ADELAIDE, Australia, October 27 /PRNewswire/ -- Ten weeks into the uncontrolled and continuing oil and gas spill from the Montara wellhead, with anywhere from 10 to 20 million litres of oil spilled into the ocean, conservationists have stopped pulling punches.

In August, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS) called for urgent, independent and transparent monitoring. The Government and Industry West Atlas Monitoring Programme publicly released (15 October 2009) six weeks after the spill started belatedly initiates the gathering of basic biological data about the species and ecosystems surrounding the rig while suggesting that the effects of oil spill on whales and dolphins 'remains unlikely'.

WDCS questions why this monitoring was not in place before the operations began and how such assumptions about impact are being made.

Marine animals can ingest oil-derived toxic compounds either directly from the water or with their food. Poisonous vapors can also be inhaled by whales and dolphins and especially when the volatile components evaporate into the air from freshly spilled oil said Dr Mike Bossley, WDCS Australasian Managing Director. There will also be chronic longer-term effects of oil entering food-chain potentially affecting both them and their prey. Much of this will happen far from sight and if whales or dolphins are killed or otherwise affected - days, months and years into the future - we are unlikely to be witness to this.

The Monitoring Programme provides no information that reports will be released publicly, no indication that Indonesian biodiversity will be considered, nor any comment about what will be done once the programme belatedly establishes that there is an impact.

It is shocking that ecosystem and wildlife monitoring around the rig wasn't in place to start with said Dr Bossley. If the Australian Government is serious about mitigating the threats of oil spills they should immediately freeze all new oil and gas exploration applications; develop much stronger conditions and controls over all oil and gas rig and shipping activities; and identify and fully protect all cetacean critical habitats in a network of marine sanctuaries before any oil and gas acreage is released again. The fox minding the henhouse is not good enough.

For media comment contact:

Mike Bossley (WDCS Australia) +61(0)417824235

Niki Entrup (WDCS Europe) +49-171-1423-117

SOURCE: Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society

CONTACT: For media comment contact:, Mike Bossley(WDCS Australia) +61(0)417824235, Niki Entrup (WDCS Europe)+49-171-1423-117