Protesteors outside of BP's Melbourne HQ. Photo: Aaron StevensonProtesteors outside of BP's Melbourne HQ. Photo: Aaron Stevenson

Protestors helped clean up a mock oil spill outside BP’s headquarters in Melbourne this morning to highlight the British company’s plans to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight.

On the other side of the world later today there will also be a protest at BP’s annual general meeting in London. BP’s plans for the Bight have also been targeted by two recent protests in London calling for the British Museum to end its BP sponsorship deal.

“We are here to tell BP it has no right to risk the pristine waters of the Great Australian Bight, and that the opposition to its plans is growing in Australia and around the world,” said Wilderness Society South Australia Director Peter Owen.

“We want to remind people that BP was the company responsible for the world’s biggest oil spill accident, the Deepwater Horizon tragedy in 2010, when 800 million litres of oil spewed into the Gulf of Mexico for 87 days.

“BP totally stuffed up in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico with tragic consequences. Now BP wants to drill in the deeper, more treacherous and more remote waters of the Great Australian Bight. You have got to be kidding.

“BP has already shown it has not learnt anything from its Gulf of Mexico disaster. Australia’s offshore oil and gas authority, NOPSEMA, rejected BP’s first application to drill in the Bight and had said BP needs a comprehensive risk assessment and oil pollution emergency plan. The Australian Senate is so concerned about BP’s plans it has launched an inquiry into them.

“BP has not even released detailed oil spill modelling. It claims an oil spill will last only 35 days even though the Macondo well spewed billions of litres of oil into the Gulf of Mexico for 87 days.

“Independent modelling shows an oil spill from a deep-water well-blowout in the Bight could affect all of southern Australia’s coast, from Western Australia right across to Victoria through Bass Strait and around Tasmania.

“An oil spill in the Bight would be devastating for South Australia’s $442 million fishing industry and its tourism industries in coastal regions, worth more than $1 billion. The two industries employ more than 10,000 full-time positions.”

Sea Shepherd Australia Managing Director Jeff Hansen said: “The Great Australian Bight is a global marine treasure.

“The Bight’s pristine waters are a haven for whales, boasting the world’s most important southern right whale nursery as well as many humpback, sperm, blue and beak whales. These are the same whales we fight so hard to protect from slaughter in the Southern Ocean.

“The Bight is Australia’s most important sea lion nursery. It also supports dolphins, seals, orcas, great white sharks, some of Australia’s most important fisheries, and magnificent birds such as the albatross and the white-bellied sea eagle.

“The Bight is littered with state and federal marine parks. One of BP’s leases even takes in a Commonwealth marine reserve.

“The Great Australian Bight is backed by the longest line of sea cliffs in the world, stretching hundreds of kilometres and reaching 60 metres high, the height of a 20-storey building, making it even more difficult for any clean-up operations if there was a spill.

“And the impact would be long lasting. Six years after the Gulf of Mexico disaster, its impacts are still being felt today, with dead marine life still washing up on beaches, dolphins unable to reproduce and people getting sick while local tourism, fishing and other businesses have not recovered.”

The Great Australian Bight Alliance includes the Wilderness Society, Sea Shepherd Australia, Sea Shepherd UK, Surfrider Foundation Australia, the Australian Marine Conservation Society, Mirning and Kokatha elders, Oil Free Seas Kangaroo Island and Clean Bight Alliance (West Coast SA).

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