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Stop the spread of dangerous marine pests
Reprinted from by Jessica Watson

Five things you can do to stop the spread of dangerous marine pests

Jessica Watson
Posted April 12 2018

Commercial shipping and the water ballast systems aboard large ships have long been identified as responsible for the spread of marine pests that can wreak havoc on our marine ecosystems. As home to the port of Melbourne – Australia’s busiest container port – and to the Port of Geelong, it’s therefore no surprise that Port Phillip Bay is riddled with marine pests.

The most common of these is the highly invasive and predatory Northern Pacific Seastar, Asterias amurensis. Parks Victoria’s State-wide Leader – Marine and Coasts Mark Rodrigue describes the seastars as ‘voracious’. ‘They will eat essentially anything that’s not bolted down,’ say’s Mark. And, horrifyingly, at their peak there was a greater mass of the seastars than fish in the bay. Other invasive species, such as Wakame, Undaria pinnatifida, are also thriving and competing with native algae for habitat.  

Wakame growing on a boat in Port Phillip Bay. 

Roellen Gillmore, Marine Communications Officer for Parks Victoria and a keen sailor, only recently realised the extent of the problem, and what she describes an ‘opportunity to contain the marine pests’. ‘As sailors, we just aren’t aware,’ says Roe. ‘We don’t really think about what’s going on below, but there’s a whole new world under our keels.’

She explains that Wakame, Northern Pacific Seastars and their microscopic offspring can easily become attached to boats and marine equipment and spread to new waterways. While Roe jokes that she now has an environmental incentive for washing her boat down, she’s deadly serious when she says that she wouldn’t want to be the person who causes the spread. ‘Once they become established, it’s nearly impossible to get rid of them,’ say’s Roe. ‘The best management option is to prevent the spread, and it’s the human factor that we all can control.’

A Northern Pacific Seastar found by Marine Ranger Chris Hayward in Tidal River in late 2017. 

Thankfully these marine pests have, to date, been largely contained to Port Phillip. While some natural dispersal is unavoidable as it occurs with the tidal movements, in Victoria, New Zealand, and across the world, there is an increasing recognition that there is a danger of all vessels, including travelling boaties, unintentionally spreading pests. Past outbreaks of pests at Apollo Bay and Wilsons Promontory indicate we’re only just keeping a grip on the issue.

So while there’s already plenty on our minds as we prepare to set off through Port Phillip Heads or travel to another waterway or coastline, we also need to ensure we’re not taking dangerous stowaways with us. Here are the key things we need to do to avoid spreading marine pests;

1. Use fresh water to wash all equipment. Everything from kayaks, fishing equipment, diving gear, fenders, and anchor chain.

2. Ensure that all equipment, including sails and lines are dried as microscopic offspring can survive for long periods in the damp.

3. Yacht owners should ensure that their antifoul is kept up to date and that hulls are checked for attached marine life.

4. Sewage and bilge water should be emptied at an approved facility, and any saltwater systems on board should be flushed out or treated regularly.

5. Keep your eyes out for these pests beyond Port Phillip Bay and report sightings to 

Parks Victoria divers removing Wakame at Popes Eye, Port Phillip Bay.

While any opinions expressed by the author are absolutely her own, this article has been produced in collaboration with Parks Victoria. For more information on how boaties can prevent the spread of marine pests and to report any sightings, please see Parks Victoria’s website.

Gunge Everywhere
On the next windless day not long after that outing, we shifted our ship to the shores we’d cleaned during April 2017 Community Harbour Clean-up. Bloody Fish Farms! It was their idea to ‘spur on’ and get the community to clean up their mess. Well, it backfired because on that day, we and many of the community saw just how much trash ‘fish farms’ are heaping onto our shores. But, more than that, we also saw a huge amount of what Jude and I now call, GUNGE. We’ve been told it’s an endemic weed; but that it’s gone berserk with the high nutrient levels created by 5 million fish pooping in what are essentially dead waters. Ever seen what we mean? Green or red blooms on quiet waters created by high nutrient levels. Well, down here it’s a hairy GUNGE that gets blown up onto the shore vegetation and swamps it. Having seen great patches of it during last April’s Clean-up we thought we should investigate how ten months has affected the shoreline’s ecology.

So we loaded our camera gear into the Green Machine and paddled to the shores we’d cleaned of trash. We’re very pleased to report that there were only nuisance bits of ropes found, along with those little individual strands that will take days, weeks, or months to clean up. Nevertheless, all the big stuff had been whisked away in the preceding couple of weeks. But the GUNGE had hardened over the reeds and grasses, and over the rocks. To the touch, it was hard and crunchy, a bit like papier-mâché, and pulling it away revealed a real sadness. The ecology had been changed! How many times have we seen this happen before when jobs and growth cloud our legislator’s minds, and we get mumbo jumbo from them that all will be right, when they really don’t know. You can’t rule if you do not get re-elected. And you may have noticed that none of them talk about human population. That’s a real no-no. But frankly, it’s we humans swamping the entire Earth with us, and our trash, and us denuding everything, be it the forests, the oceans, the wildlife, marching us swiftly to a very boring future. It’s work, work, work, till you’re too old to enjoy life or just drop dead.

We made a video clip of what we found there, starring Mr. Harry Wombat.


They’re at it Again!
Crown-of-thorns starfish eating their way through Great Barrier Reef in major outbreak

Thousands of crown-of-thorns starfish are understood to be eating their way through coral in a major outbreak at the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef, as authorities consider how to tackle the problem.

The outbreak on the Swain Reefs off Yeppoon was discovered last year, but the area is remote and hostile, hampering efforts to control the spread of the coral-killing marine animal.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) has confirmed it has been working out how to deal with the outbreak since last year.

The Authority’s director of education, stewardship and partnerships, Fred Nucifora, said monitoring crews went to the area to assess the problem last month. [Read More] [Listen to Podcast]

crown-of-thorns feasting on coral

PHOTO: The poisonous barbs of a crown-of-thorns feasting on coral in the northern Great Barrier Reef. (UTS: Dr Emma Camp)

Our Prosperity Depends on Protecting Our Planet

At Last! – Light at end of dark tunnel
BHP considering leaving Minerals Council over group’s climate policies

Australia’s biggest miner BHP has confirmed it is reconsidering its membership of the country’s peak mining lobby, the Minerals Council.

BHP announced it would review its membership of all industry associations, and publish the findings, by the end of this year.

The review comes hot on the tail of a demand by activist shareholders that the miner sever ties with the council, which successfully advocated for the abolition of the carbon price and is currently lobbying the Federal Government to reject a clean energy target.

“We are aware that some civil society and other organisations believe that, where an industry body advocates for a position which does not align with our own, we should cease to be a member of that industry body,” BHP said in a statement issued overnight.

Key points:

  • BHP under pressure to quit lobby groups that don’t support clean energy target
  • Activist group backed by big investors including ANZ, AMP, Australian Super, Blackrock
  • Board considering move before next month’s AGM

The truth about soaring power prices: wind and solar not to blame
Chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Rod Sims at the National Press Club in Canberra on Wednesday: “Forty-one per cent of the increase in electricity prices over the last 10 years has been in network costs.”

Wind and solar are much cheaper
when the cost of installation is taken into account. Not only is the fuel free and faces no regulatory risk — in the form of a carbon price — but the technology is simpler and quicker to install.

Australia’s chief scientist Alan Finkel went one step further. He factored the extra costs of adding gas or battery backup to ensure stability or baseload power in the system.

Wind still came out cheapest, with solar only marginally more expensive than black coal, and renewable plants can be built within one to three years while coal-fired plants take between four and seven years to build.

Kimberley — Killing the Country
After two extensive tours of the Kimberley by sea and land, Jack and Jude are passionate to preserve this unique area of Earth and were therefore greatly distressed to learn from our friend, tour guide Russell Willis, that huge chunks of that land are being altered by man made fires.
 Here is Russell’s alarming report –
Willis’s Walkabouts Newsletter 91, August 2017 — Killing the Country
Burning Issues
Not a single blade of grass, not one live small shrub to be seen. This is what we saw in large areas of our recent trip to the Prince Regent area. When we were flying out at the beginning of July, we saw plumes of smoke from the still-burning fires that had been deliberately lit.

We saw it again in Kakadu. This is what’s happening to large parts of the Kimberley. Land managers are so keen to burn the country that they will no longer allow people into several parks before 10 June. We can no longer offer some of the best trips we’ve ever done. Why are they so keen to burn? They get paid to do so.

Qantas Carbon Offsets Help Burn the Kimberley

Here’s the Qantas claim. Reinvigorating indigenous traditions. “This project is managed by Indigenous land owners in the North Kimberley who are reducing emissions through traditional fire management techniques.” Pardon me, that’s bullshit. When I flew out from a Kimberley walk on 1 July, we could see dozens of fires, all man-made, burning huge areas.

Here are two quotes from a letter to Qantas from someone who’s seen the disaster first hand.

  • “In no way whatsoever is dropping incendiaries from aeroplanes ‘traditional methods’. In the early days the indigenous only burnt for access immediately after the wet or to drive game out into the open. Tribal groups were small and fires in small areas.”
  • “These drops are made in June, which is too late in the year as the country is tinder dry and our South East winds have set in. The incendiaries are dropped in the mornings in these strong winds and burn for weeks destroying huge areas of country. There is nothing controlled about these burns, and much of the same country gets repeatedly burnt each year.”

I urge you to click here and read the full letter. Needless to say, the letter hasn’t even been acknowledged.

[Read More]

More extreme weather to come Climate Council of Australia reports
Summer heat broke 205 records

The summer of 2016/17 has been dubbed the ‘angry summer’ by climate scientists who’ve been investigating just how extreme things got.

They’ve found that during a 90-day period, 205 weather records were broken.

Professor Will Steffen is a scientist with the Climate Council of Australia, and the lead author of the report Angry Summer 2016/17: Climate Change Supercharging Extreme Weather, released today, and summarized in the  ABC article here.

Key findings:

  • More than 205 temperature records were broken around Australia in 90 days
  • The extreme heat in NSW was at least 50 times more likely to occur due to climate change
  • Australia’s ageing energy system is inefficient and incapable of handling rising temperatures

Much more information in Angry Summer 2016/17 report [available here]

CSIRO Report: More seabirds and turtles along SE Qld coast have plastic in stomachs.
Disturbing Report – Half of all seabirds have plastic in stomach

Man's rubbish on isolated beachs

A sight we see all too often – even on isolated Bight beaches.

The coastlines are being littered with millions of pieces of plastic that are causing harm to marine life, new research reveals.

“Plastic production is going up really rapidly and the amount in the ocean seems to be tracking that and the amount in the animals is also tracking that,” says CSIRO Professor Chris Wilcox.

Professor Wilcox’s said his team did “a lot of walking” while scouring Australia’s coastline, where they collected samples from the ocean edge to vegetation at the back of the beach.

Professor Wilcox said about eight million tonnes of rubbish was dumped in the world’s oceans each year. The CSIRO says on average, 11 items can be found along every metre of coastline from the Sunshine Coast to the Gold Coast.

Turn This Around for FREE
Put Earth First with Love, Admiration, Respect

However unlike the broader issue of climate change, ocean pollution would not be costly to stop if people took more care in disposing of their rubbish.

“Each one of these pieces of plastic was in someone’s hand at some point … being more careful about how we use these things is critical,” he said.

The CSIRO research is being published today in peer-reviewed journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

Never give up!
Earth’s been TRUMPED

Clinton more swearing?

Would a bit of swearing and drinking have endeared Hillary Clinton more to people like it did Trump?

Like many of you, we are shocked over the US election result.

It certainly seems like a win for Trump could be a significant setback for climate change action.

Trump has promised to scrap Obama’s plans for climate action, stop funding UN climate change programs, and has threatened to ‘withdraw’ from the Paris climate agreement.

But the only option is to strengthen our resolve and to keep on fighting for what’s right.

The stakes are too high and there is too much to lose.

If the US pulls back climate action for four years, it will make Australian action even more important.

Right now 200 countries are meeting in Morocco to discuss the implementation of the Paris climate agreement. Climate action is far bigger than just one country – China, the EU, Pacific Island nations and others are leading the charge. But Australia is still at the back of the pack.

And this means our work together is more important than ever.

What this says about American Democracy
How can it be that just 1/4 of the American people can decide the fate of our world? According to The Election Project, voter turnout was the lowest since 2000, at 55.6 per cent, and the lowest turnout of any mainland state was in Clinton-loving California, where many of the losing candidate’s superstar friends live, but where only 43 per cent of registered voters actually showed up to tick a box.

The depressing truth about the system styling itself as the world’s greatest democracy is that — this time around — about a quarter of its voters went for the winner, about a quarter went for the loser, and just under half of them didn’t bother at all.

News India
Delhi reels under cloud of smog for 7th day,
Emergency cabinet meeting

newdelia700x467The air quality has been “severe” as pollution levels touched a new high. Levels of particulate matter finer than 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5) crossed the 900 mark in some areas. That is over 90 times the level considered safe by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and 15 times the Indian government’s norms.

New Delhi has closed its schools, halted construction and ordered that all roads be doused with water to settle dust, as crippling air pollution continues to engulf the Indian capital.

Over the last two years, the Government has tried a slew of measures to control air pollution, including stricter emission norms for cars and a tax on diesel-fuelled trucks entering the city.

Reminiscent of Judith’s first visit to my home town of Los Angeles, when at 50 miles out I had to pull over to let her vomit. Dirty cars, and lots of them, was the culprit then. Well, that was fifty years ago and our cars are far more cleaner today.

India’s problem is there are far too many people. Too many of everything in fact. Power plants to service the industry that provides the require goods and jobs, etc. etc. It’s a deadly snowball racing at us eating up Earth. The pollution fuels global warming. The growing population increases growth, which fuels the whole cycle.

We talk about pollution and global warming, but we do not address the catalyst creating the problem!



Jobs and Growth suffocating Earth
“Fast Tracked!” Adani’s Carmichael 2.3 billion tonne Coal Mine


In the last week, the Qld State Government quietly gave the project “critical infrastructure” status to prioritise its development.

Jack and Jude have been hard workers since our first jobs as teenagers, when we soon learned to be responsible and reliable, and found that earning our keep gave us confidence to achieve. 

Jobs are required for all of us to live. BUT Earth must live or we do not. Digging up and burning 2.3 billion tonnes of deadly coal makes no sense to Jack and Jude. We can’t spend the profits in heaven.

Extraction of 2.3 billion tonnes of coal from the Carmichael mine flies in the face of global efforts to stop climate change and would result in nine times Australia’s overall emissions in 2014.

Nature and wildlife need their own seats at the UN

Whether we consider wild weather, unprecedented Arctic melting and global temperatures, or the Great Barrier Reef, the global environment is generating alarming news. Predictions of multi-metre sea level rises, the collapse of marine biodiversity and food chains, and global warming far beyond 2? are equally concerning. Is our system of global environmental law and governance adequate to this crisis?

Written by –
Anthony Burke, Associate Professor of International & Political Studies, UNSW Australia
And Stefanie Fishel, Assistant Professor, University of Alabama


Academic rigour, journalistic flair

Our short answer is “no”, but what should be done? We believe new international institutions and laws are needed, with one fundamental purpose: to give a voice to ecosystems and non-human forms of life.

We say this knowing that the current global system is inadequate to respond to many human crises, but with the conviction that environmental justice often overlaps with social justice.

It is tempting to believe that we can muddle through with the existing system, centred on the United Nations’ Framework Convention on Climate Change and Convention on Biological Diversity. But these are not integrated with each other, and are also kept separate from global economic and trade institutions like the World Trade Organisation, the G20 and the World Bank, and from global security institutions like the UN Security Council. The latter has never passed a resolution about the environment, despite growing warnings from military strategists of the potential for climate-catalysed conflict. [MORE]

Nero Fiddles while Rome Burns
Paris climate agreement comes into force

So far, 73 countries accounting for 56 per cent of emissions have ratified the agreement. This includes the world’s two largest emitters: China and the US. The agreement, reached last December, required ratification by at least 55 countries accounting for 55 per cent of global emissions to become operational. The 1997 Kyoto Protocol had identical entry-into-force conditions. Yet it took eight years for the protocol to move from adoption to entry into force.

Sounds Good – But it is not what it seems.
The more realistic explanation for the ratification landslide is less inspiring. The Paris Agreement is so weak in terms of legal obligations that countries have little reason not to ratify it. The legal obligations of the Paris Agreement are sparse and procedural. Countries are bound to submit increasingly stringent pledges every five years. Yet they are not obliged to achieve them.

What about Australia?
Australia has yet to ratify the Paris Agreement, but will likely do so. Then what?

Target Troubles
Currently, Australia has made an intended nationally determined contribution (INDC) to reduce emissions by 26-28 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030. If Australia joins the Paris Agreement this would likely become our first pledge under the deal.
But existing modelling suggests we will significantly miss this target. In fact we will INCREASE our levels.

Climate Action Tracker estimates that Australia is instead on track to increase emissions above 27 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030 (this equates to 61 per cent above 1990 levels).

They note: “Australia stands out as having the largest relative gap between current policy projections for 2030 and the INDC target.”

Grassroots Action Required
Ain’t it great that Australian politicians fiddle with your children’s future while wild storms and extreme weather destroy our homes and infrastructure. When will we have leaders with the courage and foresight to change the archaic mindset imprisoning our politicians. It will take a groundswell call for action by the people. Our elected representatives will not legislate restrictions that would see them jeopardize their grip on power.

Use social media – speak loud, speak often or the future will be far more destructive to Earth and life.

[ EARTH NOW continued ]


Earth Now — 5 Comments

  1. Unfortunately, the history of mankind (especially in the last few hundred years) has clearly shown that human beings, in general, will not change their ways until faced with cataclisms.
    To compound this, as someone else has stated on this forum, most “modern city dwellers” exist in an artificial and encapsulated environment and thus are either oblivious to mother nature’s subtle and not-so-subtle warnings! Others just do not care as they are ignorant of their dependence on nature’s goodwill.
    Now combine this sad attitude with greed (surely the worst human attribute of all) and we have a serious problem indeed.
    I hate to say it and I am being realistic: it will take impending human extinction and/or a worldwide cataclism to change things (for the better). This will be initiated by dimishing (thus affordable) reserves of oil, water and food. It will then descend into total chaos and anarchy.
    When I see how some humans treat defenceless animals and the disdain they hold towards any attempt by those who wish to defend and protect our global environment it saddens me and causes me great concerns about our (human) future.
    I am not typically pessimistic but I am a realist! I act upon my beliefs and am active in several environmental organisations BUT this is a very large and multi-dimensional problem.
    We need to be much more effective and vociferous.
    And yes, I am a sailor, diver, explorer, scientist, professional engineer, parent and a (very) concerned human being! How do we make a quantum leap here?
    BTW – great site.

  2. I know that we have all these problems but i mean yes we do think of stuff on how to prevent all this but why do people dont do anything to prevent it i mean only some do …. I’ve been going around peoples houses and some people dont care about whats going

  3. Thank you Pieter. One answer lies in the fact that sailors live surrounded by Nature and notice subtle changes. We use, and are affected by, Nature’s forces. Most of the first world live behind doors and look out windows as if the world was a painting. Alas, the trend in the youth is too isolated themselves further through headphones and devices. Let’s bring Nature’s wonder and adventure back into our lives.

  4. Hey Jack and Jude,
    Great site!
    Why is it mostly people living on a boat/loving sailing that really see the problems of the world/environment/sea? In 1976 I stated in an assessment for my new job that the biggest problem was the growth of the population. 36 years later unfortunately I am still right.
    I only can hope that more and more people will see this and start thinking the other way.

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