With a nation-wide review of marine reserves underway, conservationists are lobbying the Federal Government to extend an existing protection zone across the Bremer Canyon. An ecological hotspot, they say the potential for oil and gas prospecting places the area at risk.
For two months of the year, a remote area around 60 km off the WA coastline becomes a hive of oceanic activity.
Orcas, giant squid, multiple species of shark, whales and fish the size of small cars congregate in the one spot.
A hunting ground for the ocean’s super predators, the Bremer Canyon is a relatively new discovery and a significant one according to marine conservationists.
“It’s been identified nation-wide as one of the most important features of Australia’s marine environment…only in the last couple of years science has discovered it hosts a phenomenon that is very unusual,” says Michelle Grady from Save Our Marine Life.
It is suspected that a hydrocarbon pocket under the seabed causes the hotspot of marine activity.
“It attracts the titans of the ocean.
“Orcas, sperm whales, humpback whales, giant squid, they all come here to feed and, increasingly, this is a draw card for tourists.”
The organisation plans on presenting a petition to federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt to extend a nearby marine sanctuary across the area.
The neighbouring protected zone, the Bremer Commonwealth Marine Reserve sits to the west of the Canyon, which was previously excluded from the boundaries due to oil and gas prospecting. Arcadia Petroleum held tenements over the canyon, which it relinquished in 2014.
Ms Grady said this presents a rare opportunity for the Bremer Canyon to gain protected status.
“At the moment there are no oil interests there, so there’s a perfect window to see protection put in place by the Federal Government.”
“The biological values there definitely demand a sanctuary,” Ms Grady said.
“If we can get a sanctuary over that area, it means that there’ll never be in the future the risk that oil and gas will come to that area again.”
Rick Wilson, federal Member for O’Connor, says he is in favour of a protection zone.
“I have also approached Minister Hunt to look at either readjusting the boundaries or expanding the boundaries to include that particular hotspot where this amazing marine life has been found,” he said speaking to ABC Radio Great Southern Mornings.
“I have been in receipt of many, many petition emails from interested members of the community… including quite a few people from my home town of Katanning who holiday in Bremer Bay, so it really is a genuine, grass roots, community petition from people who are very concerned.”