Statoil, Norway’s state-owned oil company has decided to go ahead with its plans to drill and conduct exploration work at the Great Australian Bight. Conservation groups led by Greenpeace are concerned Statoil’s drilling activities will put the Bight at great risk.
The Great Australian Bight is the country’s most diverse marine ecosystem. It is a big source of revenue for the fishing industry and is an emerging tourist attraction.
Statoil wants to make it the company’s newest oil field.
A spokesman from Statoil assured the public that the company will ensure the safety and sanctity of the Bight:
“We will only undertake the drilling activity if we can do it safely and with the approval of the regulator.”
The Bight is home to several rare species of marine life. It is estimated by marine biologists that 85% of the species found on the Bight cannot be found anywhere else.
It is also home to the endangered Southern Right Whale, Australia’s famous sea lions, great white sharks and sperm whales.
Oil companies such as Statoil view it as a rich resource of oil and gas reserves. Conservation groups and environmentalists fear that all the frenetic drilling activity will cause massive damage to the Bight’s ecosystem.
A number of parliamentarians who support Statoil argue that the company has a good track record in drilling in rough, cold seas.
Greenpeace Senior Campaigner, Nathaniel Pelle countered by saying the parliamentarians have been misinformed:
“There is no such thing as safe drilling.”
Meanwhile, Dr. Jodie Rummer who is a researcher at the Australian Research Council at the James Cook University said that despite assurances, anything can happen:
“I think of the disaster with Deepwater Horizon and it was in the Gulf of Mexico. The Gulf of Mexico is pretty calm, you’re pretty much always close to a decent-sized city and response. I can’t even imagine a response team getting out to where this could be.”
Kirsten Rough, a research scientist with the Australian Southern Bluefin Tuna Industry Association, fears that a spill would be catastrophic:
“Even a very minor spill would have significant impacts on the sardine fishery that is the main food supply for ranched SBT as well as the wider SBT population that return to the Bight’s rich feeding grounds seasonally every year.
British Petroleum (BP) which withdrew from the project last year, released its study which showed an oil spill could pollute an estimated reach of 750km of coastline.