Idyllic shoals temporarily closed to oil and gas but threats remain

Posted on 04 February 2013  | 
Corals Clerke Channel, Rowley Shoals.
Corals Clerke Channel, Rowley Shoals.
© Annabelle Sandes / Kimberley Media Enlarge
The Federal Government plans to stop oil and gas exploration around a large area of the pristine Rowley Shoals coral atolls off WA. WWF-Australia has commended the decision but the government should now move quickly to create a permanent oil and gas exclusion zone in the area.

Reports indicate that the decision was made in response to widespread community concerns about the environmental risks to the Shoals.

“It is fantastic to see the government responding to widespread concerns about oil and gas development so close to a world-class marine feature like the Rowley Shoals,” said Paul Gamblin of WWF-Australia.

“But, as we’ve seen in the past, this is no guarantee that such areas won’t be opened in future rounds of acreage release, so the government must act swiftly to create a protection zone around the shoals. Without legal protection for the shoals, there is no guarantee whatsoever that this unique, globally important marine environment will be safe.”

“At the very least, this area needs to be classified as an oil and gas exclusion zone to give the community confidence that the government will follow through and act on their concerns.”

The Rowley Shoals lie 260 kilometres west of the Kimberley coast and are described in government publications as “amongst the most pristine coral reef environments remaining in the world.” The Shoals have more than 230 species of coral and nearly 700 species of fish, recorded to date, making them invaluable areas of biodiversity.*

“Fortunately, this is the perfect time for the federal government to create oil and gas exclusion zones around the Shoals as it is now calling for comment its national marine reserves network. Increasing protection for the Rowley Shoals will be a priority in WWF’s submission.”

Images available upon request.

WWF-Australia contacts:

Daniel Rockett, National Media Manager, 0432 206 592, drockett@wwf.org.au
Corals Clerke Channel, Rowley Shoals.
Corals Clerke Channel, Rowley Shoals.
© Annabelle Sandes / Kimberley Media Enlarge

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