Commentary

Operation Jeedara: An Update

Friday, Jul 26, 2019

Sea Shepherd is committed to seeing an end to oil and gas in the Great Australian Bight – Losing this one is not an option. 

-- Commentary by Jeff Hansen

Sea Shepherd Australia's Managing Director Jeff Hansen on Pearson Island in the Great Australian Bight.

BP and Chevron have both ceased their plans to put at risk our Great Australian Bight. Now, the last big player remaining is Norwegian oil giant, Equinor. Sea Shepherd is proud to stand strong with Mirning Elder Uncle Bunna Lawrie and the Great Australian Bight Alliance to oppose Big Oil in the Bight. 

Why Protecting the Bight Matters

The Bight is home to the iconic Bunda Cliffs that soar 80 to 100 metres vertically and stretch 100km along Australia's southern coastlines.  Below in the turquoise ocean is one of the world's most significant Southern right whale nurseries. Further, out to sea are deep-sea canyons.  The upswelling of nutrients from the colder waters feeds an abundance of marine life including giant squid, orcas, sperm, blue, fin and humpback whales. The offshore islands in the Bight are on par with the Galapagos. On and around the islands, black-footed rock wallabies, long-nosed fur seals, endangered Australian sea lions and sharks such as great whites reside. 

The iconic Bunda Cliffs form part of the longest uninterrupted line of sea cliffs in the world.

The Bight truly is a remarkable place, worthy of global recognition and protection.

A black-footed rock wallaby on Pearson Island in the Great Australian Bight.

The Long-term Picture...

Expanding the fossil fuel industry by drilling for oil in the Great Australian Bight will contribute to the climate crisis. 

One of the key threats to our oceans is climate change. Direct ocean impacts are already being experienced, including the death of half of our Great Barrier Reef. Our oceans are becoming so acidic that in some places, life is no longer able to form. Warming oceans change ocean circulation patterns, which in turn means less food for phytoplankton growth. Phytoplankton are tiny ocean plants that contribute around 70% of the oxygen in the Earth's atmosphere that we need to breathe. 

Many people are unaware of the huge impact burning fossil fuels is having on our oceans: our primary life support. Our children and future generations will simply not have a liveable climate if we allow the expansion of the fossil fuel industry. 
 

Too Precious to Lose - The Risks of Drilling in the Bight 

The Bight is not industrialised. If a blowout occurred during exploratory drilling (where most blowouts occur), stopping the spill could take at least one month. The Bight is known for having some of the roughest seas in the world. This, coupled with the remoteness of the Bight means that there is no infrastructure to handle an oil spill and highly toxic dispersants would have to be used.

Heavy seas in the Great Australian Bight

Let's not forget that BP's oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico - in waters shallower, calmer and with plenty of support vessels and oil rigs to drill relief wells - still took 87 days to cap the blowout and involved almost 7,000 boats in the clean-up "attempt".

Spill modelling shows that an oil spill in the Bight would devastate much of southern Australia, from Western Australia right around to New South Wales. This would have a catastrophic impact on the 10,000+ Australian jobs in the tourism and fisheries sectors that the Bight supports.

Spill Modelling shows the devastating reach of an oil spill in the Great Australian Bight.

A message to Equinor

The reality is there is no social license to drill for oil in the Bight. We call on Equinor to do the right thing by the thousands of Australian jobs being put at risk by Equinor's plans, to do the right thing by one of the Earth’s last big intact marine ecosystems and do the right thing by our children, who are marching the streets striking for action on climate and who don’t see the point in an education without a liveable climate.

From a love of nature and our planet's ability to support life, losing this one is simply not an option.

The pristine coastline of Pearson Island in the Great Australian Bight.
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