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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.

Circle hooks more humane choice for sharks, rays and sportfish

Just saw this Southern Fried Science post (nothing to do with chicken, everything to do with shark conservation) about the benefit of using circle hooks – a method I’m yet to try but definitely support.

Here’s their description of the hooks:

Circle hooks are used by recreational and commercial hook-and-line fisheries (and many longliners) to reduce hooking mortality in large fishes, sharks, and bycatch animals like sea turtles.  The idea is that the hook more or less works by itself without being set like a J-hook.  The shape of the hook prevents swallowing and encourages hooking in the corner of the mouth, where it’s less likely to do serious damage.

Some great shots in the post show how easy it is to remove circle hooks, up against the traditional hook technique. Many fisherman now cut off the barbs from their standard hooks – they may lose more fish but it helps cut down on damage, especially for sportfishing and the difficulty of returning undersize fish once they have been foul-hooked or swallow a barbed hook.

Photo: Andrew Thaler, southernfriendscience.com

Photo: Andrew Thaler, southernfriedscience.com

Sunrise over sea

With two major assignments due next week and exams coming up in just over three weeks, I’ve had little time for posting. So this is a nice pic of a recent sunrise over the hill from Logan’s Beach (the premier whale-watching spot in Victoria).

Sunrise, paddocks and ocean

 

*Taken on my Sony Ericsson Xperia Neo, ISO 100, f/2.4, 1/50.

Looking into the past to save animals in the future

What Is Missing? is one of those environmental websites you need to set aside at least an hour to go through – the range of stats, videos and text is mind-boggling. The screen grab above shows a world map with each coloured dot representing an extinct or endangered species or whole ecosystem in the area shown.

The WIM foundation, supported by corporate giants such as Bloomberg and Google, has created an amazing resource for normal people with limited knowledge of environmental issues and lists ways they can help reduce their impact on the earth (and obviously, on the other animals trying to share an increasingly-crowded space). Their artistic mission (part of which is shown below) is very US-based at present but no doubt with global support, we can see more of their artworks showing up in city squares around the world.

The question always is: will flicking through pages of the website make the unconvinced change their ways? Does an average person have the presence of mind to realise their polluting efforts in New York can contribute to killing a northern right whale in the Atlantic? Or even that they were called ‘right whales’ because whalers and scientists of the day agreed they were the ‘right’ ones to hunt??

Why you don’t need marketing slogans when coastline shots do the job much better

The small town sitting next to my uni campus is one not usually recognised by many people outside the city of Melbourne or the state of Victoria (and even some living in it). It’s at the end of the Great Ocean Road, past the more touristy spots such as the Twelve Apostles (large pillars of rock that, obviously, used to number 12 many years ago and are now worn down to 7 or 8, depending on who you ask) .

Before I began planning to study marine biology at the Deakin campus at Warrnambool, I had never been within about 140km of the place. And the first trip I made was a midweek drive last December to accept my early round offer of a place in the course (which, as it turned out, I could have completed online). But moving here at the tail-end of summer, before the whale-watching season and bad weather kick in, has given me a pretty good idea of what this place has to offer a nature-lover, greenie or, specific to me, someone studying the coastal environment.

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This shot was taken today with my less-than-brilliant phone camera (Sony Ericsson Xperia, if you wanted to know), showing a reef outcrop near the Breakwater (some places call them long piers, in Perth they call them groynes). No retouching was done, in case you haven’t been to Australia or seen a sky that blue.

Just an average, cloudless but slightly windy day, 24 degrees C (75 F) and a small 2 foot swell. Which made shooting pics of the features of rockpools like the one below easy.

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If the top description sounded a bit too much like a tourist brochure, forgive me: I worked five years in PR and eight before that as a journalist, so spitting out words to suit an agenda was a way of life. But the point of this whole post was: how much there is to see in our coastal areas when your eyes are opened to it.

I could no doubt google up a quote from someone famous to make this same point. But I’ll be spending at least the next three years quoting and referencing scientists in my essays, so will refrain from that here as much as possible.

But as a nod to someone who’s written about this much better than me: the idea that the ‘nature’ that used to impress us as children (this is pre-Xbox and iPhones) but in most cases no longer does as adults was explored by Richard Louv in Last Child in the Woods. To be honest I got through three chapters and then went back to an ocean-related book but I liked the message I took away, that nature is there to be appreciated, conserved and the same ideas taught to our children.

This became more philosophical than I intended but those who know me wouldn’t be too surprised. In a way there is the underlying need to explain why I love the ocean, why it inspires me and the concern I have when others seem to disregard it. But there’ll be more practical and probably less philosophical posts to look into that in future.

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