The Great Ocean Rescue tour kicked off this weekend with a screening of the Surfrider Foundation Australia film Southern Blast at Barwon Heads on Friday night and a rally in Ocean Grove the following Saturday morning. The weekend was the start of a month-long campaign to inform residents of and visitors to the Great Ocean Road communities of a record 5.5 million hectare joint venture by global giants Schlumberger (SLB) and their data analyst partners TGS to undertake 3D seismic blasting off the Western Victorian coastline. Learn more about the project here.
The Great Ocean Rescue tour is an initiative of Otway Coastal Environment Action Network (OCEAN) supported by Surfrider Foundation Australia, Southern Ocean Protection Embassy Collective (SOPEC), the Australian Marine Conservation Society, Fight for the Bight, Friends of the Earth Melbourne and Patagonia.
Community sentiment was high, and the Barwon Heads Hall full to capacity on Friday night with around 100 locals coming to learn more about the impacts of seismic blasting. Southern Blast, a documentary produced by Surfrider Foundation unpacks the damage caused by seismic blasting in the search for fossil gas offshore. The screening was accompanied by songs and stories told by Gunditjmara woman Yaraan Couzens Bundle, founder of the Southern Ocean Protection Embassy Collective. Speaking at the panel discussion after the screening Freja Leonard from Friends of the Earth Melbourne described seismic blasting as the unconscionable in the search for the unnecessary. “It’s appalling that we would do this level of damage looking for fossil gas that the climate can no longer afford”, she said.
The next morning in Ocean Grove close to 300 people, including representatives of the local Wauthorong community marched down the main street singing, chanting and carrying banners led by Ocean Grove local Mitch Pope who spoke movingly about the importance of keeping seismic blasting out of the Southern Ocean. Seismic blasting releases sonic explosions of around 250 decibels every 10 seconds destroying zooplankton and krill and deafening whales and other marine life.
“We are the Ocean Grove community and we’re marching today because our ocean is under threat from seismic blasting and gas exploration’, said Mitch Pope, “We’re showing these companies that we’re not going away, we’re only going to grow, our voices are only going to get louder and we’re only going to get stronger. We can win this”, he said, to the cheers of local shopkeepers and shoppers on the main street.
Assembling at the foreshore for speeches at the end of the rally, marine biologist Madi O’Brien spoke of the delicate balance of healthy marine ecosystems under emerging climate impact. “Temperate marine environments like the Great Southern Reef are particularly crucial, as kelp forests take up and store huge amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, which is so important for reducing the impacts of the climate crisis”, said Madi O’Brien
“There is only one thing keeping seismic blasting going, and that is the choice of our resource minister Madeline King. Seismic blasting is a crime against nature, it is a crime against future generations”, said Surfrider campaigner Annie Ford.
Gunditjmara woman Yaraan Couzens Bundle said that the home of Koontapool, the Southern Right Whale was under direct threat from seismic blasting. “We as first peoples, we don’t own the land we belong to it and those connections span back eons of time. In Gundijmara Country seismic blasting can never coexist peacefully with ancient living creation Songlines and our sacred traditions.”, Yaraan Couzens Bundle said.
The Great Ocean Rescue tour continues to roll out across the Western Victorian coastline with a series of upcoming events on every weekend in January. Everyone is welcome to attend, fill in a survey about seismic blasting operations in the Southern Ocean and take action to show community opposition to seismic blasting for new gas at a critical time for climate change.
Upcoming events for the Great Ocean Rescue tour
13 Jan Wye River Film screening, 7:30pm at the Wye River SLSC
14 Jan Apollo Bay Rally, 10:30 start at Mechanics Hall and Film screening, 7pm at Apollo Bay Community Hall
20 Jan Port Fairy Film screening, 7pm at the Reardon Theatre Port Fairy
21 Jan Warrnambool Paddle out, 2pm at the Warrnambool Breakwater. and film screening, 7pm at the Mozart Hall
27 Jan Portland Film screening, details TBC
More information at https://www.ocean.org.au/greatoceanrescue
Link to video of the rally: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1ocmQ6JlbvORT8d6_PuKTv0226GCnK73G/view?usp=drive_link
OCEAN supports non-violent direct action to prevent seismic blasting and new gas development in the Otway Basin. We value the power of mobilising communities into action to have positive wins for our marine and coastal environments.
Friends of the Earth Melbourne is not for profit organisation with 50 years experience campaigning for social and environmental outcomes.
Mitch Pope, campaigner, OCEAN – 0408 373 063
Freja Leonard, No More Gas campaign coordinator, Friends of the Earth Melbourne – 0400 611 896