04 May 2011

Is seismic testing to blame for penguin deaths?

NEW ZEALAND - The Maori Party and Gisborne District Councillor Manu Caddie are calling for action from the NZ Government after at least a dozen penguins were found washed up on East Cape beach Waihau Bay, near where oil company Petrobras is conducting seismic testing.

The Maori Party has asked the Government to declare whether it commissioned an environmental impact report on seismic testing in Raukumara Basin before it granted a permit to Petrobras.

The request follows claims from some East Coast residents that the testing might be the reason behind the penguins' deaths.

"Many of our iwi attribute special significance to the penguin as taonga [treasured or sacred] species," Maori Party MP Te Ururoa Flavell said.

"We would be extremely distressed if these birds are being placed at any threat to their life as a result of 'human-induced' risks."

"There's no evidence that the testing is killing the birds but at the very least the Government should have made sure that an impact report was done before giving an exploration permit, which includes seismic testing activity, to Petrobras."

The Maori Party has approached the Ministers of Conservation, Environment and the Acting Minister of Energy and Resources for an urgent investigation into the alleged claims.

Meanwhile, Gisborne District Councillor Mr Caddie has demanded a moratorium on seismic testing, saying new international research suggests such testing is responsible for killing a range of sea creatures.

"While the Government may blame La Nina weather conditions for starving the penguins or suggest a storm killed them, locals haven’t noticed any major storm recently," he said.

"Evidence is piling up on the impact of the seismic tests both here and abroad."

Mr Caddie cited recently published research from researchers at the Technical University of Catalonia in Barcelona that found the deaths of giant squid, washed up on Spanish beaches in 2001 and 2003, were caused by nearby oil and gas seismic surveys.

The Department of Conservation has declined to comment on the penguins' deaths until it knows the cause. Necropsy results are expected sometime next week.

Sources
Penguin deaths still a mystery, 1 May 2011, Newstalk ZB
Maori Party wants answer on seismic testing and dead penguins, 26 April 2011, Maori Party
Time to stop the testing, 25 April 2011, Caddie in Council 2010-2013

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