19/02/2015 - 11:43

BHP’s Ningaloo reef research plan

19/02/2015 - 11:43

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BHP Billiton and CSIRO have announced they will spend $5 million over five years in a partnership to increase the scientific community’s understanding of the Ningaloo Reef.

BHP’s Ningaloo reef research plan
CSIRO executive director environment Andrew Johnson (left) with BHP Billiton petroleum general manager Australia Doug Handyside and Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane (right).

BHP Billiton and CSIRO have announced they will spend $5 million over five years in a partnership to increase the scientific community’s understanding of the Ningaloo Reef.

It is expected the research that comes out of the partnership will provide new baseline data for the oil and gas as well as tourism and fishing industries.

BHP, along with major producers Apache Corporation, Shell, and Inpex either drill or have applications for oil and gas activity north of the World Heritage protected Ningaloo Reef, which is the only extensive coral reef on the west coast of a continent.

Two consortia, including producers Shell, Inpex, and Chevron, have previously pledged $27 million for marine studies off the state’s Kimberley and Pilbara coasts as part of federal mandates for oil and gas project developments.

BHP Billiton petroleum general manager Australia Doug Handyside said BHP and CSIRO’s Ningaloo Outlook partnership was voluntary.

He said the research would provide better understanding of the reef and help target conservation efforts.

Mr Handyside said the investment would support turtle and reef shark monitoring using new tagging technology, as well as PhD marine research and utilise underwater robots.

“The new information will build on our experience of how best to manage or activities to ensure we know how best to protect our environment,” he said.

“To the best of our knowledge the research we are going to embark on in the deeper portions of the reef have never been done before.”

CSIRO executive director environment Andrew Johnson said the partnership would look to engage with businesses and residents in Exmouth.

“Part of the next phase of the project is indeed engagement with the local community so we’d really welcome any opportunities to build bridges with the tourism sector, the fishery sector, that’s one of the key parts of this project it’s collaborative across a range of industries,” Dr Johnson said.

Industry and Science Minister Ian Macfarlane said the federal government applauded the collaboration.

“We should ensure that a beautiful piece of the environment, a fringe reef that is acknowledged not only all around Australia, but all around the world as one of significant environmental importance is not jeopardised by resource development but at the same time doesn’t exclude the opportunity for us to develop the resources which we as a country and as a world continue to demand,” he said.

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