Nationwide beach protests against BP in Great Australian Bight


  • Sea Shepherd to send MY Steve Irwin into Great Australian Bight
  • BP should drop plans after regulator again sent back its application last week
  • This election support a candidate who does not back BP drilling in the Bight

Hundreds of people are expected to line the shores across Australia today to protest against BP’s plans to drill for oil in the pristine waters of the Great Australian Bight.

Hands Across the Sand events will be held around the world to raise awareness of the risks posed by the offshore oil and gas industry, with hands symbolising a barrier to oil hitting our shores.

Hands Across the Sand started in the United States after BP caused the world’s biggest oil spill accident in 2010, when 800 million litres of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico over 87 days, killing millions of fish and seabirds, 600-800,000 coastal birds and an estimated 75,000 dolphins and whales, and destroying thousands of people’s lives and livelihoods. Just last week, Shell proved again that oil accidents are not uncommon when it spilled more than 330,000 litres of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

Now BP wants to drill in the pristine waters of the Great Australian Bight, which are far more treacherous and more remote than the Gulf of Mexico.

“BP has no right to risk the Bight,” said Wilderness Society South Australia Director Peter Owen.

“BP should listen to the community and drop its plans to drill in the pristine waters of the Great Australian Bight. If it doesn’t want to listen to the Australian people, then it should listen to Australia’s offshore oil and gas regulator, which just this week sent back BP’s plans for a second time.

“One would expect BP to go to great lengths to show the regulator it had learnt from the Gulf of Mexico disaster and submit an application that far exceeds the required standards. Instead it again submitted a substandard application in the hope it will be approved.

“The Great Australian Bight’s pristine waters are a haven for 36 species of whales and dolphins, including the world’s most important southern right whale nursery as well as many humpback, sperm, blue and beak whales. The Bight is also Australia’s most important sea lion nursery, and supports seals, great white sharks, orcas, giant cuttlefish, some of Australia’s most important fisheries and magnificent migratory seabirds.

“An oil spill from a deep-water well-blowout in the Great Australian Bight could affect all of southern Australia’s coast, from Western Australia right across to Victoria through Bass Strait and around Tasmania. A spill would be devastating for South Australia’s $442 million fishing industry and its tourism industries in coastal regions, worth more than $1 billion. The two industries employ more than 10,000 full-time jobs.”

Today Sea Shepherd will launch Operation Jeedara, in which the iconic MY Steve Irwin will travel through the Bight from August highlighting the places that are at risk from an oil spill, places such as Kangaroo Island, the Neptune Islands, Pearson Island, the Isles of St Francis, Fowlers Bay, Nuyts Reef, the head of the Bight and of course the rich diversity of life in the Bremer Canyon.

“Our mission will be to showcase the beauty and the diversity of life that will be destroyed if BP even have a conservative spill, compared to their catastrophic spill in the Gulf of Mexico,” said Sea Shepherd Australia Managing Director Jeff Hansen. “With Shell’s recent spill in the Gulf, it’s clear that it’s not a matter of if a spill will occur, but when.”

Bunna Lawrie, an elder of the Mirning people, Traditional Owners of the Bight, said: “My ancestors and I have looked after the whale, the land and the sea for 50,000 years.

“We don’t want BP in our sea and our place of the whales. We don’t want pollution causing destruction and poisoning our sea and land. I can not allow BP to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight. As a Traditional Owner, I do not want my home, my tradition destroyed and lost forever.”

Clean Bight Alliance member Breony Carbines said: “As local Ceduna residents, we are not satisfied that risks posed by deep sea drilling can be mitigated and we are not satisfied that turning the Great Australian Bight into an oil and gas field is the best vision for our region.”

Oil Free Seas Kangaroo Island spokesperson Linda Irwin said: “What I love about Kangaroo Island is its community, mateship, family, friends and its ability to survive. Kangaroo Island community are the fishermen, small business owners, tourism operators, ecotourism operators and are just the average Joe who wants to have a go. The one thing that would put all of this and livelihoods at risk is an oil spill.”

The Great Australian Bight Alliance includes the Wilderness Society, Sea Shepherd Australia, Sea Shepherd UK, Surfrider Foundation Australia, the Australian Marine Conservation Society, Mirning and Kokatha elders, Oil Free Seas Kangaroo Island and Clean Bight Alliance (West Coast SA).