Indicator: CO-26 Extent of potential habitat disturbance by well rigs sites, pipelines etc

Data

The National Marine Atlas shows overlays of petroleum infrastructure and offshore oil and gas wells and pipelines with migration paths, breeding, resting and other significant areas of whales. The following table shows area of oil and gas fields that lie within the significant habitat of Humpback, Blue and southern Right whales, and the number of oil wells that lie within these areas.

Whale areas overlap with oil and gas fields
Area of oil and gas fields within whale area Number of oil wells in whale area
Humpback whales 4272 126
Blue whales 11112 50
Southern right whales 0 3
Total 15384 179

Source: DEH unpublished, Marine Atlas Areas

The National Marine Atlas map shows this overlap in spatial terms.

Source: National Oceans Office 2006, National Marine Atlas, viewed 29 May 2006, http://www.oceans.gov.au/Non-fish%20Atlas.jsp, Map 61

Overlays of the same oil and gas data with seagrass, dugong density and dugong protected area are also shown on the National Marine Atlas.

Source: National Oceans Office 2006, National Marine Atlas, viewed 29 May 2006, http://www.oceans.gov.au/Non-fish Atlas.jsp, Map 64

Overlays of oil and gas wells and infrastructure with areas that are home to varying numbers of threatened species, scaling from less than 14 different species per region to more than 50 are shown on Maps 67 and 68. Particular species are not identified in these maps.

Source: National Oceans Office 2006, National Marine Atlas, viewed 29 May 2006, http://www.oceans.gov.au/Non-fish Atlas.jsp, Map 67

Source: National Oceans Office 2006, National Marine Atlas, viewed 29 May 2006, http://www.oceans.gov.au/Non-fish Atlas.jsp, Map 68

What the data mean

Most of Australia’s oil and gas wells lie in either the migration paths of whales, especially in the north and central west and Bass Strait. Areas of aggregated significance to whales, in the vicinities of Melbourne, Portland and Perth- Fremantle, are shared with oil and gas wells. Most of Australia’s oil and gas wells occur in areas of high numbers of threatened species, especially in the north and central west, eastern South Australia and Bass Strait.

Seagrass and high density dugong areas seem to be generally well away from oil and gas wells, although not from potential petroleum areas.

Data Limitations

The data show only the overlap in area used for human exploration and extraction of non-living materials with area used as habitat by threatened marine species. They do not show trend data, in terms of either estimated population or area occupied for any species since establishment of the human infrastructure. While there are data to suggest a decline in the overall area where the three types of whales are found (see: Number of marine species that are endangered or threatened and changes in population/distribution of selected threatened species), it has not been possible to establish whether it is in the area where whale habitat and oil and gas fields overlap that whale activity has declined.

Issues for which this is an indicator and why

Coasts and Oceans — Direct pressure of human activities on coasts and oceans - Direct pressures of harvesting non-living materials 

Number of rigs and length of pipeline occurring in known habitat of selected threatened species (eg whales, dugongs, turtles) will give an indication of some of the species that are potentially under pressure from these activities.

Other indicators for this issue:

Biodiversity — Pressures on biodiversity - Pressures on marine biodiversity: pressures of energy and mineral exploration and extraction 

Habitat disturbance from oil and gas exploration and extraction activities can place pressure on biodiversity. Number of rigs and length of pipeline occurring in known habitat of selected threatened species (eg whales, dugongs, turtles) will give an indication of some of the species that are potentially under pressure from these activities.

Other indicators for this issue: