Big Oil does not belong in the Great Australian Bight. HERE’S PATAGONIA’S MESSAGE TO SURFERS TO HELP IN THE FIGHT FOR BIGHT. 

BP, when applying to drill for oil in the Bight in 2016, stated in their confidential environment plan that an oil spill in the Bight and the resulting clean up would provide a “welcome boost to local economies.”

Even after destroying the coast line and the lives of local communities, they were still thinking in terms of dollars. Unfathomably, the Australian Government granted the first exploration permits in the Bight less than a year after BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig had exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, laying waste to the Gulf coast. The same company was now granted permits in waters twice as deep, waters open to the full force of the Roaring Forties, and waters home to one of the world’s last great pristine marine ecologies. What could go wrong? Independent modelling showed a worse case oil spill in winter would spread along the South Australian and Victorian coasts, circumnavigate Tasmania, before making its way up the Eastern Seaboard. There would be oil on beaches for years at Cactus, Bells Beach, Shipstern Bluff and everywhere in between. Marine life would be devastated. Communities would be devastated. It would be Australia’s own Deepwater Horizon. The Fight for The Bight is at a crucial point. After passionate opposition BP has pulled out, but now Equinor, a Norwegian company are planning to drill. If Equinor can be stopped there’s a real chance the Bight can be kept free from Big Oil for good. The Bight locals have taken the fight to Big Oil. 

It’s time for surfers around Australia and Europe to join the fight for the Bight.

We chatted to Anna and Tim from #FightfortheBight:

What’s the situation in the Bight?

Equinor have plans to drill one well in the great Australian bight before (I believe) October 2019 as is required by their license. Large scale seismic testing was completed in partnership with BP in 2015. Smaller scale (“zooming in on the reserve”) will continue throughout the project if it goes ahead which is equally as damaging. Public opposition is growing. 12 local councils in SA and 2 in Victoria have officially opposed (with one only asking to be consulted with during the approval process). The surf coast shire in Vic has just come on board with the help of Patagonia, and represents a significant addition from a surfer point of view, taking in Bells Beach. It is significant also from the point of view of its proximity to Melbourne and the demographic in the region (well connected with the politics of the state and many professional people living there chasing the “seachange” from Melbourne). The number of people  represented by these councils now approaches 600,000, which is unprecedented for local councils voicing their opinions together. The wider community, including tourism, fishing and aquaculture industries are also starting to listen, with Greenpeace pushing the issue strongly in their media. I have heard that the Bight is their largest campaign globally right now.

Another Norwegian company, PGS (petroleum Geo Services) has applied for a license to seismic test an area much closer to our coastline (on behalf of two other oil companies, Karoon Gas and Bight Petroleum), 70 km as opposed to 300 km. The decision to allow or disallow this exploration is due in the next few weeks. In Norway, seismic testing of this type has been put on hold near the Lofoten Islands for exactly the same reasons as the concerns the Tuna industry (and many others) has here, namely the damage to phytoplankton that prop up the entire ecosystem, not to mention the effects on whales, seals, dolphins and fish not on the seafood menu.

One of the most common comments we hear is “We all use oil”, suggesting that because we drive a car and have a petrochemical surfboard we are compelled to accept oil exploration in our region. The defining point about the oil in Great Australian Bight is all about where and how we extract the oil. Is it acceptable to experiment with new technologies in waters deeper, rougher and more remote than ever before, in an area that already sustains the largest fishery in the southern hemisphere, and has many thriving coastal communities? Is it acceptable to explore for oil in a new area that could not be in production until 2030. We think no.

How can people in Norway and Europe help fight for the bight and help the community efforts?

Norwegian public knowledge of Equinors plans and actions (and the public opposition here) here is very low, but on the increase. Getting the word out in Norway that Equinor are planning frontier drilling in Australia more extreme than that which has caused so much controversy in the Arctic for Norwegians would be very powerful.. Australians are certainly distrustful of the double standards Equinor are showing here, and I feel that Norwegians would feel the same. The wider Australian public share the same view as Norwegians on climate responsibilities. I’m also interested in the Save the Blue Heart strategy of targeting investors and banks funding these proposals. Superannuation in Australia is a large driver of this investment, and many people are not aware that their seemingly innocent future funds are propping up this industry. Many claims are made about Fisheries and oil coexisting (which is actually untrue because most fisheries in the North Sea collapsed in the 80`s) in the North Sea are being made without the very complex wider picture being considered. The reality of an oil industry in our backyard should be considered in the context of what has already happened in other places, not just on promises of jobs and tax benefits. Equinor is active in the North Atlantic. The controversial Corrib Gas project was partnered by Equinor with Shell, and Equinor now operate the project. A recent presentation on the Great Australian Bight oil proposals at a Nevertown screening in Dublin, by my brother Rob Jones, drew attention to a 6 new oil and gas tenets owned by Equinor and Exxon mobil around 150 km SW of Ireland, due for development. This pricked a lot of ears up and gained 70 signatures on a letter of concern to Equinor Norway.

how can you help?

  • Connect (and sign the petitions) with #FightfortheBight,
  • Check your investments, and how your bank invests, remembering that Equinor are not the only environmental vandals out there.
  • Visit the Great Australian Bight! The more people appreciating the area, the more chance we have of stopping it!