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JPP whale study shows WA EPA greatly underestimated development impact

Media Release
Rachel Siewert 14 Mar 2013

A new report on whale numbers at James Price Point shows that Woodside has grossly underestimated the number of whales using the area, and that the science that informed the impact assessment is flawed.

“The potential impact of a gas hub at James Price Point on the vulnerable humpback whales that use the area has not been adequately assessed and is far higher than the company wants people to believe,” Senator Rachel Siewert, Australian Greens spokesperson for the Kimberley said today.

“The report, produced by the Kimberley Community Whale Research Project, shows significantly higher numbers of humpback whales using this area than was considered by the EPA during the assessment process.

“This reinforces the inadequacy of the environmental assessment already undertaken by the EPA and the WA Government,” said Senator Siewert.

The Kimberley Community Whale Research Project was initiated in collaboration with the Traditional Owners, the Goolarabooloo people, and the Broome Community’s No Gas Campaign to ensure a more comprehensive study of the humpback whales using the area near the gas hub site.

“Our study indicates that the science that has so far informed the environmental impact assessment is inadequate and grossly underestimates the importance of the James Price Point area to calving humpback whales,” researcher Charlotte Buckton said today.

“This inadequate science was then used by the WA EPA in their assessment of the proposed development, and has been used by proponents of the hub to justify its location at James Price Point. This is deeply concerning because even the minimum number of 2669 whales counted in our study greatly exceeds the 1000 whales that the science used by the EPA estimated would pass within 8 km of the proposed development.

“Our results also show that many humpback whale calves use the James Price Point area for their vital first interactions. The waters of the area represent a resting and nursing area for the population,” Ms Buckton said.

Senator Siewert says the onus is now on Environment Minister Tony Burke to protect the Kimberley and the humpback whales using the area.

“The Federal Government needs to thoroughly assess this project,” Senator Siewert said.

“The WA Government has totally failed to properly assess this project and have not met their environmental responsibilities. It is essential that the Minister now steps up and does the right thing for the Kimberley,” Senator Siewert concluded.



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