Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara (ANTARA News) - Timor Sea observer Ferdi Tanoni said the destruction of coral reefs in Sawu waters in East Nusa Tenggara was caused by the 2009 explosion of an oil well in the Montara oil field.

He said here on Friday he disagreed with the view of the ministry of fisheries and marine resources that 90 percent of the coral reef damage was caused by blast fishing.

"I am convinced the damage to coral reefs in Sawu waters was caused by the explosion of the Montara oil well in the West Atlas Block in the Timor Sea on August 21, 2009 and not by blast fishing," he said commenting on the results of a fisheries ministry`s observation.

The chief of the Care West Timor Foundation (YPTB) based in Kupang said it was impossible for blast fishing to cause such damage because traditional fishermen never used explosives to fish in deep seas.

The Sawu waters which have been declared by the ministry of fisheries and marine resources as a national conservation area are the migration lane of various kinds of whales from the north to the south of Australia.

The Sawu waters are also the main crossing lane for passenger and cargo ships from and to Kupang through Tenau port, he said.

Tanoni who is also a former immigration agent of the Australian embassy said he believed the damage suffered by coral reefs in Sawu waters was the result of the Montara disaster that spilled hundreds of thousands of barrels of crude oil into Indonesian waters in the Timor Sea.

The crude oil spill was also accompanied by black tin and other hazardous materials which had later been submerged to the bottom of the sea by hazardous dispersant by the Australian Maritime Security Authority (AMSA).

He said the dangerous dispersant powder used by AMSA had also been used to overcome the oil spill in Mexico Bay some time ago but had later been stopped because of its potential danger to human health as well as coral reefs and other sea biota.

"Referring to the Mexico Bay case I am convinced the damage on the coral reefs in Sawu waters was the result of hazardous materials coming from the Montara oil well explosion and the dispersant used by AMSA," he said.

Based on that he said the YPTB and its alliances would file a lawsuit against PTTEP Australasia, the company that has polluted the Timor Sea to ask for its social, economic and health accountability for coastal residents in East Nusa Tenggara.

He said seaweed farming on coastal areas in the province has no longer produced harvests due to oil pollution while traditional fishermen`s catch has also dropped following the Montara oil well explosion.

Editor: Priyambodo RH
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