Tasmanian study shows seismic effect on lobsters

A study has confirmed local rock lobster fishers' concerns that seismic testing can have an effect on the sensory organs and "righting reflexes" of rock lobster.

Scientists from the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies at the University of Tasmania, together with Curtin University's Centre for Marine Science and Technology conducted the study, which involved exposing rock lobster to seismic air gun noise during field tests in Storm Bay in south eastern Tasmania.

Lead author Dr Ryan Day said the decision to study the effects on rock lobster was made because it was a high value fishery and an important part of global marine ecosystems.

He said the test did not factor in ecological impacts.

"Previous studies have shown that the statocyst, a sensory organ on a lobster's head, is critical in controlling their righting reflex, enabling them to remain coordinated and evade predators.

"After exposing lobsters to the equivalent of a commercial air gun signal at a range of 100-150 metres, our study found that the animals suffered significant and lasting damage to their statocyst and righting reflexes.

"The damage was incurred at the time of exposure and persisted for at least one year - surprisingly, even after the exposed lobsters moulted."

South Australian Northern Zone Rock Lobster Fisherman's Association executive officer Kyri Toumazos said the study reaffirmed industry concerns about seismic surveys in the Great Australian Bight.

He said the industry was concerned about the effects on puerulus (larvae) and mature lobsters.

"This (study) is certainly a clear indication we need caution; we hope the government will take it on board and all environmental regulators," he said.

"Seismic surveys have been something that's concerned us for a long time."

Dr Day said the researchers were confident the findings reflected what would happen in real world conditions, including in the Bight.

He said general feedback received from oil and gas companies was that they were happy to take the advice on limiting the impact of seismic testing.