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Today: Wednesday, 23 Jul 2014

Barrow Island Nature Reserve and the Gorgon Project

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Barrow Island Nature Reserve, located off the Pilbara coast of Western Australia approximately 1,600 km north of Perth, is one of the most important conservation reserves in the State.

As Western Australia’s second largest island, Barrow Island is an important biological refuge due to its isolation from the mainland and low incidence of introduced species. It is home to 22 endemic (found nowhere else) species of mammal, reptile, bird and subterranean fauna. Species of high conservation value include the Barrow Island subspecies of the black-flanked rock-wallaby, boodie, spectacled hare-wallaby, euro, golden bandicoot, white-winged fairy wren and a variety of subterranean species including a blind subterranean fish, eel and snake. Barrow Island supports regionally and nationally significant rookeries for threatened green and flatback turtles and flora species that are geographically restricted, priority-listed and at the limits of their range. Barrow Island is also a significant site for migratory and resident shorebirds. Important ecosystems include an extensive karst system, intertidal mudflats, rock platforms, mangroves, rock piles, cliffs, clay pans and caves. Sites of significance for indigenous and non-indigenous cultural heritage and fossils are also present.

Surrounding Barrow Island are the Montebello and Barrow Island marine conservation reserves. The complex topography of Barrow Island and the surrounding seabed creates a diverse range of habitats including subtidal coral reefs, macroalgal and seagrass communities, subtidal sand and mudflat communities, rocky shores and intertidal reef platforms. These habitats support a rich diversity of invertebrates, finfish, seabirds, shorebirds and green, flatback and hawksbill turtle aggregations. Humpback whales migrate through the reserves and dugongs occur in the shallow warm waters.

The Gorgon Joint Venture was given approval to build and operate a liquefied natural gas plant and associated infrastructure on Barrow Island by the WA Government in September 2009. Stringent environmental conditions were applied to the project (see Environmental Protection Authority's website).

Chevron Australia, the operator of the Gorgon Project, has set up three expert panels to advise the Minister for Environment and the Gorgon Joint Venture on quarantine, marine turtles and dredging. More information on these panels, their membership, terms of reference and meeting summaries can be found on Chevron's website.

As part of the environmental approvals process, the Gorgon Joint Venture participants agreed to fund a series of conservation initiatives including:

  • North West Shelf Flatback Turtle Conservation Program
  • North West Shelf Flatback Turtle Intervention Program
  • Threatened and Priority Species Translocation and Reintroduction Program
  • Eradication of non-indigenous species
  • Dredging
  • Net Conservation Benefits
  • DEC Funding