Conservation Council Warns of Oil Risk to Perth, Rottnest, Beaches

Humpack whales migrate along WA's coat

Less than 1% of WA’s coast is protected

Link: Coverage on Perth Now

Revelations that an oil company may be forced to drill a new oil well within view of Perth and Rottnest beaches should be of great concern to the Perth community, said the Conservation Council of WA.

Nexus Energy, a Melbourne based oil exploration company, has a massive oil lease that covers 2000 square kilometres from Rottnest Island to Burns Beach. Under its lease obligations to the Federal Government is required to drill for oil by the end of the year.

The company is applying to Federal Resources Minister Martin Ferguson for an extension or release from the drilling requirements citing heightened community concern following on from recent devastating oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico and in Australia off the Kimberley Coast.  Minister Ferguson is still yet to release a report into the Kimberley oil spill.

Conservation Council Director Piers Verstegen said, “It only takes one disaster and we would see oil on beaches from Rottnest, to Fremantle, to Scarborough, to Hillarys,  and the marine environment completely and utterly devastated by an industry we know has a very bad track record.”

The area covered by the lease is important to Perth for recreational activities like swimming, diving, snorkelling, surfing and fishing, but it is also an important environmental area.

Marine Coordinator Tim Nicol said, “The oil lease borders in the south the unique habitat of Rottnest Island and the Perth Canyon.  The Perth Canyon out the back of Rottnest is larger than the Grand Canyon and is one of only three places in Australia where the world’s largest ever animal, the blue whale, feeds.

“To the north it passes important beaches and the Marmion Marine Park that are home to many species that are unique to Western Australia and important for the environment and people, like the Western Australian Dhufish, the Western Rock Lobster and the Baldchin Groper.”

The Minister is reluctant to release the company from their obligations because of concerns it will create a loophole where oil companies can avoid financial obligations by citing environmental concerns.

“The Government has put themselves in a crazy position where they are stuck between financial obligations and protecting Perth’s beaches and our precious marine environment. This questions their ability to manage the impacts of the oil industry on our marine life.

“Currently less than one percent of our waters are protected from oil spills and overfishing. We are calling on the Government to drop this oil drilling proposal and then act to ensure a future for our marine life by establishing a network of large marine sanctuaries in WA’s waters.”

“Marine sanctuaries provide sensitive environments a buffer from the impacts of oil drilling and will help to ensure that our marine life, diving and fishing is better tomorrow that it is today.”

Link: Conservation Council of WA

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