The Government has released their response to the Montara Oil Spill Inquiry today.
Some media coverage here.
The move to improved regulation is important, but that was not the lesson of Montara. The devastating spill happened not due to the wrong rules, but due to a series of mistakes by a series of people.
The lesson of Montara is that people make mistakes and oil spills happen.
More bureaucracy alone is not going to stop oil spills. Whilst improving regulation, it is also important that the Government recognise that some areas are just too important to risk. What we really need to protect our marine life and important coastal areas from spills is a network of marine sanctuaries.
Having areas off limits to oil drilling will give more certainty to the industry for future planning, whilst also providing a buffer for important environments from the affects of big oil spills, and eliminating the risk of more regular smaller spills.
Marine sanctuaries where wild life is protected from both fishing and oil spills are essential to the future health of our oceans, just like we have National Parks free from hunting and mining on land.
The lessons of the Montara spill will be lost on us if we don’t act on establishing new marine sanctuaries at the same time as we act to improve regulatory structures.
More information on Montara Spill and marine sanctuaries in a previous post here.
Also of concern is that the Government does not seem to be acting to help the Indonesia fishermen whose livelihood was devastated by the spill. It has been reported that some are now turning to people smuggling to support their families. The Australian Government needs to deal with this tragic consequence of the oil spill too.
As we have also seen in the Gulf of Mexico, oil spills devastate marine life, and the social fabric of coastal communities.