Science continues to prove that the devastating power of the pressure sound waves generated by seismic airguns exploring for offshore oil and gas reserves wreaks havoc on ocean life. A new study on rock lobsters (https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2019.1424) adds to an expanding body of work showing that marine invertebrates are severely effected by seismic blasts. The lobsters demonstrated extensive damage to their statocysts – the balance sensory receptor, or hair-lined fluid-filled sac, that detects gravity, body positioning, and movement that is commonly found in aquatic invertebrates, including bivalves, cnidarians, echinoderms, cephalopods, and crustaceans. The statocyst plays a vital role in simple and complex behaviours, including normal patterns of swimming, righting, recessing, foraging, and predator avoidance.
This damage remained for a year and even after moulting, leaving authors of the study, Day et al, questioning how the lobsters would function in the wild thereafter.
Day et al state:
“Globally, rock lobster fisheries have a high socioeconomic value and rock lobsters themselves are an ecologically important keystone species: one that exerts a disproportionately large influence on the ecosystem relative to the size of their population, with impacts to populations capable of driving system-wide regime shifts with flow-on effects to other fisheries .”
The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) is presently challenging our Dept of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries on the total allowable catch of West Coast rock lobster. There is currently over 400 000 sqkms of seismic surveying in application for our southern and west coast, where our major fisheries are located. Can we afford to further impact our commercial species when our fisheries are so compromised? Can we afford to further impact our marine biota? We call for a moratorium on marine seismic surveys.