The South Australian government has finally admitted that oil drilling in the Great Australian Bight is a risk, with two government reports highlighting the risks of spills and shipping and threats to marine life.
The Department for Planning, Transport and Infrastructure's South Australian Marine Spill Contingency Action Plan admits: “The intended drilling activities increases both the South Australian and West Australian risk profile with respect to possible spills from the rig itself as well as an increase in shipping movements to and from the rig.”
A separate report prepared by the Department of Primary Industry's South Australian Research and Development Institute shows how endangered southern right whales and their calves swim straight through BP's exploration leases.
Wilderness Society South Australia Director Peter Owen said: “It's no surprise that the successful tagging of just three endangered Southern Right Whales with their calves shows they swim straight through BP's exploration leases which also include the most biologically important part of the Great Australian Bight, the Commonwealth Marine Reserve, which was designed to protect the Bight's extraordinary marine life.
“No oil drilling should be approved until a proper survey of all whale movements through the Bight has been completed and BP reveals when it plans to conduct exploration drilling.
“The Bight's pristine waters are home to 36 species of whales and dolphins, including the world's most important southern right whale nursery as well as many humpback, sperm, blue and beak whales. 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.
“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.
“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.”