Norwegian fossil fuel company Equinor has announced plans to drill for oil in the Australian Bight. The proposed excavation would be extremely risky, complex, and remote, and if it failed, there is a potential risk of oil reaching beaches thousands of kilometers away. An oil spill in the Bight would be catastrophic.
The Great Australian Bight is one of the most pristine ocean environments left on Earth, supporting vibrant coastal communities, jobs and recreational activities. The Bight sustains wild fisheries and aquaculture industries worth around $440 million per annum (2012–13) and regional tourism industries worth around $1.2 billion per annum (2013–14).
Flanked by the Nullarbor and the longest continuous sea cliffs in the world, the Bight is a haven for whales, fish, birds, marine mammals, plants life and an array of invertebrate ecosystems. The area has unique nutrient upwellings which provide critical habitat for countless species including some of the last remaining colonies of endangered Australian sea lions. Scientists estimate around 85% of the species that live in the Great Australian Bight are found nowhere else on Earth. What happens to the environment of the Bight affects the diversity of the marine world on a global scale.
Risks of oil exploration could be catastrophic for the Bight
The threats posed by opening the Bight to oil exploration are unacceptable. Not only is there potential for a catastrophic oil spill, the poorly understood effects of seismic testing, strike risk and noise pollution from drilling and boat traffic, and increased pollution have the potential to fundamentally disrupt this unique marine environment.
Global surfing icons, world champions, and other respected members of the surf community have already expressed their concerns of the potential oil spills in an open letter to the Norwegian Energy Company, and citizen activists have shown up in mass along the Australian coastline to protest the oil drilling, most notably through a 2,000 person paddle out at Victor Harbor.
As an NGO dedicated to protecting our ocean’s waters, coastlines, and enthusiasts, Surfrider Europe supports the actions protesting Equinor’s proposed oil drilling. Embedded in the foundation of the organization, Surfrider Europe maintains a position that offshore exploration and exploitation should be prohibited in areas that score high on factors such as vulnerability, productivity and public value, like the Mediterranean area. Policies should be amended to prohibit any offshore activities in marine protected areas, and in a buffer zone around those.
To learn more about what you can do to help Fight for the Bight check out our Surfrider Coastal Defenders page and complete the public consultation.