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Rally for oil grants and marine sancturies produces the facts.

Against the backdrop of the worsening Louisiana Oil spill and a sustained community backlash, Australian Resources Minister Martin Ferguson has approved the new Margaret River Oil lease, putting at risk unique marine life in WA's southwest.

In the month since the Conservation Council uncovered plans for the new oil lease just 83kms from Margaret River in an area under consideration for marine sanctuaries; over 250 people have rallied in Margaret River, 1850 people have written letters to Minister Ferguson, the local ALP candidate has written an open letter opposing the development and Greens Senator Rachel Siewert has opposed the move through a disallowance motion in Federal Parliament.

The rapid evolution of cleaner technology in surfing products mean that surfers have the opportunity to reduce their fossil fuel reliance in the near future. Another disaster in an iconic surfing region like Margaret River is a threat to surfers and surfing in the long term.

The same powerful swells that make this region famed worldwide for its surf would make any oil spill clean-up operation near impossible, even if there were adequate infrastructure and man-power in the region.

The Australian government has approved 78 new oil projects in federal waters in the last 18 months but no new marine parks. Less than 1% of WA's southwest region is protected.

Drew McKenzie from Surfrider Foundation, Margaret River said, "This new oil lease in an area of proposed marine parks has woken up the Southwest community. We realize that we can no longer take a healthy ocean for granted. It is clear we need marine sanctuaries to protect our marine environment and clean beach and surf lifestyle."

"We want marine parks, and also our politicians to more thoroughly explore alternative energy sources."

Conservation Council Marine Coordinator Tim Nicol said, "Within days of the Lousiana Oil Spill President Obama had cancelled all new offshore drilling, but now after our own Montara oil spill we see new oil leases in proposed marine sanctuaries."

"Up to 90% of the marine life in the southwest is unique, and half the worlds whale and dolphin species use the region; this new oil lease in an area that has been identified for its high conservation value puts our unique marine life at risk."

"For example, if the Montara oil spill had happened in the southwest, we could have seen oil on the beaches from Perth to Margaret River."

"However, there is still hope to stop the oil industry from establishing in high conservation areas in the southwest. Currently this new lease is effectively an invitation from the Government to the oil industry. If an oil company decides to take it up, there is another approval process required."

"The Conservation Council is calling on the Government to protect our unique southwest marine life in a network of marine sanctuaries before any new oil industry is considered."

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Last updated 12/09/2009