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Serious questions over oil spill clean-up: Greens

The Australian Greens are backing commercial fishing operators in saying serious questions need answering about the West Atlas oil spill and the clean-up operation.

"The clean-up operation must minimise the environmental impacts of this spill. I am very concerned about information my office is receiving about the impacts of the oil and potential impacts of the clean up operation itself on marine life in the area. I'm concerned to hear that fishers are seeing marine life affected by the spill, " Greens Senator for WA Rachel Siewert said.

"Experts have advised my office of concern about the impact of the chemical dispersants and saying that they think it is unusual to use chemical dispersants of this nature to clean up a light crude oil spill such as this one, given the risks for local ecosystems and fisheries in using dispersants.

"I am told that dispersants, which cause hydrocarbons in the oil to form chemical-coated droplets throughout the water column, are usually only used for bunker fuel and heavy crude oil spills or when  an oil slick is about to cause extensive damage to the coast - a situation the authorities claim is not the case this time.

"We are also advised by marine eco-toxicologists that fish will be far more exposed to the oil droplets if dispersants are used and therefore are more likely to ingest hydro-carbons through their gills or mouths.

"The fishers who operate in the region of the spill therefore have every right to be demanding more information about the spill and the clean up.

"I believe there are also other serious questions that we need answers too, such as why is the Sydney Ports Corporation the main resource that AMSA (the Australian Maritime Safety Authority) has called upon for conducting the clean-up operations, when this spill has occurred on the other side of the country, off Australia's north-west coast?

"Surely this indicates that the multi-billion dollar oil and gas industry off our northern coastlines is not adequately prepared for catastrophes such as this and does not have adequate local emergency resources in place.

"This shows that despite Government and industry assurances over this spill, we desperately need far better controls over this industry, including having plans in processes to monitor and protect local fisheries and marine ecosystems, should disasters such as this occur."

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

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