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Swimming with Whales

I’m just back from a project in Tonga, studying the whale tourism industry. The thing about ‘swimming with whales’ is you’re not simply swimming in the same ocean as the whales, you’re swimming with the whales. It’s very clearly a two-way interaction. The Tongan government rightly regulates the industry to manage the impact of tourism on the whales (much as Australian governments do): swimmers may not approach within 5m of a whale. But there are no such restrictions on the whales’ behaviour. Thirty five tonne, 17m long whales commonly approach and even gently nudge swimmers. When a mother brings her 3 month old calf back, time and again to have a better look at you, there’s something going on. It’s

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Biologists, Fish and the Possibility of Something Good

The Neptune Islands are famous for their great white sharks that congregate to feed on the pups of New Zealand fur seals, and prior to their local extinction (likely in the mid 1900s), little penguins. But true to nature, the sharks don’t always appear ‘on cue’. After 4 days ‘in the cage’, in water much colder than I’m used to, with no sharks sighted it was time to head back to the office. Whilst the sharks may have been fickle, the temperate waters surrounding North and South Neptune islands team with life. Near the surface silver trevally form dense schools occasionally parted by large yellowtail kingfish. Closer to the bottom were dense kelp beds covering rocky outcrops. Also near the

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More Research Won’t Save The Reef

The Commonwealth’s $444 million grant to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation will ensure ongoing employment for a significant number of scientists (which is no bad thing), but will not save the reef. Many reef scientists are doing an admirable impression of one or more of the 3 wise monkeys, and finding ‘purpose’ in looking for ‘the super-coral’, designing large shade sails or in the belief that endless monitoring of the inexorable decline of the reef will make a difference. Even clearer than the evidence of climate change, is the evidence that the reef is in very serious decline, and that this decline in all likelihood cannot be reversed. The reef-scale surveys and meticulous piecing together of environmental information by Professor

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The Environment is for ‘Everyday’

I’m wondering why we need the reminder?  Its trite to say ‘the environment is all around us’, so we must realise the state it’s in.  The reality is that all things are relative and if there’s just a bit more litter today than we noticed last week, we’ll that’s not too bad is it?  It’s human nature, and it’s a characteristic of human nature that allows us to not see what’s often bleeding obvious: that little-by-little humanity is degrading the very environment it depends on. Here at frc environmental we’re firm believers in the mantra that says ‘you can’t manage what you don’t measure’, so whilst monitoring alone won’t restore our environment, perhaps it’s necessary to clearly illustrate ‘the state

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Native Fish Management Workshop

Last week, frc environmental’s Dr Ben Cook lead a very productive native fish management workshop on behalf of Redland City Council.  Recognising the implications of the recently gazetted Biosecurity Act, Redlands City Council is keen to develop a clear framework that will support its response to its General Biosecurity Obligation, and allow that response to work synergistically with its existing initiatives focused on the sustainable management of wetlands and waterways. With attendees from a number of other local authorities, Griffith University’s Australian Rivers Institute, the Quandamooka Yoolooburrabee Aboriginal Corporation, Seqwater, Department of Environment and Science, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and ANGFA, Ben lead discussions of the close relationship that exists between native fish populations, habitat quality and introduced fish

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Invasive and Noxious Aquatic Species and the Queensland Biosecurity Act 2014 – Has the bar to development been raised again?

Introduction The Biosecurity Act 2014 came into force on 1 July 2016, and is underpinned by the Biosecurity Regulation 2016. While the Act addresses a wide range of activities, this paper focuses on activities relevant to stakeholders involved in the management of aquatic ecosystems such as local government, property developers, infrastructure providers, and the mining and gas industries, and discusses their obligations under the Biosecurity Act.   While our focus is on aquatic ecosystems, the basis of this paper applies equally apply to terrestrial ecosystems. This paper explains key provisions of the Act, and provides simple examples of how its application may affect land-holders and proponents alike. The paper is presented in 3 parts, an introduction to the concept of

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