Offshore petroleum permits approved, but what about the whales?
Yesterday’s announcement by Resources and Energy Minister, Martin Ferguson AM MP, granting seven offshore exploration permits from the 2009 Offshore Petroleum Commonwealth waters off Western Australia and South Australia, has Humane Society International (HSI) asking what about the whales? The permits are located in waters of critical importance for Australia’s threatened marine life, as they are the key feeding, breeding, and migratory sites for a number of threatened species, including the endangered Southern Right whale, the vulnerable Humpback whale, the vulnerable Great White shark and the recently listed conservation dependent Southern Bluefin tuna.
HSI has long been calling for the protection of these critical habitats, as they are known, to safeguard the future of our threatened whales, dolphins, sharks and other marine life. A detailed report was published in 2010 outlining the importance of critical habitats for threatened marine species and sets out ten recommended actions by Governments*. This includes a recommendation to strengthen legislation to ensure no actions detrimental to critical habitat are approved.
“It is astounding that the Government claims to be making efforts to conserve our threatened whales whilst simultaneously approving projects that will directly impact upon their vital feeding and breeding areas” said Alexia Wellbelove of Humane Society International. “Instead of continuing to impact our whales, we should be identifying those places of most importance to them so that we can protect them. In the meantime, the threats to our marine life will continue unabated, as Government fails to protect their feeding and breeding places.”
“Best practice alone will not provide our threatened marine life with reassurance. What is needed are stronger laws so that vital feeding and breeding places are protected against detrimental actions such as exploration work” said Alexia Wellbelove.
* The report ‘Protecting Critical Marine Habitats: the key to conserving our threatened marine species’ is available at http://www.hsi.org.au/editor/assets/admin/ProtectingCriticalMarineHabitat.pdf