The Government will allow mining exploration in marine mammal
sanctuaries that protect rare dolphins, whales and seals in a
decision which has been criticised by an Otago scientist who
says his advice was ignored.
Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson defended a decision for
seismic surveying and mining exploration to go ahead in
marine sanctuaries, saying surveying could be restricted to
minimise harm to marine mammals.
Yesterday Prime Minister John Key ruled out mining in World
Green MP Gareth Hughes said it made a sham of so-called
marine mammal sanctuaries after oil companies were granted 10
permits in four of the protected areas.
"It's great that you won't be going ahead with mining in
World Heritage sites but what about the marine mammal
sanctuaries," he said.
There were six existing sanctuaries around New Zealand's
coastline meant to provide a permanent refuge for marine
mammals in fishing waters.
Ms Wilkinson said another eight new sanctuaries were being
Mr Hughes said marine mammals like the hector's dolphin, the
endangered Maui's dolphin, whales and fur seals would be
threatened by the exploration.
He said there was "legitimate concern" about seismic surveys
- where airguns are used to produce powerful underwater
The Government says it will regulate seismic testing by
placing observers on surveying ships and reviewing a 2006
code of practice.
Scientists have said air guns could cause deafness in animals
if they're too close.
Otago University marine scientist, associate professor Steve
Dawson said he had been asked for his advice on how the
surveying would affect wildlife and it had been ignored.
He said marine mammals had been found to strand themselves as
a result of acoustic surveying and could go deaf from the
"The only things that are louder than air guns in the ocean
are significant explosions and lightning strikes."
"This makes a mockery of the so-called marine mammal
sanctuaries that the Department of Conservation has because
they don't protect the animals from the major risk to them
which is fishing and they establish a few extra steps that
anybody wanting to do a seismic survey has to go through, but
it's really only a slight impediment," he said.
"I am disappointed the Government would do something that is
disingenuous by calling something a sanctuary when it isn't."