Marine Protection Progress But Neglects Ocean Giants

Thursday, June 14, 2012
Sydney, Australia

The Australian Government’s proposed network of marine protected areas, announced today, is an important step forward in protecting Australia’s oceans and marine life, however IFAW (the International Fund for Animal Welfare) is disappointed there has not been a greater attempt to protect critical habitat for whales and dolphins in the network.

“As an organisation concerned with the conservation and protection of whales and dolphins around Australia, IFAW is pleased to see important parts of the humpback whale nursery in the Kimberley and some southern right whale calving grounds off the south west coast included in the network,” IFAW Campaigner, Matthew Collis said.

But critically important feeding grounds for blue whales in areas like the Perth Canyons and Kangaroo Island Canyons remain insufficiently protected. While northern parts of the Perth Canyons have been protected from oil and gas exploration, the remainder is still open to exploration and the damaging effects that can have on whales. This means that to some extent all three of the recognised blue whale feeding grounds in Australian waters are still open to negative impact from offshore petroleum exploration and production.

“The Environment Department has had its hands tied throughout the whole process in any attempts to address the threats to marine life from the oil and gas industry. The network, for the most part, addresses areas only where the industry doesn’t operate or isn’t looking to operate in the future,” Mr Collis said.

“The oil and gas industry is the elephant in the room. Offshore petroleum exploration hasn’t been addressed properly by this process. This is bad news for whales and dolphins because many of the areas where industry operates or wants to operate are also important habitats for whales and dolphins.

“Despite the progress made by today’s announcement, the very real challenge to protect whales and dolphins from threats brought by the oil and gas industry, such as noise pollution, ship strikes and oil spills, remains unresolved. This is the key challenge now facing the government as it moves forward with marine protection,” Mr Collis said.

“This was a once in a generation opportunity to back up Australia’s international leadership on whale protection with meaningful measures at home, but it has been stymied by the oil and gas industry, Mr Collis said.

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