Call to stop Exmouth Gulf pipeline plan as biodiversity revealed

Shannon BeattiePilbara News
The proposed Heron Point Launchway site.
Camera IconThe proposed Heron Point Launchway site. Credit: Supplied

Offshore engineering company Subsea 7’s proposal to pull pipe bundles through the Exmouth Gulf has again been called into question after a new report revealed the area has more biodiversity than the Ningaloo Reef.

The report, released by Dr Ben Fitzpatrick, found the Exmouth Gulf supported at least 1800 species of fauna, causing environmental organisation Protect Ningaloo to renew its call for proper protection of the gulf.

Subsea 7 plans to build pipe bundles, containing lines, cables, wires, at a facility in Learmonth, 35km from Exmouth, and tow them through Ningaloo World Heritage areas for use by the offshore oil and gas industry.

Protect Ningaloo campaigner Jeremy Tager said Dr Fitzpatricks’s review found “soft bottom communities” were critical to the biodiversity of the gulf. “These will be severely impacted by Subsea 7’s operations,” he said.

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“With so many endangered and critically endangered species reliant on the health of the gulf, it is critical that the Subsea 7 proposal be withdrawn or rejected by the EPA.”

A Subsea 7 spokeswoman said the company would work with relevant groups to expand environmental knowledge and understanding of the area.

“The company has done this at Wick, in Scotland, where it operates the only other pipeline bundle facility in the world,” she said. “This is consistent with the approach taken by the oil and gas industry in WA, where major companies have been involved in environmental projects and research.”

Dr Fitzpatrick said the issue was not a lot was known about how the biodiversity in the gulf was sustained, so predicting the impact of coastal development and the damage it would cause to habitats was hard to do.

“The fact of the matter is industrialisation and coastal development that has happened elsewhere in the world has only ever led to the degradation of habitats and the loss of diversity,” he said.

Subsea 7 submitted its first draft Environmental Review Document this month, which the Environmental Protection Authority will provide comment on before it is released for public review towards the end of September.

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