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Adjournment - Ocean Monarch Oil Rig, Threat to Marine Environment
Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Madam Speaker, I rise tonight to speak about a
matter of concern in relation to Diamond Offshore's Ocean Monarch oil rig
that has been drilling for gas in Bass Strait and is now anchored in the
Derwent River near the entrance to Ralphs Bay. Ralphs Bay is the only
known spotted hand fish habitat in Tasmania. It is a very sensitive area,
very shallow and very precious.
Previously this oil rig had been moored in Fremantle. Those waters are
occupied by the invasive Didemnum perlucidum, otherwise known as the white
colonial sea squirt. As its name indicates the sea squirt colonises
pervasively and smothers ecosystems. It is known to reproduce very
rapidly on bare metal, such as you would find on oil rigs. The Western
Australian Department of Fisheries notes that the white colonial sea
squirt is widely established in many ports, marinas and other locations in
Western Australia and mentions its establishment serves as a cautionary
tale of what can happen if a pest is not detected or recognised or
attempts not made to eradicate it at an early stage.
The department highlights the importance of prevention and early detection,
which increases the opportunity of it not becoming established in the
first place. It provides advice on good vessel management to prevent the
spread of marine pests requires, and says to check pests on vessels before
travelling. The white sea squirt, which has colonised other places around
the planet, has had a terrible impact on local marine systems. It
overgrows sponges, corals, biozones, hydroids and molluscs. It has been
found in some areas, such as southern Brazil, to overgrow mussels and is
potentially damaging to the bivalve industry. In Western Australia it is
overgrowing blades of the sea grass in the Swan River estuary and
decreasing the plant's rate of growth and photosynthesis. It has
decreased habitat for native species.
This species is a curse, it is a potentially invasive species. We need to
do everything in Tasmania to keep it out. I wrote on the 23 November, on
behalf of the Greens and people who have contacted my office, to the EPA
Director about our concerns. He has confirmed in writing that no visual
inspection has been done on the oil rig to test for the existence of the
white sea squirt. That oil rig has come from Western Australia. First of
all, it originated in Singapore. Some cleaning was done in Singapore.
That was done in April last year. After that it travelled to Western
Australia and it inhabited the waters which we know are plentiful,
unfortunately, for the white sea squirt. Following that, it went to the
Bass Strait and it has now come to Tasmania into our Derwent River.
However, there has been no inspection of that oil rig since it has been in
Australian waters. The last inspection took place in Singapore.
The response of the EPA was to issue an environmental protection notice.
That has been provided to the company, Ocean Monarch, an American company.
They are required, prior to anchorage, to develop an environmental
management plan to submit to the Director's approval and it includes
schedule 2, 2.9 -
Identification of any marine pest that may be brought into the area where
the rig will be anchored.
And 2.10 -
Measures will be implemented to prevent any marine pest being brought into
the area where the rig will be anchored and released from the rig into the
I note that the environmental management plan has yet to be released. It
is still sitting with the EPA. My question to the minister is: can the
minister confirm that a visual inspection was done for this highly
invasive white sea squirt before the oil rig anchored in the Derwent River?
Ms Archer - Did he answer that question?
Dr WOODRUFF - No, he did not answer that question. He has answered it by
issuing a management plan but the management plan details have not been
released. We do not know, importantly, whether any visual inspection has
to be done of the oil rig and whether it will be done by the company or
whether it will be done by an independent body.
We have is an oil rig which has been anchored for some time in waters
known to have the white sea squirt inhabiting them. It has now come to
Tasmania without any visual inspection in between. It is sitting in the
Derwent River. It represents a potentially significant threat to our
native species. We need to have some immediate response from the minister
to indicate that the visual inspection for that sea squirt was undertaken
before it put anchor into the Derwent River.