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Studies in WA-279-P for Blacktip devt find diverse and abundant marine life fauna, Drillsearch report shows

Posted by gasweek on 21 September, 2007

There was limited information available concerning the benthic communities in the permit area; however, a previous study by Bowman Bishaw Gorham (unpublished data for Blacktip Project) encountered sandy substrates containing shell and crustacean fragments, and pebbles of terrestrial origin, according to the Drillsearch Energy Limited, Drilling of Marina-1 Exploration Well EPBC Referral Submission (24/7/2007). Diverse infauna found: Studies conducted in WA-279-P for Blacktip development (approximately 55km southeast) found a diverse and abundant infauna with Anthropoda (crustacean) and Annelida (polychaete worms) contributing over 80 per cent of the total numbers of individuals. Other abundant infauna found during the studies were the Cninadria (hydroids, soft coral), Mollusca (mainly bivalves) and Echinodermata (brittle starts, sea urchins) (Woodside, 2004).

Crustacean: The penaeid species, namely Banana prawn (P. merguiensis), Tiger prawn (P. esculentus) and redlegged banana prawn (P. indicus), dominated the Joseph Bonaparte Gulf. These species can be found to a depth of 200 metres in the tropical and subtropical waters from New South Wales to Western Australia (Woodside, 2004). Because some of the species of prawn were commercially harvested, there was more information about their distribution and abundance in Joseph Bonaparte Gulf compared to any other crustacean species.

Fish: Tropical ecosystems exhibited high species diversity with over 500 fish species recorded as common from trawling conducted at depths between 30-150 metres (Ramm, 1994); however ,there was limited information available on the fish fauna on Joseph Bonaparte Gulf. A search of Western Australia Museums faunabase found over 100 species of fish which may inhabit the Gulf region. Most of them, however, live near the coastal area of the gulf, further south to the proposed drilling location. One species of shark, the Whale Shark (Rhincodon typus), was listed under the EPBC Act with a vulnerable threatened status which potentially had habitat occurring in the region. However, the proposed drilling area was not recognised as a seasonal aggregation site, where pulses of food, which attract the species, have been observed (Pogonoski et al., 2002). An additional 24 species of fish (including pipefish and seahorse species) were listed under the EPBC Act.

Reptiles: The seas of tropical Australia supported significant and diversified sea snake fauna, with a strong endemic component. Of the 55 species of sea snake recorded worldwide, 32 species were recorded from tropical Australia and nearly 50 per cent of these were endemic (Cogger, 2000). There were fourteen protected species of sea snake listed under the EPBC that may inhabit the survey area (DEWR, 2007a).

Avifauna: Two species of migratory birds, the Streaked Shearwater (Calonectris leucomelas and Puffinus leucomelas), were listed as having potential habit within 30 kilometres of the proposed Marina-1 well (see section 4.1(e)).

Threatened species: There were 9 threatened species and 15 migratory species listed on the EPBC Protected Matters database (refer to section 4.1d and 4.1e for details). The NIMPIS (National Introduced Marine Pest Information System) records more than 40 exotic species that were introduced to Western Australian waters. However, only 5 species were known to inhabit waters deeper than 50 metres in the vicinity of the Joseph Bonaparte Gulf. These included Knotted thread hydroid (Antennella secundaria), Star ascidian (Botryllus schlosseri), Bryozoan (Bugula neritina), Aquarium caulerpa (Caulerpa taxifolia) and Hydroid (Plumularia setacea).

Reference: Drillsearch Energy Limited, Drilling of Marina-1 Exploration Well EPBC Referral Submission. AGR Asia Pacific Controlled Document No. 4489-DR-02-RP-001. Contact: Philip Kelso, Managing Director Drillsearch Energy Ltd. Level 8, 16 Spring Street, Sydney, NSW 2000. Phone: 02 9241 4440. Email: philip@drillsearch.com.au

Erisk Net, 24/7/2007

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