Updated: September 30, 2009
Kimberley Oil spill – help us turn this disaster into greater protection for the Kimberley
On August 21 2009, an oil/gas well being drilled from the West Atlas oil rig off Australia’s north west Kimberley coast blew out, uncontrollably spewing oil into the ocean.
Since the blowout, oil has spread through an area known as a marine wildlife super-highway, covering thousands of square kilometres of turtle, whale, dolphin and fish habitat. Satellite images tell a shocking story of the spread of up to oil through this pristine environment.
Take Action through the Kimberley campaign to secure marine parks for the north west and protect the region from uncontrolled industrialisation.
The oil spill off the Kimberley coast, began on August 21 at the Montara (West Atlas) oil and gas rig and for 74 days spewed a minimum estimate of 400 barrels of oil a day into the Timor sea, 200km off the Kimberley coast.
Estimates from satellite imagery indicate that the slick spread over 50,000 square kilometres of ocean. The cost of cleanup has been estimated at over 5.3 billion dollars
Impacts and response
The Timor Sea region polluted by the spill is a ‘marine superhighway’ for a range of species including whales, dolphins, diverse and rare sea snakes and turtles. All of these animals must surface to breathe and thereby would be exposed to the extensive toxic slick. This region is important for migratory birds that will be impacted by the oil when they feed. Also, food fishes, such as pelagic (open ocean) species, along with the ecosystems in which they live will be polluted by the oil for a very long time.
Boats in the region have reported dead seabirds as well as many animals, e.g. sea snakes and flatback turtles in contact with the oily slick. Scientists are extremely concerned about the success of fish, such as red emperor, and coral spawning currently occurring in the area because of the vulnerability of their spawn, both eggs and larvae, to oil and chemical dispersants. Government scientists have called for a comprehensive and ongoing monitoring plan to be implemented at the expense of the company at fault.
Both the State and Commonwealth Governments have repeatedly played down the impacts of this ecological disaster amidst growing criticism of their preparedness for, and response to, such an accident.
The Australian Greens have sucessfully called for a federal inquiry into the spill, addressing all aspects of the incident, including environmental impacts and the effectiveness of the clean-up response.
Thousands of litres of dispersant have been sprayed on the sea. Unfortunately, dispersants can give a false sense of security. Often they are just moving the toxic problem from the surface to elsewhere in the water column.
What needs to be done?
The Kimberley’s waters are a ‘marine wonderland’ of global significance, but currently less than 1% of its waters have any marine protected areas. The Wilderness Society is calling on the Federal Government to declare a moratorium on further approvals and expansion of the oil and gas industry in the region until plans to establish marine sanctuaries across the North West marine region are finalised.
In the 1970’s Australia said ‘no’ to oil and gas mining on the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) and went on to implement what was then the world’s largest marine park The Kimberley deserves similar protection.
1. Join the Hands Up supporter list and map. By registering your support you will send a clear message to State and Commonwealth Government and multi-national fossil fuel companies such as Woodside, Shell, Chevron BHP Billiton and BP that the Kimberley is not for sale! Click here to register and view the map.
3. And, for further inspiration, read a letter sent to Mr Garret by Jean-Michel Cousteau, Ocean Futures Society President regarding Kimberley protection here.
For more information, please contact:
The Wilderness Society WA Inc
City West Lotteries House
2 Delhi St
West Perth, WA, 6005
Phone: 08 9420 7255