Sea Shepherd Sets Sail for Anti-Drilling Campaign

Steve Irwin
The Sea Shepherd vessel Steve Irwin.

By MarEx 2016-05-21 00:58:55

Environmental organization Sea Shepherd has launched Operation Jeedara in response to BP's plans to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight.

The Great Australian Bight is rich in beauty and biodiversity, boasting the world’s most significant southern right whale nursery, as well as humpback, sperm, blue and beaked whales, said the organization in a statement. It is also Australia's most important sea lion nursery and supports orcas, great white sharks, southern blue fin tuna and other fish down to the small pelagic.

“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 Jeff Hansen, Managing Director, Sea Shepherd Australia. “With the recent spill last week by Shell in the Gulf [of Mexico], it’s clear that it’s not a matter of if a spill will occur, but when.”

Sea Shepherd's operation Jeedara will aim to depart Seaworks, Williamstown, Victoria in early August with the Steve Irwin showcasing Australia's natural wonders that could be devastated by another BP oil spill like the Deepwater Horizon. The vessel will visit places like Kangaroo Island, Neptune Islands, Pearson Island, Isles of St Francis, Fowlers Bay, Nuyts Reef, Head of the Bight and the Bremer Canyon.

Earlier this week, Australia’s offshore petroleum regulator NOPSEMA once again rejected BP’s environmental plan for exploration drilling in the Great Australian Bight.

On May 16, NOPSEMA provided BP with an opportunity to modify and resubmit their plan, but did not publicize the issues it found with the plan. If BP accepts this opportunity, the modified plan is expected to be resubmitted by July 15, at which time NOPSEMA will recommence the assessment.

An opportunity to modify and resubmit is a normal part of NOPSEMA’s environment plan assessment process. In fact, NOPSEMA is required by law to provide a titleholder (the company proposing the activity) a reasonable opportunity to modify and resubmit their plan if it doesn’t meet the regulatory requirements for acceptance. NOPSEMA will typically provide two opportunities to modify and resubmit, but is not restricted to providing only two opportunities.

Since NOPSEMA was established on January 1, 2012, four percent of all environment plans submitted for assessment have been refused.

BP’s environment plan was previously dismissed by the agency in November 2015, also due to a failure to meet the regulatory requirements.

BP proposes to drill four exploration wells. Exact well locations are yet to be determined for all wells, however they will be drilled within a defined drilling area. The proposed drilling area has water depths of approximately 1,000 to 2,500 meters. At its closest point, the proposed drilling area is approximately 400 kilometers (250 miles) west of Port Lincoln and 300 kilometers (185 miles) south-west of Ceduna. The wells will be drilled using a new-build mobile offshore drilling unit which has been specially designed for use in deep water.

The project is scheduled to commence in the summer of 2016-2017, with each well taking between 45 and 170 days to drill.
 
In April, protesters helped clean up a mock oil spill outside BP’s headquarters in Melbourne saying an oil spill from well blowout could affect all of southern Australia’s coast. The region supports a large fishing industry although much of it is protected by nature reserves.