Hundreds of people paddled into the ocean off Sydney, Australia, on Saturday to protest oil drilling. According to local media outlets, thousands of environmental activists across the continent participated in a mass protest.
plans to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight, a body of water off the southern coast of Australia. Over 50 "paddle outs" took place across Australia on Saturday as part of a National Day of Action against the company, Reuters reported.
"We're basically saying no way Equinor. Australian is not for oil drilling," seven-time world surfing champion Layne Beachley told Reuters. "We need to start looking for more renewable sources for energy."
Equinor said it plans to drill exploration wells 223 miles from land in water depths of 7,345 feet to look for oil and gas, according to Reuters. Earlier this month, the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA), Australia's offshore safety watchdog, asked the energy company to modify its drilling plan following national outrage.
A growing number of locals want the Bight protected through World Heritage Listing ahead of the looming oil exploration plan, Australian broadcast network SBS reported. More people would rather see the Bight as a marine park than an oil field, according to polls.
According to the Great Australian Bight Alliance, over 10,000 people participated in Saturday's protests.
"Our vision for the Great Australian Bight is for a protected marine environment, where marine life is safe and healthy," the alliance wrote on its website. "Our unspoiled waters must be valued and celebrated. We cannot accept the risk of a catastrophic oil spill in our waters and along our coastline. Oil spills are irreversible."
Oil spills in the rough waters of the Bight could threaten, untouched coastlines and fishing towns. Green groups have asked NOPSEMA to ban Equinor altogether, but so far, it has only requested the company change its plans.
"The opportunity to modify and resubmit does not represent a refusal or rejection of the environment plan," NOPSEMA said in a statement earlier this month.
Equinor said it is committed to meeting all regulatory requirements and plants to start drilling in late 2020 or early 2021. The company said the Bight is a "highly prospective asset," according to Reuters.