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Four weeks after oil spill began, Govt response inadequate: Greens

The Australian Greens say that four weeks after oil began spilling into the Timor Sea, the Government’s response in regards to addressing potential marine impacts is insufficient.

“Today marks exactly four weeks since the Montara wellhead emergency began and yet we are still not seeing an adequate  response by Government to address all the potential impacts on marine life, including large marine mammals such as whales and turtles, fish and corals,” Greens Senator for Western Australia Rachel Siewert said.

“Instead, what we have seen from the Federal Government from day one is a reluctance to admit the extent of the spill and only a partial response to the wide range of potential environmental impacts that marine scientists are concerned about.

“The birds found to be sick or dying from the oil this week may be only the most visible part of the problem – the spread of hydrocarbons through the water, potentially been made worse by the widespread use of chemical dispersants, means that there may be long-term impacts on commercially-important fish stocks, the marine ecosystem and the diverse coral colonies around Ashmore Reef,” Senator Siewert continued.

“Scientists are extremely concerned about the imminent spawning of fish such as red emperor and an imminent coral spawning period, as fish larvae and eggs and coral spawn are likely to be especially vulnerable to oil and chemicals.

“I acknowledge that the area is remote but it has been four weeks now and the concerns held by fishers and scientists have been voiced from the beginning: by this time, a full investigation to address both short and long-term marine ecosystem impacts should have got off the ground,” Senator Siewert said.

“It is very disturbing that the lack of comprehensive monitoring by the Government means that an non-government organisation, WWF, has had to take the initiative to carry out a scientific survey next week.”

Yesterday (Thurs 17/09/2009), the Senate voted to support a Greens’ motion that any inquiry into the oil spill should cover all aspects of the incident, including environmental impacts, as well as the effectiveness of the clean-up response.

Note to editors: Senator Rachel Siewert is in Perth today and is available for comment.

For more information or media enquiries please call Eloise Dortch on 0415 507 763

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