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Dirty secrets revealed during International Coastal Cleanup Day

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I’d been threatening to join the Seaford Beach Patrol group for months to take part in their monthly cleanup and, seeing as I helped them join the International Coastal Cleanup Day movement, thought I should finally get along to the cleanup on the 18th of September. Weather was the standard Melbourne September grey and cold, which didn’t deter 17 locals from turning out to collect more than 35kg of rubbish in a one-hour stint along a 200-300m stretch of our bay beach.

Apart from the scary numbers of cigarette butts, plastic-based food wrappers, bottles, tin cans and foam pellets, the cleanup revealed some surprising finds shown in this table below:

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Considering lollypops (usually Chupa Chup style but varied in size) are not the fashionable thing they once were, it might be that recent storms and winter king tides have revealed layers of historic plastic waste, and also dumped a larger than expected amount of foam and plastic on this stretch of beach. And the old saying about lost socks turning up in the damnedest places holds true, though why there were two socks and four shoes found is anyone’s guess.

Seaford, Port Phillip Bay: best bay beach in Melbourne?

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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.

Wilsons Promontory – amazing spot for coastal hiking

Anyone who has ever travelled a decent amount of Australia could make a list of their top 10 places to visit. When it comes to Victoria, the most common one I hear is the Great Ocean Road and the 12 Apostles.

Having lived for three years at the end of the GOR and within an hour of the Apostles, I admit they are impressive, easy to get to  and make for some nice tourist happy snaps. But for some of Australia’s best (southern) beaches, Wilsons Promontory – known as the Prom – beats anything that big windy road has to offer.

Do a Google Search for Wilsons Prom though and beyond the great Parks Victoria pages, it’s hard to find a decent site with much details on things to do and see at the Prom. This despite the region having some of Australia’s best hiking, most beautiful beaches in the right conditions and a variety of overly-friendly wildlife (see third photo of the wallaby who wouldn’t leave us alone).

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Refuge Cove, Wilsons Prom

Refuge Cove above is an amazing spot – we were lucky to do the 16km hike over there from the Mt Oberon carpark in perfect cool hiking weather and only had five other couples in the spacious campground. Conditions are primitive – people who need five-star chalets or resorts at the end of a leisurely hike should go elsewhere. The tracks can get muddy and toilets at the Sealers Cove and Refuge Cove campgrounds are basic but fresh spring water is readily available at both sites. The cove is within a marine park BUT not the marine national park, so fishing is permitted. I carried a small and fairly useless handspear in my pack and caught some goatfish. The best part of the dive (in only boardshorts) was the variety of fish species spotted and the novelty of spearing without a thick wetsuit!

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Waterloo Bay, within the Wilsons Prom Marine National Park. Wow.

There are several choices for camping along the hike. As we had only three days and the need for five guys to have ready access to cold beer, two nights in Tidal River and one at Refuge Cove made sense. But with more time, another night at Sealers, Waterloo Bay (above) or the Lighthouse would have been worthwhile. The last two places are within the Marine National Park area, where fishing is banned and the inshore fish life is obviously thriving. Blue gropers and moray eels are common here, unlike open access coastal areas further west.

Wilsons Prom is well worth a visit for anyone with an interest in Australia’s natural beauty. It’s a totally different experience to the tropical Great Barrier Reef islands or our inland forests and for those with a reasonable level of fitness, has some challenging and rewarding hikes on offer.

This wallaby is definitely used to human company

This wallaby is definitely used to human company

Train to airport to Sydney to home to writing essays to airport again…

Bondi baby!

Bondi baby!

Can’t complain about having too much work lately (and seeing the latest unemployment figures there’s nothing I can whinge about that would gain me any sympathy) and I’m off to Sydney again on Sunday for more World Parks Congress preparation with L’Agence des aires marines protégées (French Agency for Marine Protected Areas).

I was lucky to head down to check out Bondi Beach one afternoon between meetings and phone calls. Growing up in northern Sydney, Bondi was always seen as a tourist beach where us northerners never ventured – now I’m a tourist in my birthplace so can throw out those old preconceptions!

Really looking forward to the Congress and meeting people from around the world who are keen on protecting our land and marine parks. I’ll be back there for three weeks in November, just after finishing my final exam of my Marine Biology degree!!! Hope to get the chance for a few beers to celebrate that and also the exciting news of scoring a new job in Melbourne. It will be sad to leave Warrnambool – anyone who has read this blog will get the idea I’m partial to living down here but with a six-month-daughter now in our lives and better job opportunities in the big city, it makes sense to head back there.

Beach walk at sunset

Main beach, Warrnambool

While I forgot to take my camera for the first whale sighting in Warrnambool last week, these were a few shots from a now regular walk around sunset along the main beach boardwalk from the surf club to Pavilion cafe.

Pier facing the breakwater

 

Short flight north: reliving childhood holidays on the NSW Central Coast

Shelly Beach, Bateau Bay, NSW

 

Mollusc trails near the shoreline

Sunset at Queenscliff beach

Sunset at Queenscliff beach – Portsea headland in the distance

The ‘plastic tide’ hits a local beach: when will people learn?

In a break from study, a few friends and I head drove 15 minutes down the coast to Killarney, just past the Tower Hill reserve I mentioned previously.

The aim was to dive for southern rock lobster at a less-popular spot than our usual dive haunts. This wasn’t the best day for it; not that I had the chance to get in the water as I found out that I’d left my mask and snorkel at home!

So it was a good chance to wander the beach for an hour and see what rubbish had washed up or been dumped in this area. I was inspired by Californian conservationist Sara Bayles (on Twitter @thedailyocean), who has committed to picking up rubbish on her local beach for 365 non-consecutive days.

Plastic’s not fantastic

I didn’t have scales to weigh this collection of plastic bags, ropes, butter containers and other discarded bits and pieces but the photos give a rough idea of what can be found in this 100m stretch of coast.

Just made me a bit angry as well – the bits of rope were obviously thrown out by recreational or commercial fisherman, as were the bait baskets (red mesh basket at right and black one at the rear of shot). Laziness (and obviously a lack of concern for where the rubbish ends up and what creatures it affects) must be the only reason for throwing away anything man-made into the ocean (or waterway).

If I found someone doing this, all I could ask is: how can you pollute a place that your income or just pure enjoyment comes from? AND how many pieces of plastic would you like to pick out of your fish once ‘microplastic’ becomes a normal part of a sea creature’s daily diet?

Mullet amongst the trash (disclaimer: my friend caught this fish but I thought it suited the topic well)

UPDATE: This link did the rounds on Twitter this morning so I had to post it, Lies you’ve been told about the Pacific Garbage Patch, from the always interesting io9 site.

Well-known authority on the matter, Miriam Goldstein (from Deep Sea News) helped to refute some of the myths around the Patch, including the popular one that it’s a huge floating… well, patch of garbage; that it kills most animals in the area and that it is “killing” the ocean. To grab a few choices quotes from the article:

“There are millions of small and microscopic pieces of plastic, about .4 pieces per cubic meter, floating over a roughly 2736 square km area of the Pacific. This amount has increased significantly over the past 40 years.”

“there is a class of creatures who are actually thriving as a result of the plastic influx”

“the plastisphere isn’t destroying the ocean ecosystem — the creatures who ride on the plastic are. We’re witnessing an ecosystem that is slowly falling off balance.”

Definitely worth reading the rest and looking at Miriam’s academic papers on the subject.

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