Elders and others criticised Woodside’s plan to conduct offshore seismic testing for its controversial Scarborough Gas project, at a demonstration in Boorloo/Perth on August 23.

Tootsie Daniel, a Yindjibarndi Elder and member of Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation Circle of Elders, said: “Please, whoever you are, don’t blast anything, otherwise you’re going to have some sort of bad luck in your life. We believe that.

“Just listen to the custodians of the land. Respect the country. Don’t go there. Don’t touch it. We say that, but people just go straight past us.”

The newly-formed Pilbara Climate Network (PCN) organised the 25-person strong vigil as other protests were organised in Boorloo and Margaret River in south-western Western Australia.

Seismic testing involves blasting underwater sound cannons to identify gas deposits in the ocean floor. These sonar booms are among the loudest sounds made by human technology, and pose a major threat to nearby marine life.

Woodside intends to fire multiple sonars every minute for 80 days.

The National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA), the federal regulator for offshore exploration, gave Woodside the green light, but said it needs to carry out further consultation before testing begins.

Traditional Owner Mardudhunera woman Raelene Cooper has launched legal action to halt the seismic blasting. She is arguing that Woodside failed to consult her as a required stakeholder. The Environmental Defender’s Office (EDO) is arguing that NOPSEMA should not have granted approval before the consultations were undertaken.

EDO spokesperson Clare Lakewood told The Guardian that NOPSEMA gave approval on July 31 with the consultation condition, but less than a fortnight later Woodside said it was ready to start seismic blasting. It could not have done “meaningful, respectful and thorough consultation” in that short time.

Greenpeace said there are 54 threatened species, including the pygmy blue whale, which will be directly impacted by the blasting.

Rachel Rainey, a Karratha resident and PCN spokesperson, told the protest: “The Pilbara is home to a fantastic array of marine life, which is under enough stress as it is from climate change, ongoing industrial activities and the depletion in food sources.

“There is no need to test the boundaries of our local marine ecosystem’s resilience and risk total collapse.

“The Pilbara region could be a world leader in renewable energy. Instead, we’re allowing Woodside to forge ahead with plans to expand fossil fuel production in a time when we should be transitioning towards renewables as rapidly as possible.

“No new fossil fuel projects should be built, but particularly not projects like the Burrup Hub, that rely on endangering local marine life.”

Rainey said the PCN supports Cooper’s court action to stop Woodside’s seismic blasting. “Many in the Pilbara share her concerns for our precious marine life.”

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