Much has transpired since the last blog entry. The spill, of course, continues to flow out into the marine environment and atmosphere (not forgetting that light crude and gas are both leaking), the Government’s rapid assessment has reported significant number of animals within the slick ... oh, and now the rig is on fire!
The company which runs the well, PTTEP Australasia, has told the media that the fire broke out as it made another attempt to plug a leak deep underwater at the Montara rig. Thankfully, no workers were onboard the rig when the fire started and workers on the West Triton relief rig, stationed 1.2 miles (2km) away, were safe from the enormous blaze.
By anyone’s standards this is now a major environmental disaster, and politicians are baying for blood. At the same time there has been another hit to the reputation of the oil and gas industry, with confirmation of a second gas leak in the Timor Sea. Without doubt the next week will focus on who is to blame, and less attention will be focused on the enormity of the tragedy.
But other more probing questions have also started to work their way in the quiet background of public discourse.
Ten weeks into the uncontrolled and continuing oil and gas spill from the Montara wellhead, with anywhere from 10 to 20 million litres of oil spilled into the ocean, the Rapid Assessment of the Impacts of the Montara Oil Leak on Birds, Cetaceans and Marine Reptiles has positively identified at least 4 species of cetaceans - 462 individuals (along with 23 species of birds, 2 species of turtles and 4 species of sea snakes).
Andrew Crook, on Crikey.com, has asked will Timor Sea oil slick be curtains for bluefin tuna? Good question really, given the tuna's status is already precarious after decades of over fishing and the spill is in the bluefin spawning grounds. Perhaps his question will spark some further investigation in other areas of the media
The impacts for most marine life in this region are likely to be huge, and on this note WDCS has once again made a public comment into the media sphere “We strongly concur with the assessment recommendations a four-five year minimum time frame for the long term monitoring of the impact to cetacean behavior and populations numbers as a result of the spill, and in truth we believe it should be more like a decade. The Monitoring Plan is silent on the duration of commitment the Government has secured from industry. For all we can determine, they may monitor for a year and then walk away. A renegotiated plan must extend monitoring for at least ten years.” Dr Mike Bossley, WDCS Australasian Managing Director.
“We still don’t see the commitment we expect from the Australian Government. If they were serious about mitigating the threats of oil spills they would immediately freeze all new oil and gas exploration applications; develop much stronger conditions and controls over all oil and gas rig and shipping activities including contingency plans before approvals are given; and identify and fully protect all whale and dolphin critical habitats in a network of marine sanctuaries before any oil and gas acreage is released again” Dr Bossley concluded.
As we drag ourselves towards the bad news that week 11 will certainly hold, it is difficult to stay optimistic about this sad an sorry affair. But, to end this blog with some heart, the wonderful campaigners with the Wilderness Society in Australia staged an oil spill protest on Friday 30th October. Volunteers gathered in a colorful action to protest against the oil spill and campaign for greater protection of our the marine life in this region (which we Australians call The Kimberly). Thank you TWS!