A number of whales, including a mother and calf, are at risk of harm by underwater drilling for Victoria’s Port of Hasting Expansion Project in Western Port. Environmental Justice Australia, acting for the Preserve Western Port Action Group, has written to Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt to demand answers and actions.
“We are concerned that the Port of Hastings Development Authority is disregarding its legal obligations. The EPBC Act clearly states that activities, like underwater drilling, which are likely to harm whales, need to be approved by the Federal Environment Minister,” said Ariane Wilkinson, lawyer at Environmental Justice Australia.
“Previous drilling activities around Australia have been referred to the Federal Environment Minister,” she continued.
“Just last Friday our members spotted a mother whale and her calf very close to the drilling site at Cowes,” explained Jeff Nottle, Chairman and spokesperson for the Preserve Western Port Action Group.
“Experts believe these whales are Southern Right Whales. The expert view is that Southern Right Whales are extremely sensitive to noise disturbance, especially when they are nursing a baby calf,” said Ms Wilkinson.
“Other whales have been seen in the area as recently as last Monday. The Port of Hastings Development Authority need to take their legal responsibilities seriously to protect these sensitive animals,” she continued.
“This borehole drilling activity has been occurring at up to 110 locations in Western Port, and has been going on for months already at a time when the whales have been spotted in the area. We’re demanding that Minister Hunt’s department urgently investigate this matter as soon as possible,” said Mr Nottle.
“This is Minister Hunt’s electorate and this is going on right under his nose. This issue is important for the economy of this area. Whale watching tours form an active and growing part of the tourism economy in Western Port.”
“Local residents and the broader community deserve answers and appropriate actions on this.”
“Western Port is a RAMSAR protected site and should not be subject to the actions currently being conducted by the Port of Hastings Development Authority.”