Take a Stand to Protect Australian National Treasures

Let’s be clear, the threats to marine life from the oil and gas industry are real.  Let’s start with the obvious one – oil spills. Right now New Zealand is dealing with the Rena spill - its worst ever marine oil spill.  Sadly the pictures are just so familiar - the slick, dead or dying oiled animals, the aircraft overhead spraying toxic dispersants and the boats futilely scooping up oil from the surface.

Two years ago we had our worst oil spill – it took 74 days to stop oil spewing out into an area known for its abundance of whales and dolphins; a nursery for our largest, but still recovering, population of humpback whales. And just last year millions of tonnes of oil poisoned the Gulf of Mexico, having a catastrophic effect on the environment, creatures and people who live there. The oil spills occur, the news is covered with horrendous images and an inquiry is launched that almost without fail concludes these oil spills are the result of human error and should have been prevented.

It seems the Australian Government has a very short memory, or is blindly hoping it won’t happen here again, or is simply willing to take the risk when it comes to plundering natural resources for short term gain.  The Government’s plan for theNorth Westpurports to protect our great whale haven but in fact provides as much protection as paper umbrella in a cyclone. As I mentioned in my previous post, the waters of North West Australia are relatively untouched. 

There is so much to learn about this area and the creatures that inhabit it – surely it would be madness to risk losing it before we fully know it? By allowing the oil and gas industry unfettered access to this pristine area we risk losing it forever.  Just how much of an oil spill are we prepared to risk in this area?  Another Montaro or Deepwater Horizon?  Or a relatively ‘small’ one like the Rena oil spill, which is becoming New Zealand’s worst marine oil spill? This industry is never going to be 100% clean and safe, with no margin for error, so you’d think the plan would include a number of special areas for whales and dolphins with wide buffer zones where industry is not allowed.

Especially as our government is a leader in whale conservation. But you’d be wrong. That’s why the plan must be improved. Yes the oil and gas industry is immensely powerful but if enough people say no, we will not allow our natural treasures to be put at risk, the Australian Government will listen.  So please, take 30 seconds to send in this submission asking the Australian Government to protect this vital area now and for the future before we lose it forever. -- MC

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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
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