Massive blue whale population found in proposed seabed mining area

Whales and the oil and gas industry have co-existed in Taranaki for decades.
Deanna Elvines

Whales and the oil and gas industry have co-existed in Taranaki for decades.

Blue whales - the world's largest animal - have been found in abundant numbers in a proposed seabed mining area in Taranaki. 

Marine mammal expert Leigh Torres made a presentation to the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) in Wellington on Wednesday on the results of a recent survey in the South Taranaki Bight, which found a blue whale population of at least 68. 

The EPA is meeting to hear arguments for and against an application from miner Trans Tasman Resources (TTR) to mine millions of tonnes of iron sands off the coast of Patea. TTRs first application was rejected in 2014.

A baby blue whale filmed nursing off the Taranaki coast observed by Leigh Torres and her crew last year was likely a ...
SUPPLIED

A baby blue whale filmed nursing off the Taranaki coast observed by Leigh Torres and her crew last year was likely a world-first.

Torres, a professor from Oregon State University professor who has carried out research in Taranaki waters in collaboration with the Department of Conservation, said seabed mining will have a severe impact on the whale population in the area.  

READ MORE:
Seabed mining company TTR slammed as 'arrogant' by South Taranaki iwi
Trans Tasman Resources reapply to mine iron ore in South Taranaki
Call for moratorium on all seabed mining amid 'secretive' application
* Seismic testing in Marine Sanctuary could damage hearing of sealife, zoologist says
Blue whale research begins off the Taranaki Coast
Scientists study blue whales 40km north of Farewell Spit
Aerial footage of baby whale feeding in New Zealand waters believed to be a first


"The likely impacts of seabed mining are increased noise in the area, which could seriously affect the whales and their primary prey which is krill," she said. 

"The mining will be noisy and whales' hearing is crucial to them, they rely more on it than they do eyesight.

The 66 square kilometres off the South Taranaki coast where Trans Tasman Resources have applied to mine iron ore.
TTR

The 66 square kilometres off the South Taranaki coast where Trans Tasman Resources have applied to mine iron ore.

"But it's the sediment created from uplifting the sand that could affect the krill which would in turn affect the whales feeding."

Torres and her team observed 68 individual whales over 32 sightings during nine days this year, more than twice the number of whales they observed last year when they captured world-first footage of a calf feeding from its mother. 

Torres said that whales are generally seen by the scientific community as being migratory animals, but her study so far indicates that the population they've been following have made South Taranaki their home.

Trans Tasman Resources/YouTube

TTR's project overview video, explaining how the mining will work.

"All we really know for certain at this stage is that the South Taranaki Bight is very important to this population," she said. 

Ad Feedback

"We've observed them surface-feeding but we also hear them through hydrophones calling to each other almost daily. So we know they're there a lot of the time."

Torres said the team had identified mating calls from males which indicated the whales were staying around to breed.

Although TTR has offered certain mitigation strategies to protect the whales, such as deploying its own hydrophones to monitor the population, Torres said it wasn't enough.

"The evidence I've presented at the hearing supports the argument of the opposition to the mining," she said. 

"But my own personal opinion is that the mining is not worth the risk to the whales."

Oil and gas activities have operated with the Taranaki region for decades as New Zealand's only oil-producing basin, but Torres feared the effects of adding mining to the mix could do cumulative damage. 

This is Trans Tasman Resource's second application to the EPA to mine more than 50 million tonnes of iron-laden sand per year from a 66 square kilometre area off the coast of Patea. 

The company's application was rejected in 2014 amid concerns of a lack of knowledge as to the environmental effects of their proposal. 

When they applied last year the EPA saw a record number of submissions flood in against the proposal - more than 17,000 - in an effort spearheaded by New Zealand anti-mining group Kiwis Against Seabed Mining. 

 - Stuff

Ad Feedback
special offers
Auckland

Maori burial site damage inquiry

Noel Hilliam has repeatedly claimed Maori were not the first inhabitants of New Zealand.

A man who claims Maori were not the first people in NZ is under investigation for alleged damage to archaeological sites.

Learning from Big Apple's finest

Demitra Sealy as Doll Common in the play Playhouse Creatures by April De Angelis.

Demitra Sealy is accepted for The Actors Studio in New York City to study under Ellen Burstyn, Harvey Keitel and Al Pacino.

No happy ending for toy story

Albany House has had a theft from the neighbouring hub construction site and also the toys this year.

It's been a merry-go-round for a community organisation trying to get their stolen toys back.

Addressing the isolation of heart related illnesses

Paul Newman pictured here with his wife Donna shares his  journey from debilitating illness to recovery following a ...

On line storytelling hub provides emotional relief for those living with heart disease.

Wellington

Every beat a new life

Four-year-old Ashley Hamilton doesn't let the hole in her heart stop her from enjoying life. She recently starred in a ...

Four-year-old Ashley loves to try new things including acting and doesn't let a hole in her heart stop her

Investigation widens

Former MoT manager Joanne Harrison had a stint at Corrections - before she was jailed.

Another public agency has had to investigate after hiring fraudster Joanne Harrison.

Crash after police chase

Emergency services are at the scene of a car that hit a powerpole near the intersection of Hereford St and Champion St ...

 A police chase has ended with police and a fleeing car hitting lamp posts.

More plans for Eva St

Student housing in the Eva and Leeds Street Laneway could be refurbished for another restaurant to be added to the urban hub.

Wellington's hipster laneway could see more development in two buildings that house students.

Canterbury

Security guard buries $130k

Security guard Tony John Williams, 37, stole $179,300 from an ATM machine and buried most in his garden.

Tony Williams raided the ATM he was meant to guard, burying most of the cash in his garden.

Flight 'spitter' charged

Kiri Marsh outside the Christchurch District Court after she was charged with assault.

Kiri Marsh, 32, allegedly spat at flight attendant and yelled for plane to ''go faster''.

Thick fog hid crash scene video

A member of public came across the crash about two hours after the car hit a tree on Tuesday morning.

Locals heard the crash, but could not find the wreckage. Two hours later, a young man was found dead.

Belief in dog wins it a home

Holden wrapped in a blanket in his first night at home with Carole Worley

All he wanted to do was be with people, but people did not want him.

Waikato

Bomb claims Kiwi's pen pal video

A triptych of Skye's best friend, Georgina Callander, including the centre shot of Georgina posing with American popstar ...

Best friends spoke that morning but Manchester explosion left 'horrible gut feeling'.

Priest's new victims

Mark Mannix Brown, 74, appeared in the Hamilton District Court on Tuesday.

Mark Mannix Brown is no stranger to court.

Couple claim $27m Lotto prize

The winning lotto was brought from Thames Four Square owned by Sukhpal Singh.

A Thames couple have come forward with the golden Lotto ticket.

Ham East rejuvenation starts

The new playground in Steele Park, as shown in the concept design for the Hamilton East Neighbourhood Plan.

But one councillor says Hamilton East is already thriving and will continue to do so if council keeps its sticky fingers out of it.

Taranaki

Euthanasia in NZ liable to abuse

Professor Jan Berheim is a Belgian medical expert and euthanasia advocate. He was invited to New Zealand by the ...

A law change would protect caregivers from undue prosecution.

Nutrition key to fitness

Haney Kahu has made the transition from prop to triathlete through hard work and attention to his diet.

Former prop says age not a barrier to fitness.

Hall to turn 100, present planned

The Whareroa Social Hall of 1918, better known as the Ramanui School Hall today.

A hall that is turning 100 has been moved and had a 'bit of a whack up' in the past, will hopefully be renovated again.

Big Jims to reopen

Taranaki plant nursery Big Jim's has been cleared to reopen, two weeks after after myrtle rust was detected on plants.

Positive myrtle rust findings grow as nurseries reopen

Manawatu

Balancing act for A+ grades

Farming is in the blood for Sam Pike.

Growing up on a Rangitikei farm Sam Pike always knew an agricultural career was in the blood.  

Event fund established

Major events such as the New Zealand PGA golf championship held at the Manawatu Golf Club will be eligible for a share ...

Ratepayers district-wide will contribute to a proposed $100,000 fund for "major events". 

Flytipping a $52,000 headache

The Manawatu District Council is cracking down on illegal fly-tipping.

More than 140 reports of wrongful dumping recorded this year in Manawatu and Rangtikei.

'Slasher-like' weapon

Footage from the robbery of a Liquorland store in Palmerston North.

Police release CCTV showing robbers, who hit a shop attendant.

Nelson

Iwi challenges water bottling

Te Waikoropupu Springs is considered sacred to local iwi.

A plan to bottle thousands of cubic metres of water from a Tasman spring has been dealt a blow after a local iwi appeal.

Nelson still top

Housing construction has helped fuel Nelson's run at the top of an economic scoreboard.

Nelson stays New Zealand's top-performing region in an economic scoreboard.

Poverty hitting region's youngest

Kay Guyton runs Angel in My Street and works to support Stoke families and children in poverty.

The 2016 Technical Report on Child Poverty found more than 1400 children in Nelson and Tasman were living below the poverty line. 

Talley's fighting consent terms

Talley's has applied for a 35-year term for a bundle of permits it seeks.

Talley's is challenging some of the proposed conditions to its continued discharge from its Motueka site.

Marlborough

School track causes bike boom video

The new cycle track at Mayfield School has been a huge hit with pupils, from left, Vee-jay Koroheke, Payton ...

Cycle track around the school has pupils clocking up the kilometres without realising.

Beer burglar jailed

Walter Narayan was told about the outdoor fridge as a place where he could get beer, his lawyer said. (File photo)

He went back to the well one too many times. The well being someone else's outdoor fridge.

Boat stolen from driveway

Police are on the lookout for a boat and trailer stolen near Blenheim. (File photo)

Thieves break padlock, take boat in the middle of the day.

Meth accused back in court

Four men facing meth-dealing charges are back at the Blenheim District Court.

Four men were charged after police raided six properties earlier this month.

South Canterbury

Brekkie for a good cause

Pink Ribbon Breakfast at the Arowhenua Marae in Temuka. Pictured are Wendy Moore (left) and Shirley McPherson (right).

The Arowhenua Marae was transformed into a sea of pink to support a good cause.

Rubbish fire suspicious

A fire at the back of the Sanford factory is being treated as suspicious

 A fire near Timaru's port is being treated as suspicious

Seeking right woman for the job

The rights say one actor must be white, one must be black and the third must be Asian

Timaru show could be abandoned unless actor found for very specific role.

Protection help sought

Urban designer Nigel Gilkison made a submission on behalf of the Timaru Civic Trust. The trust bought the 1871 Landing ...

"The onus is put on the owners... essentially they get no compensation for having to do that."

Southland

Bluff oyster numbers decline

Bluff Oyster Festival Chairman John Edminstin in front of the crowd at the Bluff Oyster Festival.

The results of a recent NIWA survey has shown replenishment rates in the Foveaux strait Oyster fishery have lowered since 2012.

Aurora on show

Te Anau resident Chris Watson captured this stunning panorama from the Ivon Wilson Park on the outskirts of the town.

Photographers were out in force on Sunday capturing the dazzling Southern Lights.

Barclay supporting centre

Lumsden Maternity's contract with the Southern District Health Board expires on July 31.

Clutha-Southland MP Todd Barclay says he will not let the Lumsden Maternity Centre close.

Sea lions could scupper fishery

A juvenile sea lion in Port Pegasus in January 2016. In New Zealand sea lions are ranked as "nationally critical" on the ...

Would a new aquaculture project on Stewart Island affect the sea lion colony?

Ad Feedback