Category Archives: photography
Heading back to Warrnambool for a work trip this week and taking a few days off to make it a long weekend. After three years away from this place it’s still tough to go back and see the kind of places we used to enjoy regularly – the breakwater, Middle Island (home of the penguin colony featured in the Oddball movie) and the beaches less than 10 minutes from town but so often seemingly isolated from the rest of the world. These beaches also used to be hotspots for four-wheel-driving but better enforcement and protection of bird nesting sites has meant that wheel tracks are thankfully harder to find.
A couple of days ago I was loaned the new Nikon camera, the D500, from Nikon Australia. It is Nikons new…
As a resident of the often-maligned state of Victoria since 2001 (apart from two years in the UK), I’ve spent enough time in Melbourne city to have seen postcard-worthy sunsets over the river on a regular basis. Though I’m not a real city lover, the past four months have been spent working in a 30-storey building that has great views of the MCG, Melbourne Tennis Centre, Yarra River and Port Phillip Bay. And not being able to get out in the water as much as I’d like is tempered somewhat by looking out at the bay or river and soaking up those amazing views.
It took a while to adapt to suburban life, shifting up to the metropolis of 4 million people that is Melbourne one year ago from a southwestern country town of 35,000. The beaches lacked waves, dolphins were scarce and supermarket trips took an hour less than normal, considering it was now rare to constantly run into people you knew at the shops.
But the place has grown on me (again) and we’re pretty happy to have bought a house only eight minutes from one of Melbourne’ best bay beaches (as opposed to the Mornington Peninsula surf beaches). Seaford is claimed by locals at least as its best beach, generally clean and relatively uncrowded, without flocks of jet skiers ruining the ambience of a summer afternoon. An unseasonal dry and warm spell in October meant several flat and clear days when people are usually still stoking the fire and waiting for the late spring warmth to hit.
I worked some of the longest days of my career at World Parks Congress and dealt with a variety of event teething issues never experienced before. On the upside, I met some amazing people (including the wonderful Sylvia Earle, who I interviewed for our webtv channel) and worked with a great team from the French Marine Protected Areas Agency. Please make sure you check out our videos at http://oceanplus.tv/en/
I’ve been showing one of the Agence des aires marines protégées (French Agency for Marine Protected Areas) video team around Sydney over the past few days, filming at the Sydney Fish Market, Bondi Beach, Circular Quay and marine-focused touristy spots. Perfect weekend for it and the trip across to Taronga Zoo (pictured) provided some great footage.
Looking forward to World Parks Congress kicking off on Wednesday, so much prep work has gone into it over the past four months!
While 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.
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:
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.
Around this time last year, fishermen were hanging up their prize catches in a big annual fishing competition here in Warrnambool.
One of the fish that brought the biggest crowd was a 110kg mako shark- a common enough catch in Southern Australia but still of concern given the huge global exploitation of various shark species.
The Standard newspaper posted this photo yesterday of an 81.3kg mako from the first 2014 competition and it looks like nothing has changed – same happy crew posing with a trophy shark that may win them more praise than competition prizes. Catch and release should be the protocol for fish such as this: get the photo on the boat, have it signed off by judges and leave the fish in the ocean. The article stated that fishers in the competition had caught “several sizable Mako sharks”.
A local fishing group has been criticised lately for its targeting of unnecessary species for competition points, criticism that was definitely warranted. I attended one of their club meetings recently and a few members were complaining about fishing restrictions that stop them racking up points for certain species. Given that one member caught more than 30 fish in two days, some of which were inedible or destined for the closest rubbish bin, their whinging seemed pointless.
These groups may slowly understand the effect of their ‘overfishing’ when they pull in less the next year or have to hunt harder for elusive species (just like the global commercial industry).