New Zealand’s only known population of blue whale has been granted a reprieve from the imminent threat of experimental seabed mining, and conservationists are celebrating.
The High Court has quashed the Environmental Protection Authority’s green light for Trans-Tasman Resources’ (TTR) experimental seabed mining operation off the coast of Pātea, in Taranaki.
TTR was granted consent in October last year by the EPA to mine iron sand from the deep seafloor between South Taranaki and Golden Bay. The proposed activity covered 65 km² of seabed and would continue for up to 35 years.
“This area is habitat for 34 species of marine mammals, including Hector’s and Māui dolphins, humpback whales, and New Zealand’s own population of blue whale,” Forest & Bird CE Kevin Hague says.
“Trans-Tasman Resources were proposing to spend the next 35 years sucking up 8000 tonnes of seafloor every hour. This activity would likely kill everything on the sea floor, and severely disrupt the habitat of blue whales and other sound sensitive creatures.”
“The High Court agreed with us that TTR's risk management model was actually ‘adaptive management’ or ‘suck it and see’ mining. This is prohibited under the EEZ Act, and in Forest & Bird's view was a dangerous proposal to experiment on our ocean animals," says Mr Hague.
Forest & Bird argued against TTR's proposal at the EPA hearing and the High Court, alongside iwi, fishing, and other environmental groups.
"The strength of argument presented by conservation, iwi, and fishing groups has been heard, and the ocean species of Taranaki are safe for now,” says Mr Hague.
Appeals in both directions are likely.