Conservation groups have slammed a plan by BHP Billiton to explore for oil 5km from the World-Heritage listed Ningaloo Reef off Western Australia’s north coast.
Green groups say oil exploration activities in the region should be banned, pointing to the risks of oil spill and say the seismic surveys will have a negative impact on marine life.
World Wildlife Fund WA director Paul Gamblin said oil and gas operations were already too close to the reef and that the seismic activity would disturb marine animals such as whales, dolphins, turtles and fish, The Australian reported.
"Ningaloo will be potentially encircled by the oil and gas industry," he said.
"It's not the place to run an experiment about how much risk the reef can withstand."
Gamblin also pointed to the ‘very high intensity underwater noise’ saying it could ‘have impacts on the migratory pathways of animals.’
Earlier this month BHP asked the government to allow the company to conduct a marine seismic survey over a 250sqkm area of the reef.
The Federal Department of Environment is assessing the proposal to determine the impact it will have on the reef.
BHP’s proposal says the survey will avoid the peak migration periods for blue, humpback and southern right whales.
A spokeswoman for BHP said the company was committed to understanding and managing any environmental impacts.
"Our approach to environmental management is based on the robust identification and assessment of material risks," she said.
Image: Australian Geographic