Tuna industry welcomes Equinor’s decision to withdraw from drilling in the Bight

25 February 2020

ASBTIA Media Release


Equinor’s decision to withdraw provides much greater certainty for the future of other major major users of the Bight – and greater investment will follow.

The debate about oil and gas in the Bight was always about the economic risks and consequences for both the Bight regional communities and for Equinor.

There is no point in appealing to Norwegian companies about the environmental risks and consequences. The Norwegian Government, the effective owner of Equinor, does not care about shifting the environmental risks to Australia, or to other countries.

That is why the Australian tuna industry continued to try to convince Equinor and the Norwegian Government that drilling in the Bight did not make economic sense for them.

The economic risk was why BP and Chevron walked away from drilling in the Bight in the last five years – and now Equinor has done the same.

We might welcome the Equinor decision – but our regret is that Equinor has wasted a lot of the valuable time and investment required to persuade Equinor to realise that drilling in the Bight makes no economic sense compared with their alternatives elsewhere in the world.

Some communities and governments were entitled to believe the Equinor claim that the Bight could be the next great oil province of the world. Their hopes were built up – when Equinor’s points were always going to be wrong.

We have no objection to the government subsidies to oil exploration. However, somehow government has to find a way to direct taxpayer’s money to more logical and realistic projects.


Brian Jeffriess

CEO – Australian Southern Bluefin Tuna Industry Association

PO Box 1146. Port Lincoln SA 5606

E. austuna@bigpond.com

Unveiling of the Tuna Poler Statue


Port Lincoln’s newest statue of a tuna poler was unveiled on the 28th of July 2019.


Tuna polers described their work as an exhilarating and dangerous game unfolding in the rough open waters of the Great Australian Bight. This primitive fishing method paved the way for unprecedented innovations and the industry’s transition to aquaculture. The “Tuna Poler” sculpture commemorates all those in the Southern Bluefin Tuna (Thunnus maccoyii) industry that laid the foundations necessary for today’s success. This scene highlights the rugged lifestyle and hard work of the fishing crew and polers.


Artist Ken Martin said “the tuna poler began with the idea of celebrating and making a dedication to the pioneers of the fishing industry here in Port Lincoln, and commemorating all those people who were involved on sea and onshore.”


Hundreds of people attended Tuna Poler statue unveiling, clearly demonstrating the significant role of the tuna industry to Port Lincoln, the Eyre Peninsula and the State

“Port Lincoln economy rides on the back of the tuna fishery”

ASBTIA congratulates industry scientist on receiving South Australian Seafood Environmental award

Kirsten Rough, researcher with Australian Southern Bluefin Tuna Industry Association (ASBTIA), has been awarded the SA Environmental Award for her commitment to evidence-based assessment of the risks and consequences of petroleum exploration and development in the Great Australian Bight (GAB).

The work Kirsten undertakes as part of her role with ASBTIA addresses a high priority for not only Southern Bluefin Tuna (SBT) industry, but also the wider seafood sector and has produced outcomes that have contributed to protecting the aquatic environment.

The Great Australian Bight is critical to the global population of SBT. All tuna are known to migrate thousands of kilometres to the area every year for at least the first five years of their life. Older individuals are also known to frequent the area to forage along the slope and throughout the Southern Ocean basin as well as transit the region on their way to the breeding grounds in the Indian Ocean.

An oil spill in the GAB is possibly the single most significant threat to the species. Other threats such as the unregulated fishing that occurred through the 1960’s and 1970’s were addressed by the introduction of catch limits in the 1980’s and further restrictions since then. These international quotas are applied on a global scale to all of the countries that fish for this type of Bluefin Tuna.

An oil spill and the chemicals used to disperse any discharge would inevitably have significant effects on the Southern Bluefin Tuna and consequently the many countries that share the resource. Port Lincoln and the South Australian economy stand to be particularly impacted as the local ranching operations and the large infrastructure and employment base that have developed rely on the wild stocks of Bluefin in the Bight. An oil spill in the Bight would undermine the international effort to rebuild the SBT population. Damage caused by oil exposure and seismic surveys is not confined to Bluefin tuna, research has shown impacts to a range of key species that are important in the wider ecosystem of the Great Australian Bight.

Kirsten says “It was a surprise, and a great feeling to have such wide recognition, and appreciation. But really I wouldn’t be doing my job if I wasn’t checking the finer details of every application that had the potential to impact on SBT through its migration and residency period in the Bight”

Kirsten’s nomination was supported by a broad range of GAB user groups including the other fishing sectors, as well as tourism and conservation groups.