HUNTER protestors are refusing to quell their vocal opposition to seismic testing and offshore drilling for gas and oil, with more than 400 joining hands and lining Nobbys Beach for their fifth action in less than three months.
Founder of Stop Seismic Testing Newcastle Natasha Deen said the peaceful event on Saturday was part of an international day of action known as Hands Across The Sand, where participants make a symbolic gesture to protect coastline and marine life.
“The movement is growing as people become aware,” Ms Deen said.
“We have a very diverse group opposed to this exploration for the extraction of fossil fuels and it includes fishers, recreational fishers, environmental groups, tourism operators and members of the Aboriginal community.
“We’re hoping against hope we’ll be able to stop this going any further.”
As previously reported, the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority gave approval in January for Perth-based Asset Energy to send repetitive acoustic pulses into the ocean floor about 30 kilometres off Newcastle’s coast to identify natural gas deposits.
Despite Newcastle City Council voting unanimously to oppose offshore testing and NSW resources minister Don Harwin voicing his opposition to the project in state parliament, the testing went ahead last month.
Asset Energy responded last week to the state government’s official call for their federal counterparts to suspend the operation by saying it had not acted on evidence.
Ms Deen said the testing had been shown to “devastate” the whole marine ecosystem, from plankton through to whales.
“Seismic testing is known to destroy plankton 1.2 kilometres away from the air gun source,” she said.
“46 per cent of oysters show malformations when exposed to seismic blasting.
“It also affects the hearing, navigation and communication of our whales and dolphins.”
Ms Deen said she had collected 5100 signatures on paper against the testing and more than 23,000 had signed an online petition on change.org.
She said last month’s tests were the “first step” and she was concerned Asset Energy would start further testing and drilling for wells within the next six months.