Sea Shepherd Australia has thrown its support behind the Protect Ningaloo Alliance and other local community groups in an effort to save Exmouth Gulf, particularly Heron Point, near the Bay of Rest, from proposed onshore and offshore oil and gas pipelines that could damage the pristine ecosystem, including the World Heritage-listed Ningaloo Reef.
Heron Point, less than an hour drive south-east of Exmouth, is home to mangroves, precious corals and rare sponge gardens and is also a haven for sea life such as turtles, dugongs, and hundreds of species of fish, including giant trevally, bonefish, and prawns. It is also a refuge for endangered seabirds like the fairy tern and eastern curlew.
Sea Shepherd Exmouth Chapter Coordinator and local Exmouth resident Grace Keast became aware in October 2017 of the threat to Heron Point when Subsea 7 announced plans to build a 10km railway line through pastoral land that would be used to build oil and gas pipelines, which would then be towed into the Exmouth Gulf.
“The Exmouth Gulf has strong ecological linkages to the Ningaloo Reef, with its mangrove and shallow water habitats providing nurseries and foraging ground for many species,” Grace, an experienced Divemaster, said.
Grace said that manta rays also move through its sheltered waters and humpback whales use it as a calving ground and nursery.
Subsea 7, a foreign multinational corporation, and their activities will put unnecessary risk and pressures to the marine and terrestrial environment, Grace believes.
“When the Ningaloo Coast received its World Heritage listing in June 2011, Exmouth Gulf should have been included,” Grace added.
Grace has been an active member of the local Cape Conservation Group, who have been established for over 25 years in Exmouth and is helping spearhead an online petition with the Conservation Council of Western Australia to put an end to Subsea 7’s plans: https://ccwa.good.do/heronpoint/petition/
If Subsea 7 gets its way, clearing for further research into stygofauna communities, fauna that live in groundwater systems or aquifers, such as caves, could commence as early as May 2018.
“I believe that as conservationists, we should all pool our energy together to achieve the best outcomes for the environment,” Grace added.
“If Subsea 7 gets approval, a whole swathe of the Gulf shore could be opened up to the oil and gas industry.
“The Gulf’s value to the region could be diminished and our sustainable eco-tourism industry at Ningaloo will be put at serious risk,” Grace added.