Saturday, November 12, 2011

Murdoch researchers slam gas hub report - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Murdoch researchers slam gas hub report - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

But, in a scathing submission, four scientists from Murdoch's Cetacean Research Unit have questioned many of the report's findings.

"There has been no targeted effort to identify and quantify the abundance of dolphin species ... this is a glaring omission in the Environmental Impact Assessment," the submission says.

"Thus the conclusion that the activities associated with the development of the precinct port area is unlikely to impact these species (humpback dolphin, snubfin dolphin) is unsubstantiated and based on field efforts that were aimed at quantifying humpback whale and dugong numbers only."

The unit's Amanda Hodgson told the ABC that a Murdoch University research team had recorded multiple groups of snubfin, Indo-Pacfic humpback and bottlenose dolphins just north and south of James Price Point during a boat-based survey in July last year.

"The coastal dolphins that we know occur along the Dampier Peninsula include humpback and snubfin dolphins and both of those species generally have small populations, small home ranges and they rely on very specific habitats ... so they can't just avoid the area if they're disturbed by this development," she said.

"The broad conclusions that they've come to are not necessarily supported by the scientific literature."

The report's assessment of the impact on dugongs has also been questioned by the Murdoch team which cited the case of Hervey Bay in Queensland where they say the widespread loss of seagrass from a cyclone resulted in the death and emigration of many dugongs.

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