Ocean Elders call on Bill Shorten and Scott Morrison to protect Great Australian Bight from oil

SYDNEY, May 10, 2019 - A group of Ocean Elders including Richard Branson, Jane Goodall and Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan, as well as three Australian Nobel Laureates have today written to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten urging them to protect the Great Australian Bight from oil drilling.

The ‘Ocean Elders’ call on the Prime Minister and the leader of the Opposition to put in place a permanent ban on oil exploration in the Great Australian Bight.

The letter is also signed by Nobel Laureates Peter Dougherty, Robin Warren, and J.M. Coetzee.

“Eighty-five per cent of the marine life in the Great Australian Bight cannot be found anywhere else on earth so it’s essential we protect it,” said Gerry Lopez, Ocean Elder.

“The Bight is a unique treasure, one of the natural wonders of the world and it must be saved for generations to come. Allowing drilling for oil there is completely reckless.”

“Having this group of Ocean Elders and Nobel Laureates stand up to say that drilling for oil in the Bight would be disastrous and should not happen is a very significant moment,” said David Ritter, CEO Greenpeace Australia Pacific.

“The idea of drilling for oil somewhere as precious as the Bight just beggars belief. The Great Australian Bight is a national and global treasure we can’t afford to risk.”

“And Climate Change is already an emergency-we cannot afford to open up new oil fields that would push us closer to global catastrophe,” he said.

The Great Australian Bight has more unique biodiversity than the Great Barrier Reef. Australian offshore oil and gas regulator NOPSEMA is currently considering whether to allow Norwegian oil company Equinor to proceed with deep-sea drilling in the Bight.

For comment and context contact:

James Norman, Greenpeace Australia Pacific Communications Campaigner

0451291775 / [email protected]


High res images of the Great Australian Bight available for usage here

For more information on the Ocean Elders please visit www.oceanelders.org


An Open Letter from the Ocean Elders

The Bight is an extraordinary marine environment: Will you protect it from dangerous oil drilling?

Dear Prime Minister and Mr Shorten,

We, the undersigned are deeply concerned about the imminent plans to open up the Great Australian Bight for oil exploration. Drilling for oil in the Bight would be deeply reckless and not in Australia’s national interest.

If we are to meet the Paris Climate Accord to limit global warming to less than 1.5 degrees, it is essential that we do not open up new fossil fuel reserves, let alone in extremely dangerous and high conservation value environments such as the Bight.

The Bight is an extraordinary marine environment that is home to a globally significant whale sanctuary and more unique biodiversity than even the Great Barrier Reef. It features a network of marine protected areas offering varying degrees of marine protection but that unfortunately offer no barrier against an oil spill. This is a place of globally significant coastal features including the world’s longest stretch of sandstone cliffs, a temperate reef system known as the Great Southern Reef, giant kelp forests, RAMSAR wetlands, and Tasmania’s world heritage-listed west coast.

Experts have said the consequences of any oil spill in the Bight could be catastrophic and permanent. The Bight’s marine ecosystems and the thriving local communities who rely on healthy oceans for their livelihoods could be devastated by a spill.  Indigenous sea country would be spoiled and local tourism, aquaculture and fishing industries would face disaster.

Due to the depth and roughness of the seas in the Bight, and the absence of knowledge about pressure and temperature beneath the sea-bed, the likelihood of an accident is higher than in existing oil basins.  There is no analogue in Australia or the world for the experimental nature of drilling in the Bight. The lack of equipment and vessels for spill response would mean it could take months to stop the flow of oil in the event of an accident. Industry’s own modelling shows that a spill could stretch from Western Australia to the north coast of New South Wales.

We believe that it is clearly in Australia’s national interest for there to be a permanent ban on oil exploration in the Great Australian Bight and urge you to take the necessary action to achieve this outcome as soon as possible.



Gerry Lopez

Sir Richard Branson

Frederik Paulsen

Jackson Browne

HM Queen Noor

Jane Goodall

David Shaw

Ted Turner

Sven Lindblad

Jean-Michel Cousteau

Bob Weir

Sylvia Earle

Graeme Kelleher


Peter Dougherty

J.M. Coetzee

Robin Warren