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Bob Brown to board Sea Shepherd for gas hub campaign

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Hobart correspondent for Fairfax Media

View more articles from Andrew Darby

Target ... James Price Point, north of Broome , the site of the proposed LNG hub.

Target ... James Price Point, north of Broome , the site of the proposed LNG hub. Photo: Glenn Campbell

Former Greens leader Bob Brown is joining the Sea Shepherd environmental action group in a campaign against the $35 billion Browse gas hub project near Broome in Western Australia.

The activist ship will leave Melbourne this week for the Kimberley coast to draw attention to potential impacts on humpback whales by the giant project.

"I'll be helping to lead this trip to draw attention to the fact that this is not a good place for a giant gas factory, with huge ships coming to and fro," said Dr Brown, who has joined the Sea Shepherd advisory board.

Joining the Sea Shepherd campaign ... former Greens leader Bob Brown.

Joining the Sea Shepherd campaign ... former Greens leader Bob Brown. Photo: Justin McManus JZM

Dr Brown and Aboriginal activists will meet the ship in Broome, Western Australia, before steaming to the site of the development early next month.

It is the first Australian mainland campaign by the Sea Shepherd, which has mounted campaigns against Japanese whaling in the Antarctic.

Woodside and its partners will pipe gas ashore from the Browse Basin for processing and export at James Price Point, if one of Australia's largest energy projects gains final investment approval.

On bail ... Sea Shepherd captain Paul Watson.

On bail ... Sea Shepherd captain Paul Watson.

The project includes the dredging of a 20-kilometre channel and the building of a two-kilometre jetty to access the liquified natural gas from an onshore plant.

Impacts on marine fauna such as whales, dugongs and turtles were admitted when the West Australian government gave the environment green light to the project yesterday.

The WA Environment Protection Authority's chair, Paul Vogel, said the region's humpback stock had increased "exponentially" since last century's whaling, despite the parallel increase in iron ore and petroleum projects along the coast.

"Creating any industrial undertaking, particularly one of this magnitude, will have an environmental impact, however these impacts and risks can be managed to an acceptable level," Dr Vogel said.

Conditions imposed by Dr Vogel include suspending marine pile driving and blasting for part of the humpback migration season. He made the approval decision alone, after four other EPA board members declared conflicts of interest.

Until now, Sea Shepherd has seen Australia mainly as a base for its hard-fought campaigns against Japanese whalers in the Antarctic.

A group of Aboriginal leaders of the Golarabooloo people told Sea Shepherd in a letter: "We have seen the work you have done to protect the whales in the Southern Ocean.

"We would appreciate any support you can give us to protect the humpback in our Sea Country from the proposal to build an industrial port at James Price Point for LNG export."

The activists' leader, Paul Watson, replied that the project was disrespectful to the area's original people and marine species.

"There are sacred places in this world that should not be scarred with the ugliness of greed and disrespect for nature," Mr Watson said.

He said he would not be able to join the ship for the action. He is being detained on bail in Germany while its courts consider an extradition request from Costa Rica over 10-year-old navigation charges. Papers outlining the case have arrived in Germany from Costa Rica, he said.

Sea Shepherd's Australian director, Jeff Hansen, said the Kimberley whale campaign would not be aggressive.

"Australians need to see what's at stake there," Mr Hansen said.

Dr Brown said political leaders from Western Australia and Canberra would be invited to join the voyage.

"We'll find room for them," he said.

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