Shell’s drilling off Australia could ‘devastate’ endangered marine life

Posted: 07/14/2011 in all marine news

Alison Rourke –

Conservation groups in Australia say a decision to allow Shell to carry out exploratory drilling near Australia’s newest world heritage site, Ningaloo marine park, could devastate the area if there was a spillage.

“It beggars belief that the government is not requiring a full environmental estimate of this drilling proposal,” said Paul Gamblin of the World Wildlife Fund.

Instead, the energy giant must abide by certain conditions, including visual observations for whales. The Australian government said Shell’s proposal did not require further assessment.

Ningaloo reef, about 750 miles north of Perth, is best known for its whale sharks, the world’s largest fish. The 160m long reef is also home to rare and endangered wildlife including whales, sea turtles and birds. Ningaloo marine park, which includes the reef, was designated a world heritage site last month.

The exploration well will be dug 30 miles from the edge of the park, primarily in search of gas.

In a statement Shell said it was “mindful of significant biodiversity and heritage values of the Ningaloo region and plan to continue our operations accordingly”. The proposal said in the unlikely event of a spillage travelling towards the reef “there is sufficient time to collect dispersant and boom…to contain any damage.”

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