The Great Australian Bight under threat
My name is Kathryn Dyball and I am a passionate marine biologist living in Western Australia.
I first learnt about the threat to the Great Australian Bight in 2017 when oil giant Chevron was looking at drilling down there, and the threat continued in 2018 with BP. Fortunately both companies did extensive impact assessments and decided an oil spill in that area would just be too risky and they pulled out. And now we have Equinor… Formally known as Statoil, the company had such a bad environmental reputation that they thought by changing their name, the people wouldn’t notice, and they would have a fresh start.
But we did notice. And we don’t want them there.
The Bight is largest whale nursery in world, including the endangered southern right whale, humpback whale, blue whale, sperm whale, minke whale, and more. Roughly 85% of the marine flora and fauna that live in the Bight aren’t found anywhere else in the world. If an oil spill of a similar size to the one that happened in The Gulf of Mexico occurred, it would destroy an estimated 6600km of our coastline. I spent most of last year working as a tour guide on a whale watching boat and tried to educate the customers on the importance of the Bight.. if that gets destroyed, our wonderful humpback whale migration and major tourist attraction would suffer dramatically. I love whales, I love all marine animals, I love the ocean. I will fight the best I can to protect it. But it’s not just about the whales, it’s about the overall sustainability of our planet.
So what are the effects to our ecosystems and environment if there is an oil spill? Last year a pipe burst at an oil rig off the coast of Borneo. There was a catastrophic oil spill about the size of Paris that started a fire, and then covered hundreds of acres of mangroves in the ocean. 5 fishermen died, and marine life including dolphins and fish were washing up dead on the shore. Plus the nearest city, with a population of 700, 000 people, were reporting health problems from the toxic slick and fumes. Face masks were being handed out because the impact was so severe.
It’s no longer “we should move away from fossil fuels and into renewable resources”, it’s a case of “we NEED to”. I joined the climate rally in Perth on March 15th to support the school students who were fighting for their future. But what good is that if we have no planet to live on? The kid’s passion was inspiring and empowering; It was an honour to march behind them. To show them our support was so important. But what was more important was to show the government the sheer mass of support of this global movement, in the hope that things will change.
There are a few different things you can do to help the cause. I hate making things political, but unfortunately this is where we can make changes with new policies and laws. I will never tell someone who to vote for, but I urge you to research the political parties thoroughly and understand what their values and promises are. I would also urge you to sign those petitions that go around Facebook and join protests in your area. The power of the people can never be underestimated. If you think back to 2014 when an estimated 6000 people came together at Cottesloe Beach in protest of the shark drum lines. Or in 2017 when we fought hard against Colin Barnett (again) and the Roe 8 project which would destroy the critical Beeliar Wetlands. We stopped both of these things.. and we can do it again.
If you want a more direct example; my photos from the climate rally were picked up by a Norwegian man living in Australia, who then shared it to his twitter followers. This then caught the attention of multiple Norwegian media companies who contacted me asking for interviews and statements. One little Instagram post snowballed into news articles around the world. If that can happen from just one person, imagine what we can do together. So, my message to you is simple. Raise your voice. Let’s be heard. Let’s keep fighting. Let’s be the change that our oceans so desperately need.
For more information, check out Greenpeace’s report here