Monday 15th August 2016 - 7:46 pm

Whale nursery “at risk” environmentalists warn

by Alan Thornhill


The world’s most important  Southern Right whale nursery will threatened if BP is allowed to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight, environmentalists say.


The Wilderness Society said the South Australian government had “finally admitted” that this risk is real.


The society’s South Australian Director Peter Owen this was confirmed when  the State’s Transport Department had updated its South Australian Marine Spill Contingency Action Plan.


This had been done to match an increased risk of spills resulting from from oil exploration in the Bight.



Mr Owen said the department had finally admitted that:-


* oil drilling “will significantly increase the risk to South Australia


* The spill could affect all of southern Australia’s coast, from WA across to Victoria and Tasmania and

*BP plans to drill in Commonwealth marine park’s benthic (sea floor) protection zone


Mr Owen also said:   “The Bight’s pristine waters are home to 36 species of whales and dolphins, including the world’s most important southern right whale nursery.


The Bight is also home to     ”…many humpback, sperm, blue and beak whales,” Mr Owen said.



“The Bight also supports sea lions, seals, great white sharks, giant cuttlefish, some of Australia’s most important fisheries and migratory seabirds that Australia has international obligations to protect,”  he added.



“Not only does BP’s oil drilling threaten these amazing creatures.


” BP wants to drill in Australia’s most biologically significant sea floor, the Great Australian Bight’s benthic protection zone,” he warned.


“The original Commonwealth marine park’s benthic protection zone was designed to protect the huge variety of creatures that live on the Bight’s sea floor, including sea urchins, sea squirts, starfish, shellfish, sponges and lace coral. The Bight has the highest levels of benthic biodiversity and endemism anywhere in Australia, more than in the Great Barrier Reef,” he added.

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Alan Thornhill is a parliamentary press gallery journalist.
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