The Great Australian Bight
The Great Australian Bight is rich in beauty and biodiversity, boasting the world’s most significant Southern Right Whale nursery, as well as Humpback, Sperm, Blue and Beaked Whales. It is also Australia's most important sea lion nursery and supports orcas, great white sharks, southern blue fin tuna and other fish down to the small pelagic.
According to independent oil spill modelling released last year, an oil spill in the Bight from a deep-sea well blowout would be devastating for fisheries, tourism and marine life. The model shows that an oil spill could result in the closure of fisheries in the Bight, Bass Strait and even the Tasman Sea. Even a low-flow oil spill could impact all of southern Australia’s coast, from Western Australia right across to Victoria through Bass Strait and around Tasmania
The Great Australian Bight is one of the last intact wilderness areas left on the planet, and given the state of the world’s oceans; it is of global significance and deserves the outmost protection.
What will the M/Y Steve Irwin be doing?
On Friday 5th August 2016, we will depart our ships operations base in Williamstown, Melbourne en-route to the Great Australian Bight. The expedition will showcase the Great Australian Bight and highlight what is actually at stake - a wilderness of global significance.
From the Nuyts Reef, the Isles of St Francis, Pearson Island, Neptune Islands, areas around Kangaroo Island, Fowlers Bay and Head of the Bight (southern right whale nurseries), right through to the iconic Bunda Cliffs of the Nullarbor Plain.
Much of the landscapes and diversity of life in the Great Australian Bight is unknown to the world. It is Sea Shepherd’s aim to showcase what we would all lose if BP were allowed to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight and had another Gulf of Mexico, Deep Water Horizon oil spill of lesser or equal value.
We are going in August because that is when we believe the highest concentration of whales will be there, in terms of southern right whales and their calves. BP is planning to drill at the end of 2016.
A documentary of the M/Y Steve Irwin’s journey in the bight will be made. This will be completed around a month after the M/Y Steve Irwin arrives back in port, around October. However, a trailer will be made that will be ready for showing as we come into Port Adelaide, to be shown during free public tours of the ship and a call to action. The trailer and in the end documentary, will also go out online and spread globally.
We will capture the imagery and the story of what we could all lose is BP is allowed to drill for oil in the Bight. We will then do our best to push out our images, footage and story globally to put as much pressure on BP to leave the Great Australian Bight alone.
Who will be on the vessel?
Onboard the vessel will be our brave, passionate and hardworking Sea Shepherd volunteer International crew. Also will be one of Australia’s most well known conservationists and former leader of the Australian Greens, Dr. Bob Brown. As this campaign is part of the Great Australian Bight Alliance, onboard will be the head of Wilderness Society in South Australia, Peter Owen, Whale Songman and Mirning Elder Bunna Lawrie will also be onboard along with other Mirning elders. Jeff Hansen, Managing Director of Sea Shepherd Australia will also sail as the campaign leader for Operation Jeedara.
This is not the sort of campaign people expect from Sea Shepherd. Has this tactic worked before?
Back in 2011, the West Australian Government, Woodside Petroleum and various joint venture partners (Chevron, Mitsui and Mitsubishi) wanted to put the worlds biggest gas hub right through the middle of the world’s biggest humpback whale nursery.
The operation would have destroyed vast areas of sea grass habitat, that sea turtles and dugongs relied on, displaced the humpback whales, destroyed 130 million year old dinosaur foot prints and destroyed Indigenous burial sites and song lines. This would have been catastrophic to the local Goolarabooloo people.
Our mission was take the M/Y Steve Irwin to Walmadan (James Price Point) just north of Broome in Western Australia, to show that Woodside’s whale survey was wrong and to showcase to the world what we would all lose if the project went ahead.
Along with other environment groups and the people of Broome, were successful in our mission in stopping the worlds biggest gas hub proposed by Woodside Petroleum from going through the middle of the worlds biggest humpback whale nursery off the Kimberley coast, and we can and must stop BP in the Bight.