Seismic testing implicated in mass strandings

Beachings stump officials


30 November 2004 (Reuters) -- SCIENTISTS and wildlife officials are continuing to search for what may have caused a series of mass strandings which have left 169 whales and dolphins dead on Australian and New Zealand beaches in the past three days.

Authorities and volunteers worked through Monday night to save dozens of whales and dolphins after three separate beachings in Australia and New Zealand.

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Locals with a tractor are pictured near part of a pod of stranded long-finned pilot whales and bottle-nosed dolphins at Sea Elephant Beach on Tasmania's King Island in Australia in this file photo. Scientists and wildlife officials are continuing to search for what may have caused a series of mass strandings which have left 169 whales and dolphins dead on Australian and New Zealand beaches in the past three days. REUTERS/Mavis Burgess
By Tuesday, 96 long-finned pilot whales and bottle-nosed dolphins had died after the first beaching on Sunday at King Island, midway between the Australian mainland and the southern island state of Tasmania.

Tasmanian wildlife officer Shane Hunniford said another 19 long-finned pilot whales had died in a separate beaching on Monday on Maria Island, 60 km (37 miles) east of the Tasmanian capital Hobart.

Across the Tasman Sea in New Zealand, a mass grave was dug on a beach at Opoutere, 100 km (62 miles) east of Auckland on the North Island, for 53 dead pilot whales. Officials said 73 whales had become stranded there on Sunday, but 20 were saved.

Bob Brown, leader of Australia's Greens party, said earlier on Tuesday that ocean seismic tests for oil and gas should be stopped until the whale migration season ends.

Brown, a senator in the Australian parliament, said "sound bombing" of ocean floors to test for oil and gas had been carried out near the sites of the Tasmanian beachings recently.

"Normally with pilot whales, because they're so closely socially bonded, if one gets into trouble the others are not going to leave," Gibney said.

http://www.reuters.co.uk/newsPackageArticle.jhtml?type=worldNews&storyID=629954§ion=news>Whale

Seismic halt urged for whales

29 November 2004 (Melbourne Herald Sun) -- SEISMIC tests carried out in oceans to search for gas and oil should be stopped until the whale migration season had ended, Australian Greens leader Bob Brown said today.
His call followed the deaths of 19 long-finned pilot whales which beached at Tasmania's Maria Island yesterday. The stranding was the second in Tasmanian waters in just 24 hours.

Another mass beaching of whales and dolphins on King Island in Bass Strait on Sunday resulted in the deaths 73 long-finned pilot whales and 25 bottlenose dolphins.

Senator Brown said in both cases seismic tests, involving so-called sound bombing of ocean floors to test for oil and gas, were carried out in the days before the whales were stranded.

"There is growing evidence that such activities may impact on whales and dolphins, but research data is inconclusive," he said. "However, the precautionary principle should apply and the tests, until shown to be safe, should stop - at least in whale migration seasons."

http://www.heraldsun.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5478,11543251%5E1702,00.html


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