Western Australia’s peak conservation body has called on the Prime Minister to intervene after it was revealed that an oil industry expansion proposed for release in May will impact areas identified for inclusion in a new network of marine parks, including a large area offshore from Margaret River.
On Saturday a spokesperson for Resources Minister Martin Ferguson confirmed that new oil leases will be announced at the annual APPEA conference on the 16th May, but maps found on the Resources Department website reveal that at least one of these proposed leases is within an area identified by the Environment Department as having high conservation values worthy of consideration for a marine park.
The area is within the “Southwest Corner” Area for Further Assessment and would impact on the Naturaliste Plateau – offshore from Margaret River, this is the largest submerged plateau in Australia that sits in 5000m of water and is under investigation for protection because it is expected to be home to unique species.
The Conservation Council is calling on the Prime Minister to make sure that new oil exploration does not compromise the establishment of much needed marine sanctuaries required to protect WA’s unique marine life. Once exploration rights are handed over to the oil industry, it will be very difficult to establish marine protection.
“Stakeholders are engaging in the marine planning process in good faith to see a scientifically-designed network of marine sanctuaries; this must not be compromised by allowing the oil industry to jump the gun,” said Conservation Council Marine Spokesperson Tim Nicol.
“The environmental risks associated with oil exploration are very real, as has been demonstrated recently by the Montara oil spill. If a spill of this size was to happen in the southwest there could be oil on the beaches from Perth to Margaret River.
“The Prime Minister took time out to fly over the stricken coal ship on the Great Barrier Reef this week and express his deep concern over impacts on marine life, so he should know that oil and water don’t mix. With less than 1% of WA’s waters protected it is vital that the homes of our unique marine life are not handed blindly over to the oil industry before a network of large marine sanctuaries can be established.”
Perth already has three large oil exploration leases near Rottnest Island. Last year these were overlaid with new exporation leases for geosequestration of CO2, with potential impacts for the many whales that use the Perth Canyon, larger than the Grand Canyon, this is the ancient bed of the Swan River and the only large canyon that crosses right over into the continental shelf, it finishes in 4000m of water.
The 2008 and 2009 petroleum lease releases can be seen here .
Maps of the new leases and the areas under consideration for marine parks here soon.
New Happy Squid Post on this topic – why now is the right time to act on this oil exploration proposal…