A seismic battle is brewing in the pristine, whale-filled waters of the Otway Basin between Victoria and Tasmania.


The dark blue depths of Bass Strait are home to an array of marine life, from the majestic Blue whale down to microscopic yet vital zooplankton. And yet, in this area of ocean, the Australian Labor Government has granted a special permit to seismic test 5.5 million hectares of seafloor, looking for oil and gas reserves. This is the world’s largest proposed seismic blasting program and will have devastating effects on our marine life, coastal communities, and national climate targets.

What is seismic testing?

Seismic testing is a relatively unknown process, which, as the name suggests, has an enormous effect on the surrounding environment. Seismic testing, or blasting as environment groups call it, is the process of firing an array of airguns towed behind a vessel and shooting high-pressure air through the water column into the sea floor. In this Otway Basin project, the company conducting the blasting, TGS, have requested to seismic blast 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for 400 days.

Each blast is 250 decibels and is known to kill zooplankton, harm whales, kill scallops and rock lobsters, and cause untold damage to other marine life. A gunshot is 150 decibels; imagine having someone fire one every few seconds for 400 days straight and tell me you wouldn’t go a little crazy.

Seismic testing is the first step in offshore oil and gas exploration and is the method for finding offshore deposits and potentially big holes to stuff CO2 into, also known as carbon capture and storage. The raw data collected by TGS will be analysed and sold to fossil fuel companies, which can build ginormous gas wells to frack the gas from deep below the sea floor. The infrastructure to extract gas and transport it to land for processing and transport is monstrous and takes decades. The gas that TGS are looking for will not come online for years, potentially decades, in a time when we have phased out the need for natural gas and transitioned away from fossil fuels.

A Community Up in Arms

Editor of Surfing World magazine and wave warrior Sean Doherty isn’t one to mince words, calling this project ‘a greed-driven, planet-killing plan to seismic blast an area of ocean the size of Tasmania to turn it into gas fields’. And if you and most of the population believe that we should transition off fossil fuels and onto renewable energy resources, you should also be against seismic blasting.

Like its predecessor, the Fight for the Bight campaign, this proposal faces huge community opposition. A few weeks ago, submissions closed to oppose the project, and a whopping 30,785 people wrote to the NOPSEMA, the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority, stating concerns with the proposed Environmental Plan.

This response was largely due to the tireless advocacy of groups such as Surfrider Foundation, OCEAN and Surfers for Climate, who continue to fight to protect our beloved breaks from fossil fuel extraction. You may have caught Lisa from OCEAN or Belinda from Surfers for Climate on our Act Local series.


What can I do?

Whilst NOPSEMA considers the submissions made by the public, marine biologists, activists, and wetsuit-wearing legends gather their banners and wax their surfboards, preparing for a summer of seismic action.


Catch the Film Tour & Get Informed

Surfrider is kicking things off with an East Coast Southern Blast film tour on a community quest to protect the Otway Basin. These events will showcase the beauty and biodiversity of Southern Sea Country and connect audiences with ways to take action to not only stop TGS’s proposal but also to end seismic blasting and offshore gas extraction outright.

The film tour starts in Hobart on the 8th of October and hits towns all over TAS, VIC, ACT, QLD, and NSW.

Find an Event Near Me

Write to Your Local MP

If you’d like to take action straight away, write a letter to your MP outlining your opposition to the proposal and why they should oppose it too. 

Write to Your MP

You can also sign the petition at the Surfriders website.

Sign The Petition


Feature image thanks to Hilary McAllister