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Nine threatened species may occur in MEO NT/P68 Timor Sea drill, off NT coast

Posted by gmarkets on 25 September, 2007

Nine threatened species and a number of migratory species, listed marine species and cetaceans may potentially occur in the region, but no threatened communities were known or likely to occur, according to a statement by the permit holders of NT/P68, TSP Arafura Petroleum Pty Ltd and Oz-Exoil Pty Ltd (6/8/2007).
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Marine mammals: “Whales are not expected to be common inhabitants of the permit area, although a number of species have broad distributions which include the permit area. No large whales have been reported by fishing operators in the region (MEO & CEE Consultants, 2002) and their presence is considered unlikely. Dolphins have been reported as quite abundant in some offshore areas of the Timor Sea and are regularly seen by commercial fishers, with groups of up to 200 reported near Evans Shoal (MEO & CEE Consultants, 2002). The oceanic species and populations of dolphins that may occur in the survey area are considered to be nomadic feeders, in contrast to coastal populations that tend to have defined territories (MEO & CEE Consultants, 2002). None of these species are listed as threatened. Dugongs are a listed migratory species and mostly inhabit the shallow (0-5m) waters fringing the coast and offshore islands, occurring in close conjunction with the seagrass and algae beds on which they feed. Dugongs have also been reported undertaking relatively prolonged ocean passages from the northern Australian coastline towards Ashmore Reef along the Londonderry rise (Whiting, 1999). However, as there is little or no feeding habitat in the permit area and it is remote from probable or known dugong travel paths, the possibility of their occurrence in the permit area is very low.”

Reptiles: Six species of turtle listed in Table 2 of the report could potentially occur in the permit area. “There are no turtle nesting sites or other critical habitat (e.g. breeding or feeding sites) within at least 150km of the drilling locations. Although individuals of all six species of species of turtle may pass through the permit area, they are not likely to be resident or common in the area. The Salt-water Crocodile occurs in the broader region. Its primary habitat is coastal areas and in rivers, although it can travel long distances by sea and occasionally be found some distance from their usual range (Britton, 2001). The likelihood that Salt-water Crocodiles will pass within or near the drilling locations is very small. All species of sea snake that may occur in the region of the project are listed marine species but are not listed as threatened. Although some species inhabit shallow waters associated with reef systems, many other species have been trawled in deeper waters or are known to forage widely (e.g. pelagic feeders that drift with warm tides) and may occur in the survey area (MEO & CEE Consultants, 2002).

Fish: “Whale Sharks (vulnerable) are oceanic and cosmopolitan in their distribution, and are known to aggregate in the reef front waters adjacent to Ningaloo Reef during autumn. As plankton feeders they are often observed in surface waters. Whale Sharks are extremely uncommon in the region of NT/P68 (MEO & CEE Consultants, 2002). Some of the 30 listed species of the Order Syngnathiformes (pipefish, sea dragons, seahorses and ghost pipefish) that may occur in the region are coastal dwellers or restricted to shallow sandy environments or seagrass beds and are not expected to occur in the permit area.

Birds: “The Streaked Shearwater (a migratory and listed marine species in Table 2) and other seabirds may use the permit area for feeding or resting or cross it on migratory routes. The permit area is not in close proximity to any critical nesting or feeding sites (the closest landfall is 155km) and such species are not expected to be impacted.

Marine areas: “The NT/P68 permit area lies in the Timor Sea, approximately 100km northwest from Melville Island, off the coast of the Northern Territory. The region has a tropical monsoonal climate, and water temperatures are warm (27° to 30° C). Water depths in the permit area generally range from 25m in the south of the permit area to over 100m in the north, although a deeper channel transects the northwester corner of the permit where seawater depths exceed 200m. There are no significant seabed features in the vicinity such as active shelves – edge reef systems (as a classified group) or shoals within the permit area or the proposed well locations. The Margaret Harries Banks are centrally located within the permit area, but some 30 kilometres south of the closest drilling area. The Calder and Cootamundra Shoals lie to the south of the permit and Evans Shoal, Tassie Shoal lie to the east of the permit,” the report added.
Contact: Christopher Hart, Managing Director, Permit Holders of NT/P68, TSP Arafura Petroleum Pty Ltd and Oz-Exoil Pty Ltd. Level 17, 500 Collins Street, Melbourne 3000. Ph: 0396140430. Email: chris.hart@meoaustralia.com.au.

Erisk Net, 6/8/2007

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