ANY SORT of development off the coast of Ballina could have devastating affects on the whale population, an expert from Southern Cross University's Oceania Project has said.
His comments come after mining company Metgasco raised the idea of a pontoon off the NSW Far North Coast.
The coal seam gas miner voiced its idea of the off-shore development as a way of distributing gas from its local operations.
However, Mr Franklin, who said he was making no comment for or against coal seam gas, warned industrial noise from developments such as that could impact on humpback whale migration patterns.
"The humpback whales that are coming past Ballina and Byron Bay travel inside the continental shelf which only goes out 15 nautical miles offshore, so they use a very narrow corridor up along the coast and any major coastal development such as a long jetty of gas or oil platforms would impact the migration," he said.
While Mr Franklin made clear he "fundamentally" didn't know much about coal seam gas, he said the presence of any sort of development in the coastal area would "definitely" have a serious effect on the whale population.
Mr Franklin said acoustic problems were already affecting whales significantly due to the interruption, and drowning out, of their calls to each other by industrial noise.
Mr Franklin noted evidence of considerable disruption to whale's migration patterns off the coast of Western Australian due to offshore mining platforms and shipping impacting vast stretches of the Indian Ocean.
"We're seeing dramatic changes," he said.
Not only was Mr Franklin worried about the effects on the whales themselves, but he also noted the potential impacts on local tourism if any offshore development was to be constructed.
"Whale watching is a major activity here in Australia," he said.
"Here in Ballina and Cape Byron is one of the best places to watch them during this passage of migration because they do come so close to the coast.
"(Any sort of development in that area) is likely to impact the tourist attraction."
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