Sydney, Australia – Never-before-seen images from Australia’s Great Southern Reef reveal the range of species that would be at risk if oil drilling were permitted in the Australian Bight – an area with more unique biodiversity than the Great Barrier Reef.

The images have been gathered as part of a research trip conducted from iconic Greenpeace ship, the Rainbow Warrior.

Greenpeace Australia Pacific partnered with scientists to conduct Reef Life surveys of the waters around Kangaroo Island and outer Spencer Gulf – exploring completely unsurveyed and undocumented sites.

The footage includes images of species which are found nowhere else on earth like South Australia’s iconic leafy sea dragon, bright corals, elusive harlequin and blue devil fish, and a number of species currently not described by science.

“The Great Southern Reef is one of the most biodiverse areas in the country, if not the world,” said Nathaniel Pelle, Senior Campaigner at Greenpeace Australia Pacific.

“Not only is it a place where endangered southern right whales birth their young, and home to other species like dolphins, sea lions, and fur seals, but every time we scratch below the surface, we discover a region teeming with new undocumented life.

“Oil companies can only propose to drill here because it is so unrecognised around Australia and the world, but that will change. Climate scientists and the UN are warning that we’ve reached crunch time to protect our climate. Even discounting the dangers posed by drilling we cannot afford to burn this oil if we are to avoid climate catastrophe. That’s why Greenpeace and the movement of millions calling for climate action will not stop until oil drilling in places like the Great Australian Bight are protected.”

Just last week the Brazilian Environment Agency said it will not grant French oil company Total permission to drill for oil near the mouth of the Amazon Reef. And in Canada, Indigenous Nations are winning in the courts to set back oil pipeline expansion.

“These are some of the most beautiful, pristine, and unexplored regions in Australia and the world. There are more unique species in the Bight and Great Southern Reef than on the Great Barrier Reef, but it gets only a fraction of the attention and praise of its Queensland cousin.

“But just 90 kilometers (56 miles) from these dive sites oil companies are staking out huge swathes of ocean for exploration and extraction.  With Equinor planning to drill in the middle of a marine reserve, and right next to a crucial whale sanctuary and nursing ground.

“Oil companies must not be allowed to gamble with it. The Australian government must intervene and move to enshrine protection for this region once and for all.”

Drilling in the Great Australian Bight would combine extreme well depth with rough ocean conditions in an unprecedented way that experts warn would be “experimental”. Leaked documents from oil company Equinor, obtained and released by Greenpeace Australia Pacific in November, revealed that an oil spill could reach even farther north than Sydney and coating thousands of kilometres of Australian coastline. Furthermore, Australia’s own regulator NOPSEMA released BP’s Well Operations Management Plan (WOMP), showing that a spill could be double the size of the Deepwater Horizon disaster and that safety equipment would be unusable more than a third of the year.


Photo and video can be accessed here


Greenpeace International Press Desk, [email protected], phone: +31 (0) 20 718 2470 (available 24 hours)

Greenpeace Australia Pacific Senior Media Campaigner, Simon Black: +61 0418 219 086 [email protected]