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Byron Shire
September 28, 2022

Fight for the Bight paddle out protest Saturday

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Australian Sea lion, Great Australian Bight. Photo Brad Leue.

The Great Australian Bight (GAB) is one of the few untouched marine environments and is home to the largest population of southern right whales and a myriad ot other animals including fish, sea lions and dolphins. Yet this 3,800km stretch of water is under threat from Norwegian oil mining giant Equinor who want to explore this region for oil.

Paddle out

Fight for the Bight is a national paddle out protest being held on Saturday morning with the local paddle out taking place from the Byron’s Surf Club, Main Beach at 9am.

Lealah Shostak told Echonetdaily, ‘Communities all over Australia will be holding a paddle out protest in opposition to Norwegian company Equinor’s proposal to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight. Catastrophic oil spills from the extreme weather conditions in the Bight are too great a risk for this pristine Southern Right Whale nursery’.

She says Byron Bay Surfrider, Sea Shepherd and Patagonia are supporting the action to protect and defend the Great Australian Bight from oil drilling.

Loggerhead-turtle, Great Australian Bight. Photo Taylor Marine.

Dangerous waters increase risk of oil spill

One of the key issues with drilling for oil in the Great Australian Bight, apart from the need to move away from fossil fuels to reverse climate change, is that this is an area of both deep and rough waters that will make drilling here all the more risky with an increased risk of oil spills and disasters like the 2010 Deep water Horizon tragedy.

The Great Australian Bight has some of the most extreme weather conditions on the planet. Extreme deepwater drilling under such conditions is too risky. Any spill would be catastrophic, as stochastic modelling done previously by BP has shown: the devastating impacts could reach from Perth in WA to Eden on the NSW south coast to as far away as Tasmania,’ explains Greenpeace campaigner, Jonathan Moylan.

For the second time the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) asked Equinor to satisfy them that they could ‘prevent and manage an oil spill, protect marine life and adequately consult if it is allowed to conduct deep-sea drilling in the Great Australian Bight’ according to the Australian Financial Review.

Equinor have 21 days,  from Friday November 8, to respond to NOPSEMA who have requested ‘them to modify and resubmit their environment plan for proposed drilling in the Great Australian Bight,’ according to the statement on their website.

Southern right whales, Great Australian Bight. Photo Peta North.

Equinor must provide NOPSEMA with further information about matters relating to consultation, source control, oil spill risk, and matters protected under Part 3 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.’

Greenpeace currently have an online petition to ask the Australian government to reject the Equinor proposal and provide permanent protection to the GAB. They are currently at 123,905 signatures.

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