Post of the Month: Australia’s Population Debate – An Environment Issue?

This month’s post of the month as decided by number of readers was yet again…:

Australia’s New Population Debate: An Environment Issue?

Most of these readers are coming from Google, so it seems there is a strong undercurrent of concern about population and the environment.  Just like the debates coming out about the use of oil in light of the Gulf oil spill, it should draw our decision makers thoughts to the need to look harder at how we live.  Population is increasing, but so is each of our environmental footprints.  We have technology to change this, but we are not using it, not even encouraging its use in a serious way; rather maintaining subsidies and disincentives to change.

Thanks to all readers, commenters and subscribers! And thanks to Best Green Blogs for listing The Happy Squid Blog.

Also thanks to Numbat News for sharing the post of the month with their readers!

Note you can subscribe to the blog by email via the box at the top of the right hand column of this page or follow me on Twitter for latest updates on the blog and other environmental issues.

Wishing you a Happy June!


Western Australian Premier Colin Barnett Commits to Kimberley Marine Protection

The Conservation Council of WA and the Wilderness Society WA today met Premier Barnett on the steps of Parliament House to hand over 6000 letters urging him, “Don’t Fail the Whales“. 

The petitions call on the Government to establish a large marine park covering all of the nursery of the worlds largest population of humpback whales, and marine sanctuaries to protect the Kimberley’s unique coral reefs and marine life.

Talking with The Wilderness Societies Jenita Enevoldsen and Dr Jill St John, the Premier committed to establishing a marine park at Camden Sound, part of the Humpback Nursery, as promised, but also alluded to creating new parks connecting land and sea right around the North Kimberley.  Such a network of parks would be one of the largest in Australia.

“As you know Camden Sound will be made a marine park, and we are looking at extending it across the top of the Kimberley…we are going to ensure there is a connected system of parks on the land as well as in the sea. This will be one of Australia’s greatest national parks, and hopefully we’ll have it not in place, but the decision made by the end of the year,” said the Premier.

Premier Colin Barnett Speaks to Jenita Envoldsen and Dr Jill StJohn from The Wilderness Society

On the same day the state opposition released a media statement claiming that the commitment to the park was meerly a ‘smokescreen’ for the development of an LNG hub at James Price Point.

The LNG development is subject to a growing campaign from environmental groups, locals, and sections of the Aboriginal community, with recent evidence showing it also sits within the nursery area of the humpback whales. 

Other industrial development also threatens the Kimberley, including mining leases on the unique palm forests and landscapes of the Mitchell Plateau.  Fire and feral animals are the other threats that need to be addressed.

With draft plans for the new marine park expected any day, we watch with interest to see if the pro-development Premier can really deliver first a scientifically sound marine park at Camden Sound, and then protection for the unique values of the Kimberley.

The Squid does remember a pre-Premier Colin Barnett giving an impassioned speech about how he was converted to the cause of protecting the rock art of the Burrup Peninsula.  But weeks, let alone years, are a long time in politics.

Kangaroo Island Oil Lease Sparks Backlash

At the same time as the controversial Margaret River Oil lease was released in an area under consideration for marine sanctuaries in Western Australia, the same thing happened in South Australia. 

The Kangaroo Island canyons are home to unique deepsea marine life, and are a feeding ground for sea lions, whales and dolphins – including being one of only two known feeding grounds of the bluewhale in Australia.  The other being the Perth Canyon offshore from Perth in Western Australia.  The Perth Canyon also has oil leases at its borders.

The Sunday Mail did an excellent piece on the new lease, including a unlikley backlash from broad business interests – tuna fishermen, the tourism industry and the South Australian mining council.

Article is attached –  KI oil area.

Margaret River to Protest Oil Expansion

Margaret River locals will protest the expansion of the oil industry into an area being considered for marine sanctuary by writing “NO OIL FOR SW BEACHES” in people on the sand at one of the areas world class surfing beaches on Saturday at 10am.

Website for the new campaign “Clean SW Beaches”  here.

Facebook for the action here.

Also, join the rapidly growing protest facebook group here. 2,600 members at time of writing.

Campaign for Marine Sanctuaries Heats up with new Margaret River Oil Lease

On Monday the Federal Government released a new oil lease exploration over waters under consideration for inclusion in a new network of marine sanctuaries.

The decision to open the area to the oil industry came despite almost 2000 individual emails and a protest rally by the Conservation Council of WA and the Margaret River Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation. You can add your voice to the ongoing campaign for sanctuaries, not oil, here.

The decision caused a massive backlash in the media, and both the Minister for Resources and the Minister for the Environment were forced to reiterate their support for a network of marine sanctuaries in the southwest, and clarify that this new lease didn’t yet lock in an oil industry off Margaret River.

So, the decision – whilst a setback for the Save Our Marine Life campaign for a science based network of marine sanctuaries – does not lock in an oil industry off the coast from Margaret River, nor does it entirely rule out inclusion of the lease area as a marine sanctuary if that is what the science requires – although it has made this much more difficult now.

Whilst a lot of people are clearly and rightly distressed that this lease is now sitting off the coast of Margaret River with the potential for an oil industry to start there any time, the lease is only at the initial stage, called an acreage release.

Effectively, this is an invitation from the Government for the oil industry to move into the area. The industry still needs to RSVP, and then that RSVP needs to be accepted by Government. It is a tendering process that last around a year.

In short, there is still time to act.

An oil industry would bring new threats to the southwest marine environment. Seismic exploration brings impacts to whales and dolphins, there is no debate about this, just about how much of an impact that is. Drilling brings noise impacts, smaller spills, habitat damage and the risk of a big spill. Also the purpose of exploration is clear, to find and exploit oil reserves.

Modelling by the Conservation Council of WA using a publically available CSIRO model shows that under real, measured, historical ocean conditions, there is a very high risk that a spill in the new lease would reach the beaches near Margaret River, and a very real risk that it could spread right up the west coast.

Modelling of an oil spill in the new oil lease just 83kms from Margaret River for a 80 day pollution event, similar to the Montara Oil spill that leaked for 10 weeks off Northwest WA in late 2009.  A 40 day scenario shows a similar result.

Did you know that in the past 18 months the Federal Government has approved 78 new exploration and production projects, and no new marine parks. Whilst I don’t have an exact figure, somewhere around 20% of WA’s waters are covered in oil leases, and yet less than 1% is protected.

Since 1970, there has been an average of one major oil spill every 20months in Australia waters, from both shipping and the oil industry.

The marine life of the Southwest is unique. Up to 90% of the species found in the southern corner of our continent are found nowhere else on earth, a higher level of endemism (or unique marine life) than the Great Barrier Reef. Half the world’s species of whales and dolphins use the region.

Oil exploration comes on top of existing threats such as overfishing – seen through the demise of the ‘vulnerable five’, WA’s iconic reef fish, and the problems rocking WA’s rock lobster industry. It is increasingly harder to find large fish on many reefs in the southwest. The iconic dhufish, unique to Western Australia and prized by anglers, diners and divers alike, faces an uncertain future under current fishing pressure.

Western Australian’s and our unique marine life enjoy a relatively unspoilt marine environment, but threats are encroaching. We need an insurance that our unique marine life and the lifestyle and industries that depend upon it will be restored and maintained into the future. Marine sanctuaries provide that insurance.

You can send a message to Kevin Rudd demanding sanctuaries, not oil, for the southwest via Save Our Marine Life here.

Conservation Council Media Release here.


Against the backdrop of the worsening Louisiana Oil spill, Resources Minister Martin Ferguson has ignored a sustained community backlash and approved the new Margaret River Oil lease, putting at risk unique marine life in WA’s southwest… cont.

Conservation Council of WA Launches Margaret River Oil Appeal

The new Margaret River Oil Lease has upped the ante on the need to protect WA’s Southwest marine life in a network of marine sancturies.  Currently less than 1% of the southwest marine environment is protected; with upto 90% unique marine life and half the worlds whale and dolphin species using the region, 1% is not enough.

Watch the ABC news report on the new lease here.

The Consevation Council of WA has launched an appeal to help raise the funds needed to fight for marine sanctuaries, not oil, for WA’s unique southwest environment.


More media coverage of the new lease here.