By Teri Shore, Turtle Island Restoration Network
I recently returned from a four-week trip to Australia to assist with field research and visit the Kimberley where sea turtles are under major threats from Big Oil. The Australian flatback turtle and five other species of marine turtles that nest and feed along the coast seem to have been forgotten in the fossil fuel frenzy occurring in the Northwest of Western Australia.
All six species of marine turtles that occur in Australia are considered to be at risk of extinction under state, Commonwealth and international law. Yet so little is known about the flatback that its status has been deemed “data deficient” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
But enough is known about the forgotten flatback to raise major concerns about its future with as many as 50 new industrial projects planned for the Northwest including the new natural gas facilities planned at James Price Point - Walmadany in the Kimberley and on the tiny nature reserve of Barrow Island in the Pilbara. Flatbacks and greens nest and forage at both sites. Read more about the flatback and my trip into the Australian bush.
What is not known is whether the flatback populations in W.A. are in decline, stable or growing. Most populations of marine turtles are in decline around the world due to human impacts.
The Western Australia Department of Environment and Conservation is drafting a Marine Turtle Recovery Plan designed to identify the threats to the flatbacks and other species, determine research gaps and implement measures to protect them. But the long-awaited plan has not been approved or released to the public. Until this happens the flatbacks and the other species are at great risk of harm and decline from human activity ranging from driving on the beach to lighting to fishery by-catch to climate change to the natural gas projects. And time is running out.
The long and short term threats to sea turtles from the natural gas projects are many: lighting, dredging, blasting, ship strikes, oil spills, dumping of sewage and graywater, air pollution and other disturbance.
What you can do: Sign the urgent new petition or write to Australian Environmental Minister Tony Burke, Parliament House, Canberra 2600 Australia and W.A. Premier Colin Barnett MLG, Parliament House, Perth, 6000, Western Australia to halt the proposed LNG project at James Price Point.
Write to Chevron seeking a halt to the Gorgon project on Barrow Island and to pull out of the James Price Point Joint Venture in the Kimberley: Mr. John S. Watson, Chief Executive Officer, Chevron Corporation, 6001 Bollinger Canyon Road San Ramon, CA 94583, USA
Read more about the flatback sea turtle and the Kimberley on our campaign page Australia's Sea Turtles, www.wildernessociety.org.au,
www.environskimberley.org , http://handsoffcountry.blogspot.com and Savethekimberley.org