Papua New Guinea (PNG) is part of the Coral Triangle in Maritime Southeast Asia. Fossil fuel exploration and extraction are in their early stages here, but substantial oil and gas reserves exist in PNG and its territorial waters.
Mangrove forests in the Gulf of Papua support the highest diversity of mangroves in the world. They are home to many rare and endemic plant and animal species, and are among the 200 most biologically important ecoregions.
The greatest risk posed by fossil fuel extraction to the Gulf of Papua is that of a catastrophic spill. Projections suggest that with the expansion of oil extraction and associated tanker transport, PNG could expect around five spills greater than 10,000 barrels in a 15 year period.
A single oil well failure on the scale of the Deepwater Horizon spill in 2010, which fouled 1700 km of shoreline in the Gulf of Mexico, would devastate biodiversity in the Gulf of Papua.
Since Gulf of Papua currents circulate to the Great Barrier Reef along Cape York in Australia, the potential biodiversity loss in the event of a catastrophic spill extends well beyond the territorial waters of PNG.