News - 12 August 2020

Over 12,000 sign petition to protect Ningaloo from oil and gas industry

The expansion of the fossil fuel industry threatens our pristine marine environment and treasured ecosystems. And in a stunning show of opposition over 12,000 people have so far called for the precious waters of World Heritage listed Ningaloo and Shark Bay, and the Abrolhos Islands, to be spared from the dangers of oil and gas exploration.

Ningaloo's famous whale shark population is under threat from the potential of oil and gas exploration in the area.

Every year the Federal Government proposes the release of Australian marine areas for potential oil and gas exploration. It’s called the offshore petroleum exploration release process. 

Think of it like an auction, but instead of bidding for a potential home, the bids lead to exploration and potential drilling of the seafloor. 

We know the rock-solid link between fossil fuels and climate change, so these processes may ultimately lead to some of the most destructive actions on our planet.

Oil and gas companies are invited to suggest potential areas for release, so every few years some high-risk suggestions sneak through. The most recent process saw significant acreage proposed for release around Western Australia and Victoria.

World Heritage under threat

Areas that were included in this year’s release were perilously close to the Ningaloo Coast, Shark Bay and the Abrolhos Islands of Western Australia. 

And in Victoria the acreage release included marine environments in the Gippsland and Otway basins.

Like most things so far in 2020, this was a little more than unusual! 

The Ningaloo Coast and Shark Bay are both listed as World Heritage areas, while the Abrolhos Islands are a pristine habitat that supports a commercial crayfish industry (a species specifically impacted by the exploration methods for oil and gas, in this instance seismic testing).

The Wilderness Society received broad and loud support from across Australia, voicing their opposition. Over 12,000 rightly concerned people have so far added their names to our petition demanding that the Federal Government halt  these reckless proposals immediately.

Our position

We highlighted a number of critical points for the Federal Government to consider in our formal submission to this process:

  • The general encroachment on protected areas, specifically Australian Marine Parks. These areas have been determined based on the need to prioritise environmental protections. Animals do not recognise invisible boundaries and many have a migratory range that comes into conflict with potential exploration methods.
  • The specific acreage release areas in the Southern Carnarvon Basin and Perth Basin, given the proximity to World Heritage listed areas (the Ningaloo Coast and Shark Bay) and multiple commercial fisheries.
  • The detrimental impacts relating to exploration methods, specifically seismic testing, that may stem from the release of offshore acreage. Seismic testing has well-founded and long-term impacts on a wide array of marine life.
  • The continued release of additional offshore acreage, potentially resulting in the discovery of exploitable petroleum resources, runs counter to Australia’s global obligations to respond to climate change.

What we're doing...

Obviously, oil and gas exploration should be nowhere near these places.

Due to COVID-19, intrastate tourism will continue to be on the rise, with tens of thousands of Western Australian tourists visiting these magical part of the country for themselves. 

The Wilderness Society has taken a range of measures to highlight the gravity of this issue and ensure the loud community opposition is heard:

  • Campaign organisers have facilitated submission-writing workshops with our Movement For Life teams and supporters to generate thoughtful, personalised submissions.
  • Over 12,000 people (and climbing!) have signed our online petition. These supporters are from all over the country and want to see some of our most famous marine environments kept pristine.
  • We’ve been in the press! 
    WAtoday: 'We will fight': Oil and gas move off Ningaloo shocks protection groups
    "The Wilderness Society has been inundated with support from thousands of our members and supporters, who want these proposals to be halted immediately...The Wilderness Society will be fighting this every step of the way.” - Patrick Gardner, campaign manager.

    And on GWN7 News 

Where to from here?

We will continue to monitor the progress of this process closely, as the Federal Government assesses the public comments it has received.  

These announcements are expected to be made on Wednesday 26 August.

In the instance that these areas are approved for potential exploration, the Wilderness Society will continue to engage with its members and supporters in order to oppose the plans to expand oil and gas exploration into our World Heritage and protected areas.