A bit of good news in the delay of oil drilling off iconic Kangaroo Island

In an unprecedented move, Environment Minister, Tony Burke, to demand greater scrutiny of offshore oil and gas exploration in an Australian whale hotspot. A little bit of good news here in Australia with the decision (paywall) on Wednesday, 9th  January by Environment Minister, Tony Burke, to require further environmental assessment of Bight Petroleum’s application to explore for oil and gas off the west coast of Kangaroo Island.

This area is a whale hotspot – one of only three places in all of Australian waters where endangered blue whales are known to feed and of critical importance to many other whale species and other marine life.

While the decision is only a temporary halt to exploration there, pending the further assessment, it is an important decision for a number of reasons.

It’s a win for transparency.

All the information that Bight Petroleum has been asked to provide to the government since the initial application will now finally be open for public scrutiny.

This addresses a major problem with the process so far and was one of the key questions facing Minister Burke ahead of the decision.

It is also significant because, of all the hundreds of seismic survey applications since the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act came into force over 10 years ago, only one other has been required to undergo this level of assessment.

This decision recognises that a much greater level of public scrutiny is required of plans to explore for oil and gas in critical habitat for whales and other marine life.

With this decision, the Minister has put an issue that was very much ‘out of sight, out of mind’ on the radar.

The further consultation process now to come on the application will also give the local community a greater chance to have their say.

This area and its marine life are vital to local livelihoods of fishing communities and the ecotourism industry on Kangaroo Island and this decision recognises the high level of community concern.

Although it’s not the end point, The International Fund for Animal Welfare is confident that once all the information is in the public domain, it will demonstrate just how difficult it is to explore for oil and gas in such an important region for marine life and coastal communities.

As the environmental impact assessment process continues, we’ll be sure to keep you updated on how you can take part.


For more information on our efforts to protect whales from environmental threats, visit our campaign page.

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Brian Sharp, Emergency Relief Officer, Stranding Coordinator
Manager, Marine Mammal Rescue and Research
Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation
Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation Program
Matt Collis, Director, International Policy
Director, International Policy
Patrick Ramage, Program Director, Whales
Program Director, Marine Conservation