Oil Pipe Plant Threatens World's Largest Fringing Reef
Conservationists fear the world-famous Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia is under threat from a massive industrial development in the nearby Exmouth Gulf which if given the go-ahead would involve dragging oil pipelines across the northern section the World Heritage site.
London-based, global oil and gas engineering company, Subsea 7, is currently awaiting approval from the Western Australian Environmental Protection Authority for its proposal to build a pipeline fabrication facility at Heron Point. If approved, vast bundles of gas pipes would be towed out to sea and dragged through the gulf and the northern section of Ningaloo Marine Park to offshore oil and gas drilling platforms which have been developed just beyond what is the world’s largest fringing reef.
While the gulf is not included in the UN-listed World Heritage site, scientists believe it is of vital importance to sustaining the adjoining Ningaloo Reef as many endangered marine species aggregate there, including dugongs, manta rays, turtles, sawfish and humpback whales. Its extensive mangroves and seagrass meadows also act as a nursery for the nearby reef and conservationists believe it is an environment worthy of listing in its own right.
Leading the protest against the industrial development of the currently pristine environment is Protect Ningaloo, a campaign hosted by the Australian Marine Conservation Society in collaboration with local conservation groups in Western Australia.
Protect Ningaloo Director, Paul Gamblin, said: ‘This proposal is from a bygone era. It is wholly unsuitable for this extraordinary, globally-important environment. Exmouth Gulf is one of the increasingly rare places where nature still prevails. It’s can deliver multiple Attenborough-esque wildlife experiences in a single day – even over an hour. That’s why divers and nature lovers are willing to travel so far to go there.
‘The Subsea 7 project would impact an area of seabed equivalent to about 1,000 football pitches in size, and bulldoze ten kilometres of natural vegetation and wildlife habitat to build railway lines and roads. Whales, dugongs and whale sharks could be displaced or put at risk of boat strikes. This project could open the door to more industry in a place that is still intact and natural. It’s this prospect that has helped us attract support from tens of thousands of people already, including increasing numbers of people from overseas.’
In the Spring 2020 edition of DIVE magazine, we run a major feature on Ningaloo with an extensive portfolio of images from award-winning photographers Alex Kydd and Jake Wilton accompanying a passionate plea from the world-renowned author Tim Winton for the area to be saved.
A decision from the planning authorities is expected in the next few months.