A groundbreaking study is under way off Queensland’s coast to investigate if soundwaves from undersea fuel exploration are stressing whales.
More than 50 local and international researchers will study over the next five weeks if soundwaves, or blasts used to find deposits of gas and oil, adversely affect whales.
Research head University of Queensland professor Michael Noad said scientists will discharge their own seismic air guns in waters off the Sunshine Coast to examine if it affects migration.
“We are trying to find out whether noise produced by seismic exploration is causing disturbance or behaviour changes,” Dr Noad said.
“You might even have them delaying migration if there is exploration in their path.
“There is no data on it at all.”
Because oil exploration occurs so far offshore it is unlikely disturbances would lead to beachings, Dr Noad said.
Dr Noad said the findings could change how undersea oil and gas exploration was conducted around the world.
“If there is a problem, the oil industry can adapt,” Dr Noad said.
“For example one of the things we are testing is whether the whales behave differently if you go from east to west, that is across the migratory corridor, versus running parallel.
“It is also the biggest and most comprehensive study of its kind that has ever been conducted on whales.”
The five-week study will be replicated in Queensland and Western Australia each migration season over the next five years.