An End to the Timor Sea Oil Spill, But Not the Effects

Written by on November 6, 2009 in Marine Life

The PTTEP Australasia  (a Thailand state-owned company) West Atlas oil spill has finally been stopped after 74 days and a minimum of 400 spilled barrels a day.  Many questions and concerns rise and the consequences for the marine wildlife will still be felt for a long time.

West Atlas Oil Rig Spill - Photocredit: Chris Twomey/Office of Senator Rachel Siewert

West Atlas Oil Rig Spill – Photocredit: Chris Twomey/Office of Senator Rachel Siewert

On the political side investigations about the cause of the spill and its handling are going on.  Conservationists are still very concerned about the commitment of the Australian government and the industry.  The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society said:

“The Monitoring Plan in discussion is silent on the duration of commitment the Government has secured from industry. For all we can determine, they may monitor for a year and then walk away. A renegotiated plan must extend monitoring for at least ten years. The real work in relation to the oil spill is only just beginning.”

The Australian Greens are also concerned; Senator Rachel Siewert worries the government-called inquiry will not be comprehensive enough.  She called on Federal Resources Minister, Martin Ferguson and the newly appointed Commissioner of Inquiry, Michael Borthwick to ensure that the Montara inquiry announced yesterday was a public one – with open hearings and the timely public release of its report and said:

“We are concerned that the inquiry as announced could happen entirely behind closed doors.  The terms of reference should allow for a comprehensive inquiry, but we are concerned that its success will depend on the conduct of the inquiry – which is being led by an ex-Commonwealth bureaucrat with no judicial or investigative experience.”

Pantropical spotted dolphin  -  Source: NOAA's Ark

Pantropical spotted dolphin – Source: NOAA’s Ark

On the nature side the big concern now is which way the massive oil slick will move.  Much is being done, dispersants are applied to the region, although some biologists warn about this method.

A WWF survey report paints a picture of a rich marine community under threat of toxicity from the Montara oil leak.  The expedition recorded 17 species of seabird, four species of cetacean and five marine reptiles including two species of marine turtle.  At least eleven of the species were listed migratory and two – hawksbill and flatback turtles – are listed as threatened with extinction under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.  Dr. Gilly Llewellyn, Director of WWF Australia said:

“Clearly, wildlife is dying and hundreds if not thousands of dolphins, seabirds and sea-snakes are being exposed to toxic oil. The critical issue is the long term impact of this slick on a rich marine ecosystem, taking into consideration the magnitude, extent and duration of the event.”

Read the news on (link no longer active).

Timor Sea Oil Spill, satellite image and closeup acquired October 28, 2009 - Credit: NASA

Timor Sea Oil Spill, satellite image and closeup acquired October 28, 2009 – Credit: NASA

Find related articles:

Bloomberg’s Australian Oil Industry Sees Blow to Reputation From Spill
Rachel Siewert’s Greens Respond to Montara Oil Spill Inquiry 

WWF Australia’s Expedition observes hundreds of marine creatures in oil slick
WDCS’s Timor Oil Spill Capped But The Damage Is Done

Copyright ©  2009 by Marine Science Today, a publication of OceanLines LLC

About the Author

About the Author: Celia is Director of Business Operations for OceanLines LLC and is a frequent contributor to both OceanLines and Marine Science Today. She is a certified diver and her favorite topic is marine biology, especially stories about whales. .


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