Oil spill would ‘dev­as­tate’ reef

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - NEWS - HOLLY ROBERT­SON

AN OIL spill in the Co­ral Sea would dec­i­mate the Great Bar­rier Reef - a sce­nario con­ser­va­tion­ists say could oc­cur if the Fed­eral Govern­ment does not es­tab­lish a ma­rine park.

Cru­cial tourism and fish­ing in­dus­tries would be wiped out and ma­rine an­i­mals, birds and corals killed if a spill the size of the Gulf of Mex­ico dis­as­ter hap­pened in the Co­ral Sea.

A map has been cre­ated to il­lus­trate the ex­tent of the dev­as­ta­tion - a 600km oil slick stretch­ing along the Queens­land coast­line, north to Port Dou­glas and Cape Tribulation.

The Aus­tralian Con­ser­va­tion Foun­da­tion com­piled the map as a warn­ing to politi­cians that a Co­ral Sea ma­rine park needed to be in­tro­duced to pre­vent oil and gas ex­plo­ration in the sen­si­tive wa­ters.

Po­sei­don Outer Reef Cruises owner Peter Wright said a spill in the Co­ral Sea would leave lo­cal tourism in tat­ters.

“If there was an oil spill com­ing into this por­tion of the Great Bar­rier Reef it would dev­as­tate the ma­rine tourism in­dus­try,” he said.

Mr Wright said he sup­ported the es­tab­lish­ment of a ma­rine park in con­sul­ta­tion with fish­ers and stake­hold­ers.

ACF wants Aus­tralian po­lit­i­cal par­ties to com­mit to a Co­ral Sea ma­rine park that would pro­tect the re­gion from an

If there was an oil spill ... it would dev­as­tate the tourism in­dus­try

— Peter Wright

en­vi­ron­men­tal dis­as­ter aris­ing from oil and gas drilling.

“Around 95 per cent of Aus­tralia’s oceans are un­pro­tected from oil drilling, leav­ing an ac­ci­dent wait­ing to hap­pen,” ACF ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Don Henry said. “We need a mora­to­rium on new oil and gas projects in Aus­tralian wa­ters un­til the risks as­so­ci­ated with deep­wa­ter drilling have been ad­dressed and a na­tional net­work of ma­rine sanc­tu­ar­ies is es­tab­lished to safe­guard Aus­tralia’s unique ma­rine life.”

Fed­eral en­vi­ron­ment min­is­ter Peter Gar­rett was con­sid­er­ing cre­at­ing a one mil­lion sq km con­ser­va­tion zone in the Co­ral Sea but post­poned a fi­nal de­ci­sion when the elec­tion was called.

Coali­tion leader Tony Abbott re­cently pledged to sus­pend the in­tro­duc­tion of more ma­rine parks.

Greens leader Bob Brown has an­nounced a plan to pro­tect the Co­ral Sea from oil and gas min­ing and limit recre­ational game fish­ing to the Cairns re­gion.

“We know the Great Bar­rier Reef has a $6 bil­lion ticket at­tached to it each year for busi­ness in Queens­land - 63,000 jobs,” he said.

Coali­tion fish­eries spokesman Sen­a­tor Richard Col­beck called the pro­posal the most “ir­re­spon­si­ble, reck­less and un­in­formed” pol­icy of the elec­tion cam­paign.

Po­ten­tial dis­as­ter: a map pro­duced by the Aus­tralian Con­ser­va­tion Foun­da­tion re­leased this week show­ing the po­ten­tial im­pact of an oil spill on the scale of the Gulf of Mex­ico dis­as­ter

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