The finding of a dead baby endangered turtle in a dredge tank at Chevron’s Gorgon project has put the spotlight back on this project. Today, environment group WWF-Australia called for an immediate halt to the dredging project.
The Gorgon project has been dogged by controversy since day one, when an Act of Parliament was required to create space for the massive LNG facility out of the Barrow Island A-Class nature reserve. The Act was made against the recommendations of WA’s environmental watchdog, the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA).
Barrow Island is an important refuge for a number of species of small mammals now extinct on the mainland. Aquifers under the island house unique underground life like the blind gudgeon, a fish species that lives entirely underground. The beaches next door to the planned new LNG facility are one of the largest known rookeries for the endangered flatback turtle. The waters surrounding the island are a pristine and diverse coral reef and a marine park other than the special circular hole removed from the park to allow for the shipping channel and port that will service the new industrial facility.
The oil industry is already established on the island, a small operation has been producing oil since the 70’s, but nothing of the scale of this new development has been seen before.
Despite the EPA again recommending against the development on Barrow Island during the Environmental Assessment process, some of the strongest recommendations ever made by the EPA, the project has been given approval and development has begun. Since the project began there have already been numerous breaches of the environmental conditions imposed. The quarantine requirements are particularly strict, because feral animals as small as an ant could devastate the nature reserve.
The turtle death has occurred at the early stages of development – as one of Australia’s largest ever dredging projects blasts its way through the pristine coral gardens to create the massive shipping channel required to service the new port.
The saddest thing is for a small amount of extra money, the whole facility could have been constructed on the mainland, away from the sensitive environment at Barrow Island.
Keep a close eye out – this turtle death may well be just the beginning of the woes that Chevron has bought upon itself and the environment by their decision to locate the Gorgon project on Barrow Island.