Wintry Warrnambool

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20140723-132435-48275171.jpgWhile I’m missing the summer flat spells and warm weather activities, there’s something special about winter on the Shipwreck Coast. No tourists around, fresh cold southerlies and some calm clear days when the whiting are biting! Here’s a few shots of the local marine sanctuary from last week- some heavy downpours have caused the river to flood but the area still looks petty impressive.

Gearing up for World Parks Congress in Sydney

In the midst of my final year of university and having a baby daughter join the family, I’ve also been organising with the French marine agency AAMP to help them out at the World Parks Congress in Sydney in November.

I enjoyed working with some AAMP members in Fiji last year and was keen to join them again for this major event, so hopefully it works out that I can help them with media and communications in the lead-up to and during the event.

In the meantime I’ve been freelancing as an adviser to the Department of Environment and Primary Industries and helping them put together a promotional video featuring their local staff and the coastal and farming landscapes in this area.

Speaking of which, Warrnambool photographer Oat Vaiyaboon has been shooting some great footage with his drone and GoPro, including this recent effort:

Local marine sanctuary loved and ignored in equal measure

This is a great recent video from the Friends of the Merri Marine Sanctuary, a small and dedicated group helping – as one goal – to remind local people about the amazing natural features and marine life on their doorstep.

At a lecture and networking day on the weekend hosted by Deakin University and the Victorian National Parks Association, a member of the Friends group mentioned how hard it can be to get the support and interest of people outside the conservation community. I could see similar parallels with another spectacular  occurrence that Warrnambool people often ignore.

Living near one of the calving grounds for southern right and humpback whales, people in this area can tend to be ambivalent about the excitement generated in the tourism industry each time the whale watching season approaches.

A recent humorous list of 30 things only a local would understand had this gem at number 23:

Courtesy: standard.net.au

Courtesy: standard.net.au

 

Funny (maybe just as a Warrnambool local) but it highlights that disinterest I spoke of – we’re happy the whales are here but we’re just as happy to ignore them because it doesn’t suit us to stand around for hours (and it can be hours between ‘showings’). Same goes for conservation – local people are generally happy that someone is doing it but not bothered to get involved themselves.

What can you do with apathy like that? It was an open question to the weekend’s session and though there were some good suggestions, as usual it was hard to come up with the perfect answer. My idea was to keep the good work these people do at the forefront, tell the media, tell politicians, help to get relevant policy change at the state and federal level and let your own passion inspire other people. Al Gore was one who helped ‘cure’ apathy over climate change on a global level but it’s even more important to make small communities like ours care about the natural wonders they take for granted.

Idiota Se Monta Encima De Tiburon Gigantesco

oceanicexplorer:

“Idiota” is right, why you would think it’s a smart idea to grab hold of a whale shark and get towed along is beyond me. Sure they aren’t known to be dangerous to humans (apart from some accidents from people doing things like this) but it shows a lack of respect for the power of an animal and, on the videos such as this I’ve seen on Youtube, seem to be perpetrated by idiots just looking for a joyride

Originally posted on 92.5 MAXIMA:

MIRALO AQUÍ!!!! Un tipo imbécil de nuestro querido estado de la Florida tuvo un encuentro fuera de lo común con la especie de tiburón mas grande del planeta y el tipo decidió engancharse de la aleta dorsal para nadar junta al animal. Aunque, ese tipo de tiburón no es agresivo, si pudiera haber lesionado al estúpido con un aletazo masivo.

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Resurrection Bay Wildlife, a C-Dory Angler Tour: Sea Lions, Mountain Goats and More

oceanicexplorer:

Seals and sea lions are some of my favourite marine creatures to watch. The Australian fur seals we commonly see around Warrnambool and other parts of the south-west Victorian coast are often seen begging for scraps from angler bringing their boats into shore but they are more entertaining when they are just frolicking around my local dive spot

Originally posted on CutterLight:

sea lion roaring 2014 nWith a mighty roar this young bull sea lion bellows out that this rock in Resurrection Bay near Seward, Alaska is his rock. Nestled between snow-capped mountains and hosting an abundance of otters, porpoises, seal and sea lions, sea birds by the tens of thousands and with whales almost a given, the bay offers lots to look at. 

A morning filled with sunshine, calm seas and friends visiting from out of town were inspiration to take our C-Dory out for a lap around Resurrection Bay.

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sea otter spy hopping 2014 n

Sea otters like this curious spy-hopper are abundant along the shoreline. Meanwhile, scan the mountainsides on the east side of the bay for puffy white balls; put binoculars on them and they might become mountain goats. 

A pair of juvenile sea lions were swimming in the harbor near our boat as we made ready, and almost as soon as we cleared the marina a harbor porpoise arced near our boat…

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Oceanic microplastics: the implications of tiny pollution

My classmate Dom Lawler deserves most of the credit for producing this video on microplastics, made in less than four days using iMovie for a university assignment on aquatic pollution.

Check the film out and watch some other related one on YouTube if it sparks your interest.

Here’s some quick details on the plastic pollution issue:

- 10% of the 280 million tonnes of plastic produced annually worldwide ends up in the ocean, contributing to 60−80% of all marine debris (Kaposi et al. 2014)

- First reports of plastic litter in the ocean were in the 1970s (Andrady 2011)

- Plastics could take centuries to completely mineralise or biodegrade (Moore 2008)

- 10% of all static fishing gear – including plastic nets, fishing line and ropes  - is lost worldwide (FAO 1991)

- In the environmental context, microplastics are regarded as pieces of plastic debris less than 5mm in size

- Studies have found that 267 species of marine organisms worldwide are known to have been affected by plastic debris, a number that will increase as smaller organisms are assessed. (Moore 2008)

 

References (and other useful video sources)

Plastic Oceans, broadcast on Catalyst, ABC TV1, 6 September 2012:

http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/stories/3583576.htm

Plankton film clip: Ren Kyst, Norway www.facebook.com/RenKystFilm

Plastic planet: www.natracare.com/sisters http://youtu.be/73sGgmZoMBQ

FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization), Canada, 1991. In: Smith, A. (Ed.), Report of the Expert Consultation on the Marking of Fishing Gear, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, 14–19 July, 1991.

Moore, CJ 2008, ‘Synthetic polymers in the marine environment: A rapidly increasing, long-term threat’, Environmental Research, vol. 108, no. 2, pp. 131-9.

Andrady, AL 2011, ‘Microplastics in the marine environment’, Marine Pollution Bulletin, vol. 62, no. 8, pp. 1596-605.

Kaposi, KL, Mos, B, Kelaher, BP & Dworjanyn, SA 2014, ‘Ingestion of microplastic has limited impact on a marine larva’, Environmental Science and Technology, vol. 48, no. 3, pp. 1638-45.

 

Out of Sight, Out of Mind? A Visualization of Ocean Trash

oceanicexplorer:

I’m working on a short film as a university group project on ocean trash right now so this seemed appropriate to repost. These sorts of worldwide citizen science projects are invaluable, with scuba divers collecting data that would take individual researchers many years to collate

Originally posted on Ocean News:

Dive Against Debris Map

Project AWARE’s new interactive map is the first to visualize nearly three years of ongoing reporting by an international network of scuba divers who remove marine debris they find underwater through the Dive Against Debris programme, a year round global citizen science initiative.

Marine litter does not belong underwater however it is estimated that more than six million tons of it enters the ocean each year entangling and injuring marine life and damaging critical habitats. Everyday items like plastic bottles and plastic bags as well as other plastics like fishing line and nets are some of the sources of plastic waste reported by divers.

The Dive Against Debris Map shows that plastics are the number one type of litter found by Project AWARE divers, making up 70% of the total amount of debris reported since 2011. The aim of the map is to raise awareness of the problems of underwater…

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Meet my new ocean explorer!

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I’ve been kept busy over the past month looking after this gorgeous addition to the OE family.
For those interested in the details, Eugenie Isabel was born April 10 at 11.11pm and was 7lb 6oz (3.3kg). We’re all doing well, if shorter on sleep than pre-baby, and looking forward to the day when I can show her the ocean around Warrnambool and give her an appreciation for the amazing marine life we have down here.

Merri Marine Sanctuary, a local protected area with some serious crays

Over the summer, I helped out on the Marine Summer Ranger program that Parks Victoria run across their land and marine parks. Locally, where in live in Warrnambool on the south west coast, the program involved rockpool rambles in the Merri Marine Sanctuary.
This is an area that, from anecdotal reports, was close to being overfished as the population of the town increased from the 1970s to 90s. One of my Deakin University lecturers shot the video above that shows the health of fish and crustacean stocks in the mainly shallow water protected area.
Sweep, magpie perch, salmon, wrasse and zebra fish can be regularly seen in the park, as well as some of the larger crayfish around this area. Commercial cray boats commonly target the borders of the marine park but it is good to see some larger specimens in this video still hiding under ledges throughout the park.
The New South Wales government is trying to wind back protection of some of the most important marine parks in their state, upsetting conservationists and local people who can see the value of large no-fishing zones. Fishing trawler captains may welcome the reduction of marine parks but as usual it will be a short-term win for them versus the possible longer term goal of allowing fish stocks to recover.

Why sea cucumbers aren’t just another ‘delicacy’ for Asian buffets

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Prickly redfish, a type of sea cucumber. This one was near Opal Reef, part of the Great Barrier Reef an hour from Port Douglas.

io9 is generally a scifi website, full of short monologues on the current state of scifi cinema, but occasionally they run very good articles on real science. Like the one below on the issues with sea cucumber harvesting:

Sea cucumbers are in trouble. Everyone knows about the problems that elephants and rhinos face due to poaching, that dolphins face due to drive hunts, and that sharks face when overzealous governments try to convince their constituents that they’re helping them avoid shark attacks. Sea cucumbers may not be as charismatic as their megafaunal counterparts, but they actually provide an important service for reef ecosystems.

They help to keep the sand in reef lagoons and seagrass beds fresh by turning them over, and by feeding on the dead organic matter that’s mixed in with the sand, the nutrients they excrete can re-enter the biological web by algae and coral. Without the sea cucumbers, that sort of nutrient recycling could not occur. It’s also thought that sea cucumbers help to protect reefs from damage due to ocean acidification. Feeding on reef sand appears to increase the alkalinity of the surrounding seawater.

The problem, according to a study conducted by Steven Purcell and Beth Polidoro, is that sea cucumbers are considered a luxury snack. As they explain at The Conversation, dried-out versions of the tropical species retail between $10 and $600 per kilogram in Hong Kong and on mainland China.

There’s actually one species that is sold for $3000 per kilo, dried. Sea cucumbers are thought of as “culinary delicacies,” and often adorn the buffets of festival meals and are served at formal dinners.
There are 377 known species of sea cucumber. Percill and Polidoro’s study shows that the more prized a species is as a delicacy, the more likely the IUCN is to categorize it as vulnerable or threatened – at least for the species they investigated. It’s plain to see that the more expensive the critters are, the more likely they are to be plotted with orange or red dots.

It’s not just a correlation. In most cases, it’s the rarity of a species that drives up the value, leading to exploitation and eventually, extinction. It’s basic supply/demand economics. But the researchers say that for the sea cucumbers they looked at, the causal relationship is reversed. “High-value drives rarity in sea cucumbers, not vice versa,” they write. “None of the naturally rare species are particularly high value.”

Is there anything that can be done to protect these awkward, squishy creatures? “Species-specific bans have been placed on threatened sea cucumbers in a few instances,” the researchers note, “but these regulations do not prevent serial depletion of other species further down the value chain.” Instead, they recommend that a short list of allowable species be created, sort of like Monterey Bay Aquarium’s sustainable seafood card, but for cucumbers. It would exclude threatened species and those most critical for providing ecosystem services to reefs. If sea cucumber fishing can be controlled, the rarer species just might have a fighting chance to survive.

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