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Published May 1st 2016
Time to invest in renewables – not outdated fossil fuels
Every year for several years now, South Australians have joined hands on beaches in Adelaide and as far away as Kangaroo Island to say NO to risky deep-sea drilling in our Great Australian Bight and YES to clean energy and a low carbon economy. This year is even more crucial than previous years, as BP are preparing to start exploration drilling, subject to investigation by a Senate inquiry. Protesters are gathering once again at Glenelg beach, on May 21 at 11 am. Visit the Wilderness Society's Facebook Page to register for this Free event.
The Great Australian Bight is a haven for many threatened and endangered species: great white sharks, a variety of species of whales, southern bluefin tuna, Australian sea lions, white-bellied sea eagle and albatross.
The Bight is home to one of the largest breeding populations of endangered southern right whales. In 2014, 200 whales, mostly mothers and calves, were spotted in this region. Every year these magnificent creatures migrate all the way from Antarctica to the waters of the Bight to give birth to their calves. Although they were almost exterminated by the whaling fleets during the 19th century, they are still slowly making a comeback.
The shallow waters of the Bight are renowned for their variety of marine life: 85% of the species here are unique to this part of the world. The deeper waters remain largely unexplored.
Some of the most exciting dive sites are located in this region.
The Threat Despite having its environmental plans rejected last year by the Wilderness Society, BP has submitted a second plan to commence deep sea oil drilling off the coast of South Australia later this year. This petroleum corporation was responsible for the Gulf of Mexico oil spill in 2010, which was the worst oil drilling disaster in history. Eleven workers were killed and about 4.9 million barrels of oil was discharged into the sea. Many marine species in the Gulf of Mexico are now at risk of extinction, the tourism industry is destroyed, and local fishing communities are destitute, with woefully inadequate compensation.
Oil-pipeline spills in Alaska and an oil refinery explosion in Texas also occurred under BP's watch. BP is proposing to bring these risks to the Great Australian Bight, but the Wilderness Society finds this unacceptable.
It's easy to forget what happened - until the pictures remind you.
But there are extra problems here that did not apply to the Gulf of Mexico, which makes the proposal even more risky. Because of its remoteness, the Bight cannot provide the kind of infrastructure that would be required in the event of a similar disaster. BP has also admitted that the rough and unpredictable waters of the region present a serous challenge. And the strong wind and water currents could move any oil spill relatively swiftly eastwards along the coast, threatening larger communities.
Finally, if the Bight becomes a mining industrial area this will devastate its unique marine environment. The ocean depths will be disrupted by the blasts of seismic exploration and the intrusion of drilling machinery, causing untold distress to both animal and plant life. Inevitably there will be an increase in shipping, adding to the risks of animal strike, pollution and biosecurity hazards. And we haven't even mentioned climate change yet.
The Wilderness Society is urging South Australians to send a strong message to our leaders and the rest of the world that we must protect our Great Australian Bight, and invest in renewables – not outdated fossil fuels – for a better future.
This is a family-friendly event and everyone is welcome. For more information and to find out how you can help in other ways, visit the Wilderness Society