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Archive: 2007




Peel handed back

23 December 2007, by Susie Imer, Redland Bayside Bulletin, Queensland, Australia

After a tumultuous history that excluded everyone but a handful of incarcerated residents, Peel Island has at last been handed back to the people of Australia. Teerk Roo Ra (pronounced took-a-ra – say it quickly) National Park and Conservation Park was publicly declared on heritage listed Peel Island in Moreton Bay last Tuesday

The new national park covering 519 hectares was announced by Sustainability, Climate Change and Innovation Minister Andrew McNamara to an audience of Quandamooka traditional owners, state and local government representatives, former lazaret patients and staff, members of Friends of Peel Island, conservationists and history buffs, as they gathered at Polka Point on North Stradbroke Island.

The island’s historical importance is matched by its environmental significance with 74 bird species, 28 plant species, three types of mammals, eight reptile types and two frog types so far recorded on the island. The island also has sedgelands, melaleuca swamps and open forests, and is fringed by mangroves, coral reef, significant beds of seagrass and the magnificent crescent of beach, known as Horseshoe Bay.

Source and article: Click Here

Seagrass-Watch Moreton Bay has been monitoring several sites at Peel Island since late 2002. To view monitoring report: Click Here


School competes to save Seagrass

18 December 2007 Hornsby Shire Council

Students from Brooklyn Public School were last week awarded with prizes and certificates for their outstanding entries in a competition to help raise awareness of Dangar Island’s endangered seagrass bed.

The competition, My Favourite Seagrass Animal, was part of a joint program between Hornsby Council and the Hawkesbury Nepean Catchment Management Authority, called the Dangar Island Seagrass Protection and Education program. The program aims to protect an area of seagrass found off the southern side of Dangar Island.

Council’s Environmental Scientist, Kristy Guise, said, “The children produced some fantastic artwork, and the winning entries had three simple messages that everyone can follow. These were; don’t dig boat propellers or anchors into the seagrass bed; look for buoys that surround the seagrass and keep away; and tell other people about the importance of the seagrass bed.”

The NSW Maritime Authority has placed nine yellow marker buoys around the area to help locals and visitors identify where the seagrass bed is located.

To learn more about the unique seagrass habitat and the animals that live within it, join the council’s free seagrass workshops in January 2008. Workshops will be held at Bradley’s Beach, Dangar Island at 3.00pm Sunday 6 and Monday 21 January 2008. For more information contact Kristy Guise on 9847 6899.

To download workshop invitation: Click Here



Endangered dugongs found dead in Abu Dhabi

Middle East online, Monday 17 December, 2007

ABU DHABI – A team of field scientists from the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi (EAD) this month came across two dugongs trapped in an abandoned drift Gillnet (Al Hayali), close to Abu Al Abyad Island.

“This discovery clearly demonstrates once again the vulnerability of these majestic animals to human threats. We call on the community once again to help support our efforts in protecting this endangered treasure,” said Majid Al Mansouri, Secretary General of EAD.

The dugong is listed as ‘Vulnerable to Extinction’ internationally and is protected locally under UAE Federal Law No. 23 (By-Laws 2001). The law aims to fully protect dugongs and other marine wildlife, including sea turtles, from any commercial and recreational utilization of species within its range in UAE waters.

Gillnets, particularly drift gillnets locally known as Al Hayali, constitute one of the major threats to the Dugong populations within the UAE and globally.

Studies conducted by EAD experts have indicated that the two dugongs suffocated to death in gill-nets. Drift nets (Al Hayali) and Encircling gill nets ( Al Halaq) are banned by Law in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, however, abandoned nets and illegal use of banned nets continue to be a major cause of dugong mortality in the area.

Moreover, Dugongs are at risk from boat strikes and disturbances in areas, where high boating traffic coincides with dugong habitat.

Dugongs are also indirectly at risk due to the destruction of their main habitat, seagrass. Seagrass which occur in coastal and shallow water areas and require light for their growth, are particularly vulnerable from increasing developmental activities along the coast such as dredging, land filling, coastal clearing and land reclamation as well as eutrophication (an increase in chemical nutrients) from sewage and other effluents.

EAD has been undertaking studies on dugongs in the UAE since 1999, with funding from TOTAL ABU AL BUKHOOSH. The initial phase of the studies which extended over a period of four years focused on obtaining information on the abundance, distribution and the conservation status of dugongs in UAE.

The second phase, which is currently being implemented, further focuses on the biological and ecological aspects and stock structure of the species. Current efforts also include implementing of a dugong conservation and management plan and fostering closer regional and international cooperation in dugong conservation.

Efforts towards regional and international cooperation culminated in the signing of a memorandum of understanding involving all dugong range states during a meeting held in Abu Dhabi last October.

Source and article: Click Here



Gecko takes lead in mapping seagrass

12 December 2007, Gold Coast Sun

The city's leading environment lobby group is calling for offical mapping of the Gold Coast's seagrass beds.

Gecko, the Gold Coast and Hinterland Environment Council, has established a new body to kick-start things. Spokesperson Sheila Davis said seagrass beds were valuable sources of food and shelter for species such as prawns, fish, sea turtles, dugongs and shorebirds. She said volunteers planned to collect data on the health and condition of seagrass three times a year.

"We did field work in Currumbin Creek and used seagrass beds not on the map," she said. Ms Davis said the health of seagrass was under constant threat from both natural and human impacts.

People interested in working on the project can call Ms Davis on 5530 6600 or email



Holy Cow: there's seagrass on Coast

5 December 2007, Gold Coast Sun, p 29

Seagrass, favourite food of the endangered dugong or sea cow, has been found in Currumbin Creek.

Seagrass-Watch, a Queensland program mapping locations for seagrass, says it might be growing in Tallebudgera creek too.

Project co-ordinator Sheila Davis said the seagrass was protected and mapping where it grew was important because it provided a resource to consult when any work has to be done in the waterways.

"We did our fieldwork in Currumbin Creek and used seagrass bedds that are not on the map," said Ms Davis. "Workshop participants are keen to find more and ensure that all the Gold Coast's seagrass beds are mapped. It's a very significant resource and it is a protected marine plant."

The grass was forund when the workshop trained in Currumbin Creek after hearing rumors the grass was growing in the area. "There are also rumours that seagrass is growing in Tallebudgera Creek and that will be our next area of focus," said Ms Davis. "Authorites do not want people to destroy it unnecessarily, but if it does come to that then those involved have to compensate - noramlly by way of planting more seagrass. So if there was any dredging or water sports or something that would disturb the grass, we could help protect it as best we can."

There was no evidence yet that dugongs have been grazing the seagrass at Currumbin Creek - that will not be known untill around March.

Article by Rick Morton



5 December - International Volunteer Day

In 1985, the United Nations General Assembly designated 5 December as an annual celebration of voluntary action by people, communities and governments of the world. International Volunteer Day (IVD) is for volunteers of all walk of life working in communities around the globe. The United Nations Volunteers programme (UNV) is the designated international focal point for IVD.

Let us know what you're doing for IVD 2007. Send us a brief description of your activities so we can share your experiences with other volunteers and use them to encourage new volunteers to step forward

For more details, visit the IVD website


International Seagrass Biology Workshop 8 (ISBW8)

Michelle Waycott, President World Seagrass Association, 1 December 2007

The International Seagrass Biology Workshop series have taken place around the world since 1993 in Japan having evolved out of recognition of the global focus of seagrass issues. The Workshops have been held in a diverse range of locations around the world highlighting the diversity of seagrasses and their ecosystems. The 90 or so people who attended the last ISBW meeting in Zanzibar were treated to the high species diversity meadows of the East African tropical coast, met some wonderful people and were made more aware of the issues facing peoples who rely on seagrass meadows for their very survival.

In 2008, the next meeting will be held at the spectacular Bamfield Marine Sciences Center on Vancouver Island, Canada from August 30 through September 6, 2008, including 5 full conference days. The meeting is being timed to make the best opportunity for conducting a field trip during low tides to see the Phyllospadix meadows.

Due to the size of the venue, there will be limits as to the number of people who can attend ISBW8 and a working group has been formed to assist with the decision making process. A call for abstracts will be made in the next few weeks. As places will be strictly limited, anyone who is interested in attending is encouraged to put in an application for attendance when applications to submit abstract are called on Tuesday 18 December 2007.

The ISBW8 convenor is Cynthia Durance. For more information, visit the ISBW8 website

Seagrass-Watch scientists particpate in ISBW's, as a forum to update the global seagrass scientific community on program developments and present results of monitoring activities. See Seagrass-Watch news issues 7, 15, 20, 27.


Fontes awarded for coast care

Whitsunday Times, Friday 30 November, 2007

Tony and Beverly Fontes of the Order of Underwater Coral Heroes (OUCH) have been awarded a prestigious Coastcare Local Hero medal for their outstanding contribution to repairing and protecting the Whitsunday's magnificent coast. Mr Fontes said it was fantastic to receive the award.  "It is a privilege and honour to receive it and we really appreciate it," Mr Fontes said.  "We have been working very hard and this award is for all of the OUCH volunteers not just myself and Beverly."

As part of Coastcare Week (3-9 December) supported by Iron Man legend and health and environment champion Guy Leech, local heroes such as Tony and Beverly Fontes from OUCH have received Coastcare medals for tireless work in protecting local coastal environments.

The Order of Underwater Coral Heroes (OUCH) is a group of internationally recognised volunteers dedicated to the protection of coral reefs in the Whitsunday Islands. The group is involved in Seagrass-Watch (monitoring seagrass meadows) and Mangrove Watch (monitoring mangrove forests) as well as the Reef Protection Program. The group consists of volunteer divers, skippers, marine biologists, surveyors and keen snorklers and is dedicated to research, education and advocacy.

They have identified poor anchoring practices as a major source of degradation of the reef in the Whitsunday Islands over the last 20 years. As a result, the Reef Protection Program has been activated to reduce the damage caused by over 300 boats that can sail through the reef at any one time.

With widespread community support and an on-going education campaign, the OUCH volunteers are well advanced toward their goal of reducing human induced stress on the coral reef by every means possible. "This award will raise awareness of our group and our projects and people may take us more seriously," Mr Fontes said.

Coastcare Ambassador Guy Leech said "These people are putting in a huge amount and time and effort. The results they achieve are truly remarkable. It is more crucial than ever to get the balance right between enjoying our natural resources now and conserving them for future generations. Coastcare heroes give up their own time to make sure the coast remains spectacular." The Coastcare movement has 60,000 volunteers in 2,000 community groups around the country, all contributing towards keeping the Aussie coast beautiful.  "Increasing storm activity and other extreme events caused by climate change are threatening our coast and Coastcare groups are building resilience into the coastline through projects such as dune revegetation and reef monitoring initiatives' said Brian Scarsbrick, Coastcare CEO.

"Coastcare is all about doing something practical to protect and repair Australia's coastline. More volunteers are always needed. Just go to and look up your local group to get going."  "When it comes to preserving our coastal areas, team work is the key and the more people that get involved, the better," Brian Scarsbrick added.  "Coastcare Week shines the spotlight on local heroes making a difference to their coastal and marine environment."

If you kow any other unsung environmental heroes in the Whitsundays nominate them for a Local Hero medal. Simply email with information on the candidate's and their contact details.

Pictures: Ouch in action - Whitsundays.

Source and article: Click Here



Seagrass map wins group local hero gong

The Cairns Post, Thursday 29 November, 2007

Mapping seagrass and measuring water quality have won a Cape York environment group a Coastcare Local Hero medal.

CYMAG, formerly the Cape York Marine Advisory Group, has been monitoring the waters of the Annan, Endeavour and Laura/Normanby rivers and have released seagrass maps for 100km of Eastern Cape York coastline. "You cannot manage what you've got without good knowledge of it," Cymag CEO Ian McCollum said. "That's what drives our group."

CYMAG also undertook studies of wetlands and coastal erosion. The group is set to start a survey of five remote beaches' along the Cape's east coast to quantify debris washing ashore after floods in urban areas.

"We get thousands of thongs, hundreds of black plastic flower pots," Mr McCollum said. "We're going to find out accurately where it comes from and then put pressure on governments to clean it up."

Riki Gunn from the Gulf fishing port of Karumba also won a Local Heroes medal for her work with the Carpentaria Ghost Net Program.



Bangladesh Cyclone-Sidr Appeal

Mowdudur Rahman, CCEC, 29 November 2007

The Centre for Coastal Environmental Conservation (CCEC), a Seagrass-Watch partner since 2006, are making a special request for assistance to help cyclone victims to survive, recover, rebuild, and rehabilitate the coastal environment. The CCEC office located in Khulna is not far from the most severely Cyclone-Sidr impacted coastal communities and they have the capacity and desire to provide much needed assistance but support is needed.

Cyclone-Sidr, likened to a mini Tsunami, due its powerful 5-6 metre tidal surge hit the Bangladesh Sundarban coast, Nov.15, officially taking 3,243 human lives to-date but it is estimated this figure could rise to 10,000.

Sundarban the UNESCO declared World Heritage Site, is the world largest mangroves forest and took a direct hit which helped to save coastal lives and resources by sacrificing herself as a buffer. The magnitude of devastation would be manifold if not for the Sundarban mangroves which suffered extensive damage according to early reports. A great deal of assistance will be required in the medium term to rehabilitate this critical protective barrier against future cyclones and tidal surges.

If you would like to contribute, click here

Seagrass-Watch is assisting CCEC to identify and assess seagrasses in Bangladesh. See Seagrass-Watch news issue 27.


Locals urged to avoid bacteria blooms

ABC News, Wednesday 28 November 2007

The Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland says people should avoid interaction with large blooms of the bacteria lyngbya, which are affecting areas of Moreton Bay.

Spokesman Simon Baltais says the bacteria, which looks like black cotton, has carcinogenic properties and can cause skin lesions and asthma attacks.

He says the blooms have been found at Wellington Point, Victoria Point and in the Pumicestone Passage.

Mr Baltais says the blooms occur naturally but land clearing and pollution are causing dangerous outbreaks.

"It becomes quite extensive and covers things like sea grass and destroys it, and obviously that's a problem for animals, like dugong and turtles that rely on it," he said.

"It's also a health hazard, it's not the sort of thing people should play with, it causes all sorts of problems and it's also a danger to wildlife, so it's not the thing that you want an abundance of in your environment."

Source and article: Click Here



Anglers support Moreton Bay bans, Monday 26 November, 2007

Commercial and recreational fishers have proposed that 29 per cent of some Moreton Bay fishing habitats be locked up. They have also suggested 18 per cent of seagrass areas be set aside to protect dugong and trawlers be banned from about a quarter of the bay.

The no-go areas, outlined in a document prepared for the Moreton Bay Access Alliance, are more extensive than the Environmental Protection Agency has foreshadowed.  The agency has not been specific but has set a minimum of 10 per cent green area in the bay marine park, which stretches 125km from Caloundra to the Gold Coast Seaway.

Some conservationists want half the bay, which covers 390,000ha and is Queensland's busiest seaway, closed off. Fishing groups think the 10 per cent no-go target is too high.

The alliance, which is made up of amateur and professional fishers, representatives of the indigenous community, conservation movement and boating and seafood traders, said the plan would protect the bay while minimising impact on livelihoods and leisure.

Alliance chairman Bruce Alvey said there would be some job losses if the agency accepted his group's ideas as part of a review of the marine park. "But that small amount of pain may be necessary to protect the bay for the future," he said.

It was in the best interests of fishers to see the bay protected, but zoning had to allow for continued use by recreational and commercial fishers.

Queensland's Moreton Bay Seafood Industry Association chairman Robert Brock said the proposal would allow access to highly productive fishing areas. At the same time, it would offer protection to 18 per cent of seagrass habitat that supported dugongs and 29 per cent of riverine and estuarine habitat. "That far exceeds the EPA's goal of 10 per cent protection for each habitat type," he said. "On top of this are existing fishing closures managed under fisheries legislation."

Daryl McPhee, of Queensland University, said the alliance proposal increased no-go zones from 0.5 per cent to 10 per cent.  "The habitats that have been allocated highest levels of protection under the industry proposal are important in that they support communities of protected species such as dugongs," Dr McPhee said.

Queensland Conservation Council spokesman Simon Baltais said the alliance approach had been a worthwhile process but "politics" had got in the way. "If there had been more time we probably could have achieved 80 per cent agreement on matters," he said.

Source and article: Click Here

Article by: Peter Morley



Dugong on verge of extinction in Qatar

International Animal Rescue, Friday 23 November 2007

The dugong faces extinction in Arabian Gulf waters unless urgent action is taken to protect its habitat and main source of food, seagrass, the government of Qatar has warned. Announcing plans to launch a major study into the situation facing the endangered sea mammal, the country's Supreme Council for Environment and Natural Reserves (SCENR), told the Peninsula that it hopes the survey will allow it to better protect the species.

Qatar is home to the world's second largest population of dugongs, with estimates putting their population in the Arabian Gulf at 7,500, but they are under threat due to habitat loss from construction work as well as pollution and fishing. Ghanem Mohammed Abdullah, Director of Wildlife Conservation at SCENR, said: "Qatar is therefore a central part of the dugong's range and this unique mammal is facing serious threat." "An immediate intervention is necessary for combating threats from fishing, pollution and its habitat loss," he added.

The Qatari government also announced it is hopeful of co-operation from neighbouring countries including Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, as well as enlisting the support of both a regional airline and a team of international scientists.

Source and article: Click Here

Image courtesy of Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority



Seagrass draws attention in experts’ meet (Philippines), 22 November 2007

BOLINAO, Pangasinan – Seagrass, the “last frontier” of the marine ecosystems, got the attention it deserved during a two-week, seven-country regional training course on management models and strategies for coral reef and seagrass ecosystems conducted here by the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute (UPMSI).

Dr. Miguel Fortes, a marine scientist and professor of marine science at the UPMSI, said that of the marine habitats, corals are the most popular, mangroves the most disturbed and seagrass beds the least studied.

Vanishing corals

“The mangrove forests are almost decimated and coral cover is down to less than 5 percent. We should protect the seagrass beds because they are the last frontier of the ecosystems,” he said. The training course, attended by participants who are involved in coral and seagrass management in their countries, was anchored on the principle that “coral reefs and seagrass ecosystems are contiguous, interconnected structurally and functionally.” The course was in line with objectives of the United Nations Environment Program/Global Environment Facility (UNEP/GEF) South China Sea Project.

Chain reaction

Participants came from Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. Fortes said in the past, studies on the three marine ecosystems were done separately but “evidence shows the connection between them, that if you destroy mangroves, you destroy corals, and you destroy seagrass beds.” Except the Philippines, the other countries shared common problems like the lack of good assessment of seagrass beds, including the factors that destroy them. The Philippines has also the most seagrass species, “but only maybe because more studies have been conducted here,” Fortes said.

Bolinao trip

The participants were brought to an exposure trip to the flat reefs of Cape Bolinao where coral reefs abound and where the largest concentration of seagrass beds in the country (22,500 square kilometers, 10 species) is found. Fortes said seagrass beds and coral reefs should be considered as a macro-system of the tropical world that needs an integrated approach for management and protection. But seagrass beds have not been given much attention because “they are grass and not as attractive as the colorful corals,” he said. “But they are as useful as corals,” said Fortes, who has been studying seagrass for 20 years.

CO2 eaters

Being plants, seagrass beds mitigate global warming and account for 12 percent uptake of global carbon dioxide, he said. As plants, they also provide oxygen to water, trap and cycle nutrients, stabilize sediments and improve water transparency and quality. They also reduce the strength of waves, thus protecting the shorelines, provide food and habitat for microbes and other flora and fauna, and interact with coral reefs and mangroves. “Seagrass beds are eco tomes (transition zones) between mangroves and corals. They trap silts from mangroves so the silt will not reach the corals which are very sensitive to siltation,” he said.

Fish friends

Some fish need both seagrass meadows and coral reefs to thrive, Fortes said. He gave as an example the rabbit fish which residents of this town make into padas (bagoong) when in juvenile stage, and into danggit (sun dried) when in adult stage. “Some species of rabbit fish spawn in sea bed about 12 kilometers from shore. The young fish are herbivores and graze at seagrass beds but when they are sexually mature, they stay at coral reefs,” he said. Other species of rabbit fish stay at mangrove areas. But the seagrass, though hardy, is also affected by environmental degradation, Fortes said.

Article by: Yolanda Sotelo-Fuertes

Source and article: Click here

Seagrass-Watch is a partner of UNEP/GEF South China Seas Project and has particpated in previous training and monitoring at Bolinao. See Seagrass-Watch news Issues 26 and 29.


Helicopters to monitor movements of dugong

Gulf Times, Wednesday, 21 November, 2007

SOPHISTICATED military camera systems will be used to study dugongs – highly vulnerable sea mammals which are facing extinction. The effort is part of a Qatar Dugong Conservation Initiative, being undertaken by the Supreme Council for Environment and Natural Reserves (SCENR), in association with Dolphin Energy and the Qatar Air Force (Helicopter Wing).

Dolphin Energy is managing the project with a team of international scientists from Five Oceans and aerial support from the Helicopter Wing. The study, which is meant to conserve the mammals in the Arabian Gulf, will also include seagrass habitats on which dugongs depend. A previous study of dugongs, which are also known as sea cows, was conducted in the mid-1980s, officials said yesterday.

The project team officials said they were grateful to the Qatari Air Force which will be providing the necessary support for aerial surveys used to obtain critical data about numbers and whereabouts of dugongs in Qatari waters, the officials said.

The new study will be completed in three months, said Ghanem Abdullah Mohamed, director of Wildlife Conservation Department, at the SCENR.

The cameras on board military helicopters will enable scientists to employ new study techniques that have not yet been attempted anywhere else in the world, officials said. The project also aims to study dead dugongs washed ashore, as well as to raise awareness of dugongs throughout the state. Fishermen and other maritime users will also be contacted in an effort to obtain vital clues.

The dugongs of Qatar are part of the world’s second largest population of the species. Only Australia boasts a larger number and these are genetically isolated. Dugongs of the Arabian Gulf region feed almost exclusively on the seagrass beds that stretch from the eastern shoreline of Saudi Arabia to Ras Al Khaima. Much of their range, east of Abu Dhabi, however, has been altered by coastal development, land reclamation and dredging.

Most of the Gulf’s dugongs now live between Bahrain and Abu Dhabi. Qatar, therefore, is a central part of the dugong’s range and the survival of this unique animal is dependent on urgent implementation of conservation measures that combat threats from fishing, pollution and loss of habitat. Other species, such as turtles and dolphins would also benefit from the programme as they share the same habitat, officials said.

The successful protection of dugongs in Qatar also depends on co-operation from other range states, including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE, officials pointed out. The mammals move across borders regularly. Dolphin Energy, sponsor of this project, has already funded several regional conservation initiatives spanning the territorial waters of both Qatar and the UAE.

Photo: Ghanem Abdullah Mohamed, Khalifa Saleh al-Naimi, Khalid al-Enzi and Mohamed al-Rumaihi, at a press conference

Source and article: Click here



Call to action - help save the dugong

15 November 2007, Noosa Council, QLD, Australia

The dugong, those large, vegetarian marine mammals, are in need of your help. At 400kg adult weight, these docile creatures feed solely on seagrass. Sadly, seagrass beds are threatened by erosion, which is escalated by poor land use practices such as land clearing, deforestation, overgrazing, unmanaged construction activity and road building.

Populations of the dugong have shown marked declines of around 95 per cent throughout southern Queensland over the past 50 years. This decline appears to have occurred in the more developed and urbanised coastal areas and is related to the lack of seagrasses.

The movement of unconsolidated sediment (erosion) finds its way into watercourses and ends up in the ocean. Extreme sediment loads in these marine systems results in destruction of seagrass beds, and ultimately to the demise of the beautiful sea creature, the dugong.

The Black Mountain Range Catchment Project (BMRCP), a Landcare initiative, is doing its bit for the marine environment, but needs your assistance to plant trees to help the dugong.

Funded by the Burnett - Mary Regional Group and supported by Noosa Council, the project aims to increase plant-based biodiversity in the Black Mountain Range sub-catchment. Noosa Council has been conducting similar works around Lake Macdonald, which flows into Six Mile Creek, and into the Mary River.

By planting creek side vegetation, creek banks will stabilise and erosion will be reduced. Freshwater vegetation will also act as a sediment and nutrient filter to help keep the water clean.

The benefits gained in the hinterland region will filter through the rest of the catchment into the Mary River, and eventually into Hervey Bay preserving seagrass beds in an important dugong breeding and feeding ground.

To find out how you can help plant trees and save the dugong, contact Paul Sprecher on 54852155 or e-mail

Source and press release: Click Here

Image courtesy of Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority


PTP, MNSJ Moot Idea To Gazette Pulau Merambung (Kuala Lumpur,Malaysia)

November 09, 2007 Bernama

Johor Baharu -- The Port of Tanjung Pelepas (PTP) and the Malaysian Nature Society of Johor (MNSJ) have mooted an idea to gazette Pulau Merambung, an island across the port, as a marine conservation area. The idea was mooted as they entered into a collaboration to conserve the Sungai Pulai estuary to help preserve seagrass, dugong, seahorses and other marine inhabitants in areas around Pulau Merambung.

PTP chairman Datuk Mohd Sidik Shaik Osman said the idea was in line with the port's promotion for a sustainable development. "I don't think we want to develop the port in a manner where we will destroy the environment. If we think the development of the area will have serious impact on the environment, then we have to adjust our plans accordingly, he told reporters after presenting a RM60,000 cheque to MNSJ to finance its research on Sungai Pulai estuary and its unique eco-system.

Under the collaboration with MNSJ, PTP will collect data on the environment in the area and learn how to conserve them as it planned for future development. "It is possible in some areas where we do our port work that some seagrass areas are affected. We would want to relocate the seagrass to an area around Pulau Merambung so that we could preserve it," said Sidik.

MNSJ Director Assoc Prof Dr Maketab Mohamed said the society would give advice and technical support to PTP on environmental aspects so that its future development would not have negative impact on the environment. Data collected by the society would also be used as scientific evidence to support the idea to gazette Pulau Merambung, he said. Johor State Executive Councillor for Tourism and Environment Freddie Long, who was also present, said the state government welcomed the idea. "Nobody can enter the island when the Johor National Parks Corporation approves the gazetting," he said.

Source and article: Click Here



Seagrass survey in Klong Tub Lamu

GreenCoast, October 2007 - Thailand

The seagrass population in Klong Tub Lamu, in Bahn Ta Din area, is the only population that survived the tsunami. This seagrass, that grows in the canals of mangrove forests, was recently discovered and has yet to be monitored and evaluated.

The tsunami had destructive effects on the seagrass, as it carried a large amount of clay and sediment from the coast. The nearby seagrass was covered and destroyed. Yet the thick fortress of beach and mangrove forests reduced the severity of these effects in Klong Tub Lamu, thus allowing this one population to survive.

This seagrass site is of great importance to the local fishermen, as it has been and still is their main source of income. These villagers use local wisdom to construct their own fishery tools, mainly for trapping blue swimmer crabs, shrimp, mollusks and various fish species. They use the fish for their own food supply and if they have a good catch, the fish is being sold as an additional income.

Recently WWF-Thailand conducted surveys on the specific seagrass population in Klong Tub Lamu. Preliminary results show that the seagrass has little natural richness and covers approximately 0.72 squared kilometers, spanning a depth of 1-1.15 metres. Once at low tide, the seagrass becomes more apparent in some areas, in mud-sandy soil. The seagrass evaluation methods were modified by Seagrass-Watch, and only one species of seagrass was discovered which covers 11.38% of the site: the tropical eelgrass or Enhalus acoroides. Yet the team also discovered other life forms such as periwinkles, Cerithidea sp. and the Blood cockles, Anadara sp.

photos courtesy WWF-Canon/Kittipan SUBKHOON

Source and article: Click Here



TeamSeagrass in the news!

myzone, Thursday October 25, 2007

"Like other youngsters, Kok Sheng often goes to the seaside. And he is there to be a volunteer. He is a volunteer for this green group called " Team Seagrass". The group is involved in monitoring Seagrass and other marine creatures.

For the last nine months, Kok Sheng had visited Chek Jawa@ Pulau Ubin, Pulau Semakau and Sentosa with Team Seagrass to do reccees and monitoring.

As a Team Seagrass volunteer, Kok Sheng said that they will monitor the health of the seagrass and identify the species of seagrass at the monitoring sites. The data collected at these sites will be analyzed to get a better understanding of the state of the seagrass.

If they found that the seagrass are not doing well, they will not do anything. Instead, they will let nature takes it course and let nature heals the seagrass.

In addition, he said that if action was taken by us to try to heal the seagrass, we might be upsetting the balance of nature nd disturbing the life of the marine creatures. The main objective of Team Seagrass is to collect data about the seagrass. And through these information, enable ordinary folks to understand the importance of marine creatures and that we have wonderful marine creatures in Singapore.

One of KS's most unforgettable experience was the monitoring session at Chek Jawa early this year. He said " It was raining eveyday and when we were at Chek Jawa, we found many seagrass and marine creatures dead and Chek Jawa looks like a graveyard.

He said this is because the seagrass and marine creatures can only live in salinity and the large amount of rain forced these plants and animals to live in fresh water. This result in casualties as they are unable to cope the drop of salinity in the water.

If you are interested in monitoring Seagrass, you can log on to this website : to find out more about Team Seagrass."

Source and article: Click Here



Coastal Habitats Are The Biosphere's Most Imperiled Ecosystems

ScienceDaily— The BBVA, 21 October 2007

Foundation’s Third Debate on Conservation Biology allowed leading international experts to present findings of their latest research into the scale, causes and consequences of global loss of coastal habitats. The disappearance of these ecosystems, which include coral reefs, mangrove forests, wetlands and seagrass meadows, has serious consequences like loss of biodiversity, depletion of exploitable living resources, impaired capacity of the oceans to sequester CO2 and loss of the leisure value of the coastal zone.

Carlos Duarte, researcher at the Spanish Council for Scientific Research and coordinator of the debate, informed the public that “coastal habitats are disappearing at a rate of between 1.2% and 9% a year and are now the biosphere’s most imperiled systems, with rates of loss 4 to 10 ten times faster than those of the tropical rainforest.” The causes of these losses are many and include “the rapidly growing population of coastal zones, currently home to 60% of the planet’s inhabitants, along with the urban development, infrastructure works and ecosystem destruction this growth entails.” Also, increased discharges of nitrogen, phosphorus and organic matter have caused the deterioration of waters and sediments in many of the world’s coastal zones.

Núria Marbà, a researcher at the Mediterranean Institute for Advanced Studies (Imedea) talked about the results of the Praderas project, funded by the BBVA Foundation, which show that most Mediterranean meadows of Posidonia oceanica – extremely valuable ecosystems for the functions and services they provide – have experienced severe shrinkage in the last 40 years. “We have observed a rise in mortality among some marine angiosperm species in the aftermath of heat waves, suggesting that meadow decline will accelerate as the seawaters continue to warm.” Studies carried out as part of this project, she explained, show that the seagrass meadows along the Spanish coast are losing about 5% of their extension each year, and even more in years like 2003 when the sea temperature rises higher than normal.

Bill Dennison, of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (USA), clarified that “seagrass meadows are vital habitats which grow along the coasts at tropical and temperate latitudes and supply ecological services that make them among the most valuable ecosystems in the biosphere”. It is estimated that 54% of meadows have lost part of their coverage. Dennison contends that seagrass meadows reflect changes in ecosystem quality and act as global biological barometers for man-made pollution; the meadows are like “coal mine canaries” for the health of coastal ecosystems and their decline is an unequivocal sign of coastal environmental stress.

According to Dennison, “reports on changes in seagrass meadow extension have documented losses since 1980 of an area equivalent to two football fields with each hour that passes. Most worrying of all is that these calculations are very much on the conservative side, since only 9% of seagrass meadows have been studied. So the total area lost probably equates to 10 football fields per hour.”

One of the factors favoring this loss is that seagrass meadows are not in the public eye, despite their ecological importance: “In the case of coral reefs, around 130 news items appear in the mass media for every scientific article published, compared to just 13 items appearing for every scientific article on seagrass meadows. It is vital that we bridge this gap between science and social awareness” added Dennison, before concluding his intervention with a call for “a global conservation effort to halt the loss of seagrass meadows.”

The debate was organized jointly by the BBVA Foundation and the Cap Salines Coastal Research Station (Imedea-CSIC and University of the Balearic Islands).

Source and full article: Click Here



"Horrific sealife injuries unnecessary says expert

Cairns Post, Saturday October 20, 2007

HORRIFIC boat propeller wounds on turtles, dolphins and dugongs have prompted calls for boaties to slow down near reefs and seagrass. "The results are pretty horrific," Queensland Parks and Wildlife conservation services manager Mark Read said, following the recent Esplanade beaching of an adult female turtle suffering propeller wounds. "The turtle had been hit by a relatively small outboard powered boat and it had six major cuts to its shell," Dr Read said.

"Five of these went straight through the shell into its body and there was significant damage to its body." Boaties could minimise the risk of a collision by slowing downnear reefs and seagrass where turtles, dugongs, dolphins and whales had little room to escape. "The other thing people can do is keep an eye out when they're travelling in their boat. "And ask locals where they see lots of turtles and dugongs."

The EPA recorded relatively few boat strike injuries in the Far North, with nine turtles, two dolphins, two dugong and one humpback whale reported between 2004-06. But Dr Read said, "If we have a look at the species that are mostlyaffected by boat strike, nearly all are endangered, so a loss of even one creature, is significant."

In September, wildlife officers discovered a female humpback dolphin between Palm Cove jetty and Yorkeys Knob Marina. The animal died from a head injury wildlife officers suspected was caused by a boat.



Firm to work with environs groups

nst online, Wednesday August 15, 2007

JOHOR BARU: The developer of a proposed petrochemical and marine industries estate at the Sungai Pulai estuary has agreed to work with local environmentalists to assess the impact of the project on the estuary.

It will also abide by Menteri Besar Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman’s recent order that a detailed environmental impact assessment (DEIA) be conducted on the project site near the estuary which is home to the dugong and seahorse.

Representatives of Seaport Worldwide Sdn Bhd met with officials from the Malaysian Nature Society, Johor (MNSJ) branch, yesterday to convince them that the project would be a sustainable one.

A spokesman for the developer said the meeting with MNSJ chairman Associate Professor Dr Maketab Mohamed and adviser Vincent Chow had been a fruitful one. "MNSJ agreed to support our project if we look into the preservation of the environment and biodiversity at the estuary.  "We are willing to work with MNSJ and other environmentalists and are now looking at doing a DEIA at the project site to show our transparency and commitment to preserve the environment."

The spokesman said Seaport Worldwide would carry out the project in the same environmentally-friendly manner that it had developed the Tanjung Pelepas Port (PTP).

"We complied with all the environmental regulations in developing the port, including helping to preserve the habitat of the seahorse at Pulau Merabong.  "We’re now working to monitor the seagrass bed in the area and run environmental awareness programmes for children."

PTP was bestowed the Partnership in Environmental Management for the Seas of East Asia award in recognition of its safety, health and environment systems.  The developer’s representatives will be meeting with the Save Our Seahorses action committee chairman Choo Chee Kuang for discussions today.

Maketab said he assured the developer that local environmentalists were not against the project but wanted to ensure it was environmentally sustainable. "We’re happy that the developer has agreed to do the DEIA in place of the less stringent EIA that it had done earlier.

"It is also encouraging that this time around the developer will be considering the feedback from local environmental groups."

Article by R. Sittamparam

Source and Article: Click Here



Pesticides still pouring into reef waters

The Sydney Morning Herald, Monday August 13, 2007

EIGHT of the 10 main rivers flowing into Great Barrier Reef waters have breached Queensland's water quality guidelines, polluting the country's most valuable tourist attraction with increased amounts of toxic chemicals.  The herbicides atrazine and diuron were present at river mouths, inshore reefs and intertidal seagrass monitoring locations, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority report said.

Monitoring over the past 12 months confirmed pesticides were "an ubiquitous contaminant" in the inshore areas of the reef, the Annual Marine Monitoring Report 2006 said.  The report was released on Friday after the Herald reported concerns in environmental circles that it had been withheld for several months.

Environmental groups say that despite knowing about the problem for decades, the Queensland and federal governments have not done enough to protect the reef from pastoral and sugar cane plantation activities that are pouring mud and chemicals into rivers.

"I don't think Australians would accept that level of toxicity in the Great Barrier Reef," said a reef expert at WWF-Australia, Nick Heath. "These pesticides are used on the ground to kill weeds and will have the same effect in the ocean."

The high level of pollution could not come at a worse time because of the reef's vulnerability to rising ocean temperatures caused by climate change.  By 2030, coral bleaching - the death of coral caused by the warming of the oceans - could result in a dramatic fall in the number of visitors to the reef.

A recent travel and tourism conference in Sydney grappled with the threat to the reef and other natural tourism attractions such as rainforests from greenhouse gas pollution emitted by, among other things, air travel.

The Reef Water Quality Protection Plan released by the Australian and Queensland governments in October 2003 aimed to halt and reverse the decline in the quality of water entering the reef within 10 years.

The 2006 report, the second annual report so far, indicated that that may be a bigger challenge than originally thought, noting that the use of pesticides in the reef's catchments had increased in recent years, particularly in agricultural and urban areas.

It singled out diuron and atrazine as the main problems. Diuron is used to control weeds by inhibiting photosynthesis, which means plants cannot convert sunlight into energy to grow. Atrazine, most widely used by the sugar cane industry, is used to control annual grasses and broadleaf weeds by inhibiting photosynthesis.  Mr Heath said that three years ago, in a draft report, the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority said it believed sugar cane farmers were over-applying pesticides by 75 per cent.  "The next key step would be for the agency to finalise its report with recommendations and I think they should ban atrazine and diuron tomorrow," he said.

The monitoring also detected banned organochlorine pesticides in mud crabs collected along the reef coast from seven of the 11 rivers sampled. Pollutants detected included PCBs, dieldrin and the breakdown products of DDT. However, the report noted the level of pollutants found in the mud crabs was well below food safety standards and said the tissue sampled was not usually eaten.

"The ecological consequences of chronic low-level exposure to these types of pollutants are yet to be fully understood, although laboratory experiments have demonstrated their acute toxicity to seagrass and corals," the report said.

Article by: Wendy Frew (Environment Reporter)

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Seagrass-Watch is working with Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority as part of the Reef Plan Marine Monitoring Program, to monitor condition of coastal seagrasses and identify impacts from poor water quality.



Report sheds light on water quality in the Great Barrier Reef

GBRMPA, Friday August 10, 2007

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has emphasised the need for a continued focus on improving water quality in the Great Barrier Reef.

In releasing the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s 2006 Marine Monitoring Annual Report, Executive Director Andrew Skeat said the report provided a sound baseline by which to judge future improvements in Great Barrier Reef water quality and ecosystem health.

“We now have a comprehensive water quality monitoring programme in place for the Reef,” he said.

“Data collected over the first 18 months of the monitoring programme have improved our understanding of Great Barrier Reef rivers, inshore waters, inshore reefs and seagrass ecosystems.

“We all know the quality of water entering the Reef must be improved and that there will be no quick fix. This report confirms we have a big job ahead of us.

“We are committed to continue to work with Queensland, Regional Natural Resource Management Bodies and industry to see real results on the ground.”

Mr Skeat said the Australian Government committed $6 million since July 2004 to develop and implement the Marine Monitoring Programme and had provided a further $14.2 million to extend it to 2011.

“The monitoring programme provides a critical component of the assessment of any long-term improvement in regional water quality that will occur as best land management practices are widely adopted across Great Barrier Reef catchments,” he said.

“The programme is a key action in the Australian and Queensland Government’s Reef Water Quality Protection Plan funded through the Natural Heritage Trust.”

“The Reef Water Quality Protection Plan provides the framework for improving land management practices that effect water quality in the Reef catchment.”

To download the Great Barrier Reef Water Quality Protection Plan, Annual Marine Monitoring Report: Click Here

Source and Article: Click Here



Barrier Reef needs $300m clean-up: WWF

Brisbane Times, Thursday August 9, 2007

Conservationists say the federal government either invests $300 million on a Great Barrier Reef clean-up or risks its destruction.

International conservation organisation WWF said the reef was endangered by 14 million tonnes of chemicals and mud washed from farms onto the reef each year. New research released by the University of North Carolina also showed Pacific coral reefs, including the Great Barrier Reef, are dying faster than ever before because of climate change, disease and coastal development.

WWF Australia program leader Nick Heath called on the government to improve farming practices to avoid damaging run-off. "The federal government must act now to give the reef its best chance of avoiding future degradation," Mr Heath said. "Substantial new investment is critical to accelerate the take-up of world's best farming practice in the most polluting catchments along the Great Barrier Reef coast."

Recent analysis shows a public investment of $300 million and a private industry co-investment of $340 million could halve pollution on the reef, Mr Heath said. Opposition climate change spokesman Peter Garrett on Wednesday called on the government to introduce a climate change plan before the reef was irreversibly damaged.

Source and article: Click Here



Okinawa dugong added to 'red list'

The Asahi Shimbun, Monday August 6, 2007

The Environment Ministry has added 461 species, including the "critically endangered" dugong, to its list of wild flora and fauna threatened with extinction.

The additions, part of a review of the entire "red list," bring the total number of threatened species to 3,155.  The dugong, a seagrass-eating mammal that, in Japan, is spotted only in waters off Okinawa's main island, was assessed for the first time.

The ministry's red list classifies wildlife into several categories, including "extinct," "threatened" and "near-threatened."  "Threatened" is further divided into IA (critically endangered), IB (endangered) and II (vulnerable).

The new list, released Friday, added the dugong to the IA group because fewer than 50 are believed to be surviving off the Okinawa island.

Sea mammals that do not emerge on land had previously been excluded from the government assessments.  But the dugong was covered this time because, since it feeds in shallow coastal waters, it is susceptible to the impact of human activities, according to officials.

The seas near Henoko point in Nago, where a new U.S. airfield is planned, contain the sea grass on which dugongs feed.  Those opposed to relocating the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma functions from Ginowan in the same prefecture to Henoko say building the airfield would destroy the sea cow's feeding grounds.

The review of the entire list is being done for the first time in seven to 10 years.  Friday's additions covered six groups, including mammals and fish.  The list is used in assessing the impact of development and deciding environmental protection moves.

Details on species whose continued existence is threatened are compiled and published as a Red Data Book.(IHT/Asahi: August 6,2007)

Source and Full article : Click Here

Seagrass-Watch is a partner of Okinawa Jangusa-Watch. Since July 2002, Okinawa Jangusa-Watch volunteers have used Seagrass-Watch monitoring techniques to monitor the seagrass meadows in Kayo and Henoko (Okinawa).  Click Here

Visit: to protect the Okinawa dugongs from the planned US Marine sea base construction in Nago.



SOS to save Sungai Pulai estuary

nst online, Thursday August 2, 2007

PONTIAN: "The marine world needs friends — don’t let development destroy the Sungai Pulai estuary. I’ve been there and seen the seahorses."

This plea from Sara Lourie of Canada echoes the feelings of more than 500 people worldwide who responded to a campaign by local environmentalists to save the estuary.

The online petition by Save Our Seahorses (SOS) action committee has collected more than 500 signatures in a bid to stop a local company from building a chemical industries estate at the estuary.

The estate, to be built on 913ha of cleared mangrove land, will house heavy industries producing plastic, paints, pesticides and chemical products.

There will also be a chemical incinerator and facilities to process toxic and hazardous waste.

SOS action committee chairman, Choo Chee Kuang said response to the petition was overwhelming and he was confident that in a couple of days, SOS would reach its target of collecting 5,000 signatures.

"We want the Department of Environment to review a Comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment (CEIA) report done by a consultant for the development of the estate.

"We feel the CEIA does not adequately assess the consequences of having such hazardous industries in an ecologically sensitive area like the Sungai Pulai estuary."

SOS’ petition at since its posting on Monday evening, has seen a stream of responses from as far as Romania.

Elena Gageanu from Romania says: "Let’s not wonder anymore about the cause of floods, earthquakes, tsu-namis, dry climate, rising temperatures and maladies happening lately... Continuing the destruction of ecosystems such as the Sungai Pulai estuary will only lead to our own extinction!"

Jarina Mohd Jani from the United Kingdom said: "I had the opportunity to discover the wonders of the giant seagrass bed at the Sungai Pulai estuary and am devastated to hear that the proposed development would destroy it. Hope the decision makers would reconsider."

The local response was also loud and clear with A. Thiruchelvam saying: "Let’s not destroy everything in the name of development as our children and grandchildren will ultimately pay for our greed."

The federal and state Department of Environment have remained silent on the matter

Article by: R. Sittamparam

Source and article: Click Here

Seagrass-Watch is a partner of SOS Malaysia. Since September 2005, SOS volunteers have used Seagrass-Watch monitoring techniques to monitor the seagrass meadows located between Malaysia and Singapore.  Click Here



The island paradise built on a garbage dump

London, England (CNN), Thursday July 26, 2007

Garbage dumps are generally not associated with thriving coral reefs, vast mangrove plantations and rare bird species. Yet on Pulau Semakau off Singapore, this is exactly what you will find: just beside a secluded ecological zone that harbors dozens of rare plant, bird and fish species lies the world's first ecological offshore landfill.

Located 8 kilometers south of Singapore and covering an area of 3.5 square kilometers, the Semakau Landfill was designed by engineers and environmentalists at Singapore's National Environment Agency (NEA). It consists of two small islands that have been connected by a rock embankment. The area inside the landfill is divided into 11 bays, known as 'cells', which are lined with thick plastic and clay to prevent any harmful material from seeping into the sea. The landfill, which cost around $400 million, can hold up to 63 million cubic meters of rubbish, enough to satisfy Singapore's waste disposal needs until 2040.

What distinguishes Semakau from other landfills is that it is clean and free of smell. Two mangrove groves that were destroyed when the embankment was built have been replanted near the landfill and today they serve as biological indicators for the local environment. Together with the island's other ecosystems such as seagrass meadows, coral reefs and sandy shores, the mangroves serve as a habitat for a variety of birds, fish and plants.

"Great effort went into making sure that the impact of the landfill on Pulau Semakau's biodiversity was minimized. In fact, biodiversity remains high and we have not lost a single species because of the landfill," says Wang Luan Keng, an education and research officer at the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research (RMBR) in Singapore.

In July 2005, the government decided to open the western part of Semakau up to the public for recreational purposes. Today there are guided nature walks along the island's coast, while sports fishing and bird watching associations also organize special excursions to the island. "When we do the tours around the island, we have a powerful message," says Ria Tan, an associate at the RMBR and owner of a popular Web site, "We tell people: 'Look how beautiful this is, and imagine what could be destroyed if the landfill had to be expanded.' This makes them think and when they go home they are more careful about how they deal with waste."

Thus, the Semakau Landfill project has inadvertently turned into more than just a trash dump; it is becoming an educational project and could serve as a model for sustainable urban development around the world. "It is of course a compromise, but in the context of urban living I think it is a good one. Some nature lovers criticize the project, but in the end we have to throw our rubbish somewhere and this is a good solution," says Tan.

Pictures (left): Pulau Semakau from the air (Image courtesy of  Pulau Semakau's lush seagrass meadows (Image courtesy of Seagrass-Watch HQ)

Article by Francesca de Châtel for CNN

Team Seagrass Singapore (Seagrass-Watch partner) monitors seagrass on Pulau Semakau:

Source and article: Click Here



Fishermen fight to save livelihood

New Straits Times, Thursday July 26, 2007

Fisherman Abdul Rahman Salleh put his 11 children through school on the money that he made catching fish in the Sungai Pulai estuary. But these days, he has little to show for hours of work. Abdul Rahman, who represents 500 fishermen from Pendas to Gelang Patah, has been forced to sell his house to make ends meet.

He said the estuary’s bounty has been in decline over the last 20 years following the construction of a port, bridge and power plant. As if that were not bad enough, there are now plans to build an industrial estate in the area which will host heavy industries. These include makers of plastics, paints, pesticides and chemical products. There will also be a chemical incinerator and facilities to process toxic and hazardous wastes.
Part of the development eats into a 91sq km area that is gazetted as protected wetlands under the Ramsar Convention. More than 900ha of mangroves could be cleared and 15ha of submerged land along the river’s west bank reclaimed, according to the mandatory study on the project’s environmental impact. This could cause some 500 families living here to lose their traditional way of life and source of income.

The development could also threaten the estuary’s wildlife, such as the spotted seahorse and dugong. Twenty years ago, a substantial tract of mangrove forest was cleared to build the port and power plant. This resulted in heavy silting which led to heavy growth of seaweed. This, in turn, blocked sunlight filtering down to the seagrass beds, reducing the amount of food that was available to fish, prawns and dugong.

Picture (left): Hanuar Isa (left) and Abdul Rahman Salleh showing some of the Ulva reticulata seaweed that is choking the life out of the Sungai Pulai estuary (Image courtesy of nstonline)

Article by R. Sittamparam

Source and article: Click Here



Study to conserve Gulf of Mannar’s ecosystem

The Hindu (Chennai, India), Thursday July 19, 2007

TUTICORIN: Suganthi Devadason Marine Research Institute (SDMRI) and Annamalai University will conduct a joint study of the inter-relationship and mutual dependency of mangrove, coral and seagrass ecosystems in the Gulf of Mannar. The aim of the study is to develop holistic strategies to conserve the three ecosystems, which will be helpful for different stake holders involved in the management of marine resources in the region.

The study will be carried out at a cost of Rs. 16 lakh allocated under a GEF-UNDP (Global Environment Facility-United Nations Development Programme) project, which is being implemented by the Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve Trust. J.K. Patterson Edward, Director, SDMRI, said that the research would be performed adopting micro and macro-level interventions.

The institutions had chosen areas in and around Poomarichan, Hare and Manoli islands for the study, all of which are part of the Mandapam group of islands. Characteristics of the areas surrounding these islands are ideal for comparison to delineate the inter-relationship among the ecosystems.

“While Poomarichan is rich in mangroves and seagrass beds, but less in corals, Hare islands have a ‘disturbed’ mangrove cover, but healthy in coral and seagrass ecosystems. All the three ecosystems remain healthy in Manoli,” he said. Dr. Kathiresan said that micro level studies would concentrate on assessment of biomarkers such as fatty acids and stable isotopes in the ecosystems, to understand how much one system was dependent on the other.

Likewise, physical, biological and chemical data, including productivity, coral growth, coral recruits, mangrove growth and its health, seagrass shoots and its growth and fishery production, would be collected. The final report would feature a set of codes for the improvement of health of ecosystem.

Article By R. Vimal Kumar

Source and article: Click Here



Whitsundays Seagrass-Watch volunteer farewelled

Seagrass-Watch HQ, Press Release, Saturday July 14, 2007

Pictures above: Margaret with Maren at Hydeaway Bay and with Wendy sampling at Pioneer Bay

THE Whitsundays’ longest-serving Seagrass-Watch volunteer has been farewelled in style at a special ceremony at Cannonvale today (July 14).

Margaret Parr has become a passionate Seagrass-Watch local coordinator, and since joining the local group in 1998 is now the longest-serving volunteer in Queensland.

Margaret’s retirement from Seagrass-Watch has been brought about by a move to the cooler climes of Canberra with her husband Bruce.

To commemorate her nine years of dedicated Seagrass-Watching, Member for Whitsundays and Primary Industries and Fisheries parliamentary secretary Jan Jarratt MP, presented Margaret with a special gift and certificate.

Seagrass-Watch is a volunteer program where members of the public join with Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries experts to monitor the health of seagrass meadows along the Queensland coast.

Seagrass meadows are an important indicator of the health of the aquatic ecosystem, and many marine species, including commericially and recreationally valued fish and the iconic dugong, rely on seagrass for their existence.

Margaret said she first joined Seagrass-Watch to assist her daughter Amanda, who had volunteered to coordinate a Pioneer Bay group. After a few months, Amanda left the district, but Margaret had been well and truly bitten by the Seagrass-Watch bug!

Margaret believes there are four main reasons why Seagrass-Watch became an important part of her life.

“Firstly, being involved in a worthwhile project where data collected is valued and used, number two is learning so much and hopefully contributing in managing our local environment,” she said.

“Then there is working with wonderful folks like the local mob, Jane Mellors and her various helpers – always having a few laughs and usually a cuppa and a chat, and finally there is getting out on to different sites; with perhaps the exception of negotiating the mud in Pioneer Bay; they are all beautiful meadows in beautiful surroundings.”

Jan Jarratt paid tribute to Margaret’s dedication and her commitment to this programme, especially hearing how Margaret travels from Midgeton to Hydeaway Bay, often taking time away from her business and trudging through calf deep mud at some sites to ensure the data is collected on time.

Picture right: Jan Jarratt MP (Member for Whitsundays and Primary Industries and Fisheries paliamentary secretary), Margaret Parr (Seagrass-Watch champion) and Len McKenzie (Seagrass-Watch Program Leader SW HQ) standing in front of the Cannonvale seagrass meadow.



Seagrass-Watch at Chek Jawa

TeamSeagrass Blog (Singapore), Monday, July 09, 2007

TeamSeagrass CJ Launch Poster . There's a new poster for TeamSeagrass made specially for the Chek Jawa Boardwalk launch last Saturday. The poster is on display in the Research Room at House No. 1, but here's a sneak peak.

For a larger version of the poster visit : and click on the poster.



Seagrass boosts marine life numbers

The Cairns Post, Thursday, July 05, 2007

The numbers of fat dugongs, happy turtles and fleshy prawns could be on the rise at Cairns Port, a new report suggests.  A joint Cairns Port Authority and Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries report indicates seagrass, which provides fertile breeding grounds for marine life, is at record levels.

"Our previous research has shown the seagrass meadows in Cairns are highly valuable as a nursery ground for tiger prawns and other important commercial and recreational species," the department's director-general Grant Hall said.

Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries scientist Michael Rasheed said the region's seagrass, which suffered from a 2002 inter-tidal "drought", had recovered.  "Those inter-tidal seagrasses that occur on the big mudbanks on the Esplanade and out at the airport are at some of the highest levels of density we've seen," Dr. Rasheed said.

"On the other side , from Bessie Point to False Cape , it's the same: they're at record levels." 

The report was good news for turtles, dugongs, prawns and fish that feed on the grass with healthy grasses a sign of good water quality.

Picture: What's up doc: Optimistic seagrass scientist Michael Rasheed retrieves photographic equipment used to monitor the quality of seagrass at Cairns Port.  Picture by Norbert von der Heidt

Article by: James O'Loan



Seagrasses play vital role, says expert

Fiji Times, Tuesday, June 19, 2007

TRAINING for new participants and a refresher on seagrasses, the only flowering plants found in the sea, was held on Saturday in Suva.

Program leader and principal scientist of Seagrass-Watch Len McKenzie said the lessons included seagrass identification, background on seagrass ecology and importance, and how to monitor sea grasses using the Seagrass-Watch protocols.

He said on Saturday a group of nature volunteers gave up part of their long weekend for the workshop, an opportunity for watchers to see the trends in their data.

The afternoon was spent monitoring a site at Nasese.  He said the effort was part of Fiji's participation in Seagrass-Watch, the world's largest scientific, non-destructive, seagrass assessment and monitoring program.

Mr Mckenzie said the program aimed to raise awareness on the condition and trend of nearshore seagrass ecosystems and provide an early warning of any major coastal environment changes.

"Seagrass meadows (veivutia) are found in the shallow waters of sheltered and soft shores throughout Fiji," Mr McKenzie said.

He said they played an important role in maintaining coastal water quality by buffering run-off of sediments and nutrients from the land before reaching reefs, stabilised sediments and helped prevent coastal erosion.

He said this was particularly important with increases in storms and sea level because of climate change.

"Fiji's coastal fisheries productivity depends greatly on sea grasses as they provide habitat and nursery areas for several reef fish.

"Fiji's extensive pastures of sea grass are of vital importance for green turtles in the central south Pacific region," he said. Mr McKenzie said the seagrass foraging areas in Fiji may well be providing foraging habitat for more than half of the adult green turtles in the central South Pacific and the need to protect these foraging areas was becoming widely recognised as a critical part of sea turtle conservation.

He said five seagrass species and one subspecies were reported from Fiji. "They don't all look like the typical grasses you find on land.  "One species looks more similar to spaghetti and other species are very delicate and look like clover.

"One of the clover like species has only recently been found in Fijian waters — in the deep lagoons of the Great Sea Reef," he said. He said one of the most active Seagrass-Watch groups in Fiji was on Ovalau where every three months, volunteers from Levuka trekked to reef flats off Cawaci to monitor the seagrasses during the low spring tides.

Picture top right: Merewalesi Laveti and Len McKenize examine seagrass at a workshop in Suva on Saturday

Picture bottom right: Workshop participants, Dora Coventry, Anne Marie Beater, Mihle Mhlakane and Natasha Ratuva monitor seagrass at Nasese

Source and article: Click Here


Sustainability & Environmental Excellence Awards 2007

Wednesday, June 06 2007

Posa Skelton, local co-coordinator for the Townsville-Thuringowa Seagrass-Watch received an award during Townsville's week long celebration of World Environment day. Posa was awarded The Townsville City Council's Sustainability and Environmental Excellence Award for Individual Initiative for Raising Awareness of Marine Conservation. The award was in recognition for his significant contribution towards environmental protection and improvement in Townsville.

Seagrass-Watch HQ congratulates Posa on the award. 

Picture: L_R: President of the South Townsville Lions Club (sponsor of the award), Deputy Mayor Jenny Hill and Posa Skelton


The Oceans and Us

Fiji Times, Saturday, June 03, 2007

"Whether you live along the coast or far inland, each one of us is connected to the world's ocean. Get inspired, get involved and celebrate is the message to all on World Oceans day." Oceans cover more than 70 per cent of the earth's surface and no doubt when one looks at the world map, blue is more dominating in comparison to the green (land area). This dominating feature sure calls for recognition as nations and communities embark to celebrate World Oceans Day on June 8.

World Oceans Day has been celebrated since 1992 and on this day communities and organisations take the opportunity to engage in activities that promote this unique and vast environment. The oceans play a vital role that at times goes unnoticed in local communities.

Pacific island communities have cultural and traditional connections to the sea. These traditional and cultural identities are usually displayed in myths, songs, legends, art, dances, customs and our very own diet.

To mark world oceans day, some programs have been organised for June 8 by WWF Fiji Country Program, USP's Institute of Marine Resources, Laje Rotuma Initiative, Department of Fisheries and Department of Environment.

Students from Udu collect data from seagrass monitoring every term and send to WWF. They have their own equipments to carry out the monitoring and have been trained by WWF and are assisted by the teachers and community trainer.

Article By Akisi Bolabola of WWF Fiji

Source & full story: Click Here



The International Day for Biological Diversity:

Biodiversity and Climate Change 22 May 2007

Since the mid-1800s global temperatures have increased by about 0.6°C, impacting the entire world, from low-lying islands in the tropics to the vast Polar Regions. Current climate change predictions are not encouraging; they estimate further increases in temperatures of 1.4°C to 5.8°C by 2100. Even if all human sources of greenhouse gas emissions are stopped immediately, the impacts of climate change would continue for 50 years.

Climate change is already forcing biodiversity to adapt either through shifting habitat, changing life cycles, or the development of new physical traits. Other species will face more unusual challenges. The sex of sea turtle hatchlings, for example, is temperature dependent with warmer temperatures increasing the number of female sea turtles at the expense of males. Those species that are unable to adapt are facing extinction. In fact, predictions estimate that up to 1 million species may become extinct as a result of climate change.

The links between biodiversity and climate change run both ways: biodiversity is threatened by human-induced climate change but, biodiversity resources can reduce the impacts of climate change on people and production:

  • the conservation of habitats can reduce the amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere.
  • conserving certain species such as mangroves, seagrass and drought resistant crops can reduce the disastrous impacts of climate change effects, and
  • the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity can strengthen ecosystem resilience, improving the ability of ecosystems to provide critical services in the face of increasing climatic pressures.

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'Nothing can be done' about dugong deaths

ABC Online Thursday, May 10, 2007.

The Northern Territory Government's marine enforcement authority says it's investigated the recent deaths of two dugongs at the mouth of the Wearyan River near Borroloola but can't do anything more.

At the end of last month, a mother and a calf died after being caught in a commercial fishing net.  A spokesman from the Marine and Fisheries Enforcement Section says the net belonged to a commercial barramundi fisherman from the Territory.

He says under the Parks and Wildlife Act, someone has to intend to kill the animal, and in this case that wasn't the scenario.  The south-west of the Gulf of Carpentaria is one of the dugong's major habitats in Australia ... and each year there are reports of dugongs dying by getting caught in fishing nets.

The latest dugongs were found in the Gulf of Carpentaria, near Borroloola by a Victorian tourist, who took these photos.

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More time for fishing communities funding

Abridged from ABC Online, Monday April 30, 2007

The Federal Government has extended the application deadline for its Fishing Communities Assistance grants. The funding is available for fishing operators affected by the Commonwealth's licence buyback scheme and people now have until 25 May 2007 to apply for funding for a range of projects. The $15 million Australian Government Recreational Fishing Community Grants Programme has been operating for almost two years. Rounds 1, 2 3 and 4 have proved popular.

Over $5 million remains available for projects that meet the guidelines and are of high merit. Round 5 may be the last opportunity to access this great opportunity. A broad range of recreational fishing projects are being funded, including boat ramps, jetties and fishing platforms, fish cleaning tables, improving angler safety, increasing participation, providing facilities and education and awareness initiatives. Environmental projects are also being funded, including fish passage, resnagging, riparian rehabilitation, seagrass protection, artificial reefs, habitat activities and so on. Australian Fisheries and Conservation Minister Senator Abetz said the Programme is about making one of Australia’s favourite pastimes more accessible, more enjoyable and safer for all who participate.

Abridged from ABC Online, 30 April 2007
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Seagrass persistent in zoned areas

Townsville Bulletin, Saturday, April 21, 2007

Dugongs were the big winners at a reef and rainforest conference, with news that their favourite food, seagrass, has been virtually unaffected by the introduction of the Great Barrier Reef marine park zones.

A comprehensive study of seagrasses was presented at the inaugural Marine and Tropical Sciences Research Facility (MTSRF) Synthesis Conference in Townsville this week.

The study, which looked at the distribution of seagrass before and after the introduction of zoning, showed the marine plant was a robust survivor of human activities and natural pressures on the reef.

MTSRF managing director Russell Reichelt said the revelation about seagrass was good news for authorities, who would be able to better manage the main food source for dugongs.

"Seagrasses are the primary source of is good news for long-term productivity of the reef in terms of fisheries. We now know seagrass is stable over long period, and robust to the natural variations we've seen in the last 10 years."

Another unique method of monitoring the health of the reef was discussed yesterday, using tiny marine creatures called Forams, as indicators of water quality.

Forams are small white buttons with natural holes in the middle which wash up on coral beaches. "They vary with different types of water quality, so people are looking at them as new biological indicators of the health of the water," Mr Reichelt said.



Researchers, Industry, Government to Review Status of Nth Qld Ecosystems

RRRC media release, Monday, April 16, 2007

Many of Australia’s leading environmental scientists, mathematicians and social scientists will converge in Townsville this week to review the state of North Queensland’s key ecosystems. The researchers are developing new ways for Australia to look after its priceless natural assets such as the Wet Tropics rainforests and Great Barrier Reef which are under pressure from the effects of climate change, increased use and rapid economic growth in the region.

The inaugural Research Synthesis Conference of the Marine and Tropical Sciences Research Facility (MTSRF) will be held 16-20 April. The MTSRF is a $40 million Australian Government initiative aimed at researching and protecting the Great Barrier Reef, Wet Tropics and the Torres Strait.

This first meeting brings together a unique combination of experts and will highlight impacts of and responses to climate change on tropical rainforests and the reef, the impacts of water quality on the reef, the changes measured since the introduction of the Great Barrier Reef Zoning Plan, and the impacts of increasing population pressure on our World Heritage listed environments. The Australian Government’s Marine and Tropical Sciences Research Facility is represented in North Queensland by the Reef and Rainforest Research Centre (RRRC).

RRRC Managing Director, Russell Reichelt, said the quality of the scientific research carried out by the MTSRF is very important if we are to solve the big environmental questions, such as how Australian communities and industry can adapt to trends in climate change that are already having an effect on our reefs and tropical rainforests.

The MTSRF has also attracted $10 million in partnership funding in its first year from research institutions including James Cook University, the Australian Institute of Marine Science, CSIRO, The University of Queensland and Griffith University.

“The results of MTSRF research must be credible and adopted by both industry and government if we are to address our environmental challenges. Key users of MTSRF research have played a major role in developing the overall research program and will be involved in the Conference to provide the input we need to ensure our research provides the answers that management needs”, Reichelt said.

The MTSRF aims to give Australia a clear view of the health of its tropical rainforests and catchments, reefs and the Torres Strait. It will inform both industry and government managers on the available options for improving environmental management while encouraging environmentally responsible economic development that will benefit future generations.

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Land clearing, sand mining affect rivers

New Strait Times, Monday, April 16, 2007

JOHOR BARU: Rampant land clearing and sand mining have made Kota Tinggi prone to flash floods. With over 100 tributaries converging into Sungai Johor, which cuts through this historical town, it is prone to flooding whenever there is excessive rain. It bursts the river’s banks and inundates the town. 

Dr Noor Baharim Hashim, a professor at the Department of Hydraulics and Hydrology in the Faculty of Civil Engineering, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, said the research team’s concerns were not only about flash floods but also about the aftermath of a flood. "An increase in the inflow of freshwater into the estuarine areas will affect the aquatic life for up to three weeks," said Noor Baharim.

He said the nutrient level of the water samples collected from the Straits of Johor showed there was a risk of algal bloom in the region. "There is increasing concern about the oversupply of nutrients from multiple sources at the Sungai Johor estuary. This has ecological effects on the shallow coastal and estuarine areas." The effects include a loss of aquatic habitat and seagrass, an essential food for dugong and herbivorous fish.

Noor Baharim said the authorities could adopt best management practices (BMP), which included building buffer zones and ponds to eradicate flash flood woes. A research programme to monitor the water quality and velocity is also vital, as an efficient flood warning system can predict a flood two days in advance. Noor Baharim said land-clearing activities should not be carried out , especially during the monsoon period.

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Villagers to reap benefits of resource project

Fiji Times, Thursday, April 12, 2007

COMMUNITY projects are often taken on with passion by those involved and many will say it is a fulfilling initiative to partake in. Six villages took part in a district project on the island of Gau in the Lomaiviti Province and have been rewarded for their hard work on their resource management project.

Called the Mositi Vanuaso Project, initial planning stages of this community initiative started in 2001 and got off to a start in 2002. This is an environmental project which encourages villagers to manage their environmental resources to ensure there is something for future generations. Their efforts have been recognised and have been awarded the National Energy Globe Award for Fiji.

University of the South Pacific academic, Dr Joeli Veitayaki, who hails from Gau, has been involved in the project since it started in 2001 and is very proud of the changes that have come about as a result of the project. Dr Veitayaki says discussions on the project started in 2001 after the women in the six villages of the Vanuaso district found that fish numbers had decreased.

With a bit of funding from USP, Dr Veitayaki says workshops were conducted on ways for villagers to manage their resources, not only for their sustenance but for the future generations. He lists some of the impacts of human activities as the change and degradation of marine habitats like coral reefs, seagrass beds and mangrove forests; the alteration in coastal vegetation; pollution of rivers and coastal waters which is done mainly through pollutants and nutrient enrichments associated with settlements.

"In Vanuaso Tikina, the resource management activities have commenced with the decision to manage their marine resources and declare their locally managed marine areas." "The villagers have since then focused on their coastal habitats because of their importance to the ecosystem in the area. The project is benefiting the communities which are very supportive of the initiative." "Project activities will benefit future generations through the improvement in people's lives, protection of critical coastal habitats and the provision of alternative sources of livelihoods."

Article by Amelia Vunileba

Seagrass-Watch is working with Frontier Fiji to establish seagrass monitoring sites on Gau Island.



Solomons quake lifts island 3m out of sea

ABC news online, Sunday, April 8, 2007

The seismic jolt that unleashed the deadly Solomons tsunami this week lifted an entire island metres out of the sea, destroying some of the world's most pristine coral reefs.  In an instant, the grinding of the Earth's tectonic plates in the 8.0 magnitude earthquake on Monday forced the island of Ranongga up three metres.  Submerged reefs that once attracted scuba divers from around the globe lie exposed and dying after the quake raised the mountainous landmass, which is 32 kilometres long and eight kilometres wide.

Corals that used to form an underwater wonderland of iridescent blues, greens and reds now bleach under the sun, transforming into a barren moonscape surrounding the island.  The stench of rotting fish and other marine life stranded on the reefs when the seas receded is overwhelming and the once vibrant coral is dry and crunches underfoot.

Dazed villagers stand on the shoreline, still coming to terms with the cataclysmic shift that changed the geography of their island forever, pushing the shoreline out to sea by up to 70 metres.  Aid agencies have yet to reach Ranongga after the quake and tsunami that killed at least 34 people in the Pacific archipelago.

At Pienuna, on Ranongga's east coast, locals said much of their harbour had disappeared, leaving only a narrow inlet lined by jagged exposed coral reefs either side.  Villager Harison Gago said there were huge earthquake fissures which had almost split the island in half, gesturing with his hands that some of the cracks were 50 centimetres wide.

Further north at Niu Barae, fisherman Hendrik Kegala who had explored the new underwater landscape of the island with a snorkel said a huge submerged chasm had opened up, running at least 500 metres parallel to the coast.

Mr Kegala said that from the perspective of those on the island, the sea appeared to recede and villagers still feared it would come back again as a tsunami, making them reluctant to return from higher ground where they fled. "Plenty big noise," he said, describing the disaster in the local pidgin dialect.  "Water go back and not come back again," he added, saying the whooshing sound of the receding water and the shaking from the quake occurred simultaneously.

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Reef's Future looking Bleak

Cairns Post, Saturday, April 7, 2007

THE Great Barrier Reef faces a colourless future if the Australian Government does not act quickly, a new report by conservation group WWF warns. The report singles out 10 micro-regions across the globe already being affected by climate change and warns of bleak futures if action is not taken.

The Great Barrier Reef is the most at risk and is the only Australian region on the list. WWF marine spokesman Richard Leck said if global emissions were not addressed, 97 per cent of the reef could be lost in repetitive annual bleachings by 2050, devastating the environment and the multi-billion dollar tourist industry. "Essentially what we're saying is there's a certain amount of warming locked in which will result in more frequent and probably more severe bleaching events into the future," Mr Leck said. "Australia cannot expect other nations to help save the reef."

The report recommends the Federal Government set emission targets which will peak and fall by 2010. The targets would be below 20 to 30 per cent of 1990 levels by 2020 and 60 to 80 per cent below by 2050. Nutrient, mud and chemical pollution run-off from farming the area was also identified in the report. WWF's Australian water program leader Nick Heath said money was needed to improve farming practices and buy back environmentally sensitive land from farming.

"The reef has survived for thousands of years, yet this generation of Australians risk losing it due to the twin threats of climate change and land-based pollution," he said. The report comes as the world's top scientists in Brussels prepare to release the second of three reports, which warn of dire consequences from global warming

Top 10 Threatened Regions

  • Great Barrier Reef and other coral reefs
  • Chihuahua desert in Mexico and the US
  • Hawksbill turtles in the Carribbean
  • Validivian temperate rainforests
  • Tigers and people in the Indian Sundarbans
  • The Upper Yangtze river in China
  • The Amazon in South America
  • Wild Salmon in the Bering Sea
  • Melting glaciers in the Himalayas
  • East African Coastal forests

(Source: WWF report)

Seagrass-Watch is working with Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority as part of the Reef Plan Marine Monitoring Program, to monitor condition of coastal seagrasses and identify impacts from poor water quality.

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Australian minister says Great Barrier Reef's survival cannot be assured

The Associated, Saturday, April 7, 2007

CANBERRA, Australia: The Australian government will do everything it can to prevent the demise of the Great Barrier Reef due to global warming, the environment minister said Saturday after a U.N. committee found its survival was in doubt by 2030. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report in Brussels on Friday on the predicted global impact of rising temperatures.

Bleaching of the 2,600 kilometer- (1,600 mile) reef — colorful coral turning white as the animals inside it die — could become an annual event and threaten its survival by 2030 because of rising ocean temperatures, the report said. Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the death of the reef was at the extreme end of a range of likely consequences of global warming. "We are working very hard ... to ensure that of all the reefs in the world, the Great Barrier Reef is the one that will have the greatest prospect of resiliently dealing with the impact of climate change," Turnbull told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio, adding that global warming is a major threat.

"We are confident that we can give the reef every possible chance," he said. "We cannot control the climate change, the global warming, that is in the system in the ... near and medium term."

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Great Barrier Reef faces decimation: WWF

Sydney Morning Herald, Thursday, April 5, 2007

The Great Barrier Reef faces a colourless future if the Australian government does not act quickly, a new report by conservation group WWF warns. The report singles out 10 micro-regions across the globe already being affected by climate change and warns of bleak futures if action is not taken.

Queensland's Great Barrier Reef rates alongside the Amazon, melting glaciers in the Himalayas, and the Upper Yangtze river in China and is the only Australian region on the list. WWF marine spokesman Richard Leck said if global emissions were not addressed, 97 per cent of the reef could be lost in repetitive annual bleachings by 2050, devastating the environment and the multi-billion dollar tourist industry.

"Essentially what we're saying is there's a certain amount of warming locked in which will result in more frequent and probably more severe bleaching events into the future," Mr Leck said. "Australia cannot expect other nations to help save the reef." The report recommends the Australian government set emission targets which will peak and fall by 2010. The targets would be below 20 to 30 per cent of 1990 levels by 2020 and 60 to 80 per cent below by 2050. Nutrient, mud and chemical pollution run-off from farming the area was also identified in the report.

WWF's Australian water program leader Nick Heath said money was needed to improve farming practices and purchase environmentally sensitive land back that should be removed from farming to re-establish wetlands. "The reef has survived for thousands of years, yet this generation of Australians risk losing it due to the twin threats of climate change and land-based pollution," Mr Heath said.

The WWF report comes as the world's top scientists in Brussels prepare to release the second of three reports, which warn of dire consequences from global warming, especially for poor nations and species diversity.

A spokeswoman for federal Environment and Water Resources Minister Malcolm Turnbull said Mr Turnbull was travelling and unavailable for comment on the findings and recommendations of the report.

Seagrass-Watch is working with Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority as part of the Reef Plan Marine Monitoring Program, to monitor condition of coastal seagrasses and identify impacts from poor water quality.

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DPI&F on the hop over seagrass

RRRC media release, Thursday, April 5, 2007.

COMPREHENSIVE seagrass surveys have been completed as part of a program to monitor the state of this vital fish habitat area between Hinchinbrook Island and Cape Bowling Green. The Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries (DPI&F) “hopped” from site to site in a helicopter at low tide using GPS to map the status of seagrass.

DPI&F fisheries biologist Helen Taylor said a detailed baseline survey around southern Hinchinbrook Island and the Herbert River mouth was conducted during the low tide last week. “This is an important catchment area with major fisheries habitats,” Ms Taylor said. “The seagrass meadows in this area support a large dugong population.” “It is important to collect information on these seagrass habitats as they face threats from a range of sources including climate change, pollution and coastal development.” The survey covered Halifax Bay, Cleveland Bay and down to Bowling Green Bay south of Townsville as well.

“Seagrass meadows, covering some 6000 square kilometres along the Queensland coast, are nursery and feeding grounds that sustain our million-dollar fishing industry,” Ms Taylor said. “The meadows support juvenile prawns and fish, dugong and turtles. “We have maps of coastal seagrass areas throughout most of Queensland, but we have some gaps we need to fill and this survey covered one such gap. “The helicopter survey enables a rapid assessment of intertidal seagrasses. At the same time, we were able to land for closer inspections or take samples as required.” She said Queensland had one third of the world’s species of seagrass and they form an integral habitat in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

The DPI&F has an ongoing program which monitors seagrasses. The program is a partnership with the Australian Governments Marine and Tropical Sciences Research Facility represented in north Queensland by the Reef and Rainforest Research Centre (RRRC) and industry bodies.

Ms Sheriden Morris, the director of research for the RRRC, said the surveys would fill important gaps in the knowledge required to assess the risks to these environments for better management and protection of the key habitats in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. “This is an excellent example of commonwealth and state agencies cooperating with industry to ensure the future health of the Great Barrier Reef environment,” she said.

Seagrass-Watch is a major component of the seagrass condition and trend project supported by the MTSRF.

Picture top: Aerial survey of seagrass meadows.

Picture bottom: Senior Scientist Michael Rasheed with a quadrat used for estimating % cover and spieces composition.

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Tsunami strikes Solomon Islands

Solomon Star, Tuesday, April 3, 2007

At least 28 people have died in the Solomon Islands after a tsunami swept ashore following a strong undersea earthquake in the South Pacific.

The saddest day in the country’s history arrived without notice as the main town in the western Solomons, Gizo was ripped apart by a giant wave, whilst Choiseul’s Sasamuga village was swallowed by a 12 foot wave which penetrated up to 500 metres in land. Local officials fear the numbers of dead could rise, with reports of outlying villages being destroyed.

The quake measured 8.0 and hit at 0740 local time on Monday, 2nd (2040 GMT Sunday). It struck 345km (215 miles) north-west of Honiara, capital of the Solomon Islands which lie north-east of Australia, and at a depth of 10km (six miles), the US Geological Survey said. Gizo, a small fishing town and diving centre on Ghizo island, was only 45km (25 miles) from the epicentre.

The Solomon Islands has a population of about 500,000 people - many of them living on remote and widely scattered islands.

Many people live in houses made of palm and bamboo on the islands' beaches.  Coastlines of Gizo, Noro, Taro, Vella La Vella, Kolombangara, Ranoggah, Simbo and Choiseul had been hit by the high waves.

Seagrass-Watch has participants in the Solomon Islands. WWF Solomon Islands & local community members at Mbanbamba Island near Gizo in New Georgia, Western Province, have been monitoring their seagrasses since 2004.

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Saving the Sea Cow

The Bangkok Post, Sunday, April 1, 2007

A mother embracing her child is an all too familiar sight - but did you know that mother dugongs do the same? Did you know thatdugongs are the gentlest of all marine creatures, but their death rate is among the highest and that there are now only around250 of them left in Thai waters?

These are some of the findings of researcher Kanjana Adulyanukosol, known among her fellow marine biologists as chao mae payoon (the godmother- or patroness- of dugongs) for her dedication to the study of this marine species. Before Kanjana started her research in the early 1990s, very little was known about dugongs (Dugong dugon, also called the sea cow) in Thailand. "Doing research on dugongs is very difficult and very risky, as you can only spot them from the air," she said at her-office at the phuket Marine Biological Centre, where she heads the Marine Endangered SPecies Unit.

"Unlike dolphins, whales and sharks, which can be seen from a boat, dugongs have no tins and leave no tell-tale signs of theirpresence. The only time you see them is when they come up for air. They are noiseless and timid, and are easily frightened." Kanjana first made her aerial survey of dugongs in a light plane provided by the Royal Thai Navy in 1993, there were sceptics who told her that she wouldn't find any. "But I did find some," she recalled.

This inspired her to study not just the extent of the dugong population but also their feeding habits and social and mating behaviour. And that's when she observed that, like people and other animals, mother dugongs embrace their babies as they play with them in the water. "The dugong cow and her calf were in the channei-between Talibong Island and Trang when we spotted them in 2005," Kanjana recalled. "After the calf surfaced to breathe, the cow embraced her. She appeared to be playing with and training the young calf"'

Large adults like to be independent and feed alone but dugongs are usually gregarious and graze in groups of three or five, Kanjana said. "Cows and their calves are always close together, as if the mother is teaching its young how and where to graze." The young calf begins to eat seagrassa few days after birth, but it continues to feed on its mother's milk until it is a vear old, and remains by its mother's side until it is two years old, Kanjana observed. Despite sightings of several cows with young calves, Kanjana's aerial surveys of Thai waters recorded an overall dugong population of only 250. "In the Andaman Sea from Ranong, Phangnga, Phuket and Krabi to Trang and Satun there were around 200, and in the Gulf of Thailand from Chon Buri, Rayong, Chanthaburi and Trat down to Chumphon and Surat Thani we counted a total of 50" she said.

The death rate of dugongs is high because they feed on seagrass in shallow waters,where they are caught in fishermen's nets or fish traps. "Dugongs can die of shock," Kanjana said. "When they panic they stop breathing. While feeding they have to come up for air every few minutes, so when they are caught in a net or fish trap they can't come up for air and die."

In the past, the belief that eating dugong meat could give a perion a long life led to them being hunted to near extinction. Bones were powdered and used as medicine for a number of ailments, tusks were fashioned into amulets or stones for rings, and skins were dried and made into walking sticks or slippers. Some villagers even believed that dugong tears could be used as an aphrodisiac, or as a potion that a man could use to win the heart of the the woman he loved. These beliefs are no longer prevalent, yet the dugong population remains small. This is because of their low birth rate, Kanjana said' "Like humans they can live to the ripe old age of 70, but they are not ready to mate until they are over 10. Gestation takes one year, and the mother can only give birth to one calf at a time, and then she will nurse her calf for two years. It takes three to seven years before she is ready to mate again."

Kanjana observed that dugongs prefer to mate in shallow water, with the male touching the female's chest, belly and genitals with its muzzle during courtship. They then swim side by side before he mounts her, followed by a lot of water splashing. Afterwards, they swim in different directions, with neither seeming interested in the other. A newly born dugong is very slim, about 1.2m long, and weighs between 20 and 35kg, Kanjana said. It soon grows to 3m long with an average weight of 300kg. Only 20 to 30 per cent of the body weight comprises meat; the rest is fat.

Dugongs eat at least 30kg of grass, or an average of l0 per cent of their body weight, every day, Kanjana said. There's no shortage of the dugong's favourite sea grass' Halophila ovalis, in Thai waters, she added. When not making her aerial surveys or observing dugongs in their natural habitat, Kanjana writes cartoon books for children. Needless to say, her books focus on dugongs, to increase public awareness of what she sees as the most pitiful creatures of the sea. Although a native of the coastal province of Samut Sakhon, Kanjana was born in a village by a khlong in Damnern Saduak. It was not until after she had joined the Phuket Marine Biological Centre (PMBC) 20 years ago that she saw her first dugong.

"A trawler in Satun caught a young dugong and it's mother in its nets," she recalled. "The mother died, but the fishermen brought the calf to shore." The calf, a male less than a year old, was brought to the PMBC and Kanjana was given the task of caring for him. She swam with the calf and acted as its surrogate mother. Unfortunately it died a month later, but by then Kanjana was hooked on dugongs.

In 1993, when the Marine Endangered Species Unit was set up, she asked to be moved to the unit so she could carry out research on dugongs, and she has since established a name for herself as Thailand's leading authority on them. A report co-authored by Kanjana on their mating behaviour, the first such report on dugongs in tropical Asian regions, has just been published by the scientific journal Marine Biology.

Dugongs can be found in tropical waters from East Africa to Papua New Guinea, and up to Okinawa and China, but their numbers are small, Kanjana said. The only country that has a large dugong population is Australia, which protects this marine species well. "Australians look after their marine parks well, and they have zoning that prohibits speedboats from entering certain areas and limits their speed in certain areas. Aborigines are allowed to catch dugongs because hunting and eating them is part of their culture. Still, Australia has a dugong population of over 100,000 because Aborigines are allowed to hunt only a certain number per year and the laws are strictly enforced."

Thailand has laws protecting the dugong as an endangered species, but there are not enforced, Kanjana said. "Dugongs are still being caught in fishing nets , because fishermen continue to fish in restricted areas. "My dream as an academic is to have action plans and laws that are enforced by the authorities and observed by the people," she mused. "I don't want to have action plans only on paper which are admired by scientists when presented at meetings abroad, but are useless because of implementation.

"People often ask, 'Can dugongs be cloned? Or bred by artifical insemination? Even Japan, which is very advanced technologically, has not been able to breed dugongs it has been raising in an aquarium for 20 years. Taken from the Philippines, the dugongs, a male and female, won't mate, probably because the food is not plentiful or as rich as in the wild, and the conditions where they are kept are not the same. "In short, taking dugongs from the wild and raising them in captivity with the purpose of breeding them cannot be done. The best way to sustain the dugong population is by protecting their natural habitat, especially in places where the population is high, as in Trang.

"If the dugong habitat is well protected, the animals will breed naturally, and their numbers will increase." Yet, although Kanjana knows dugongs by heart - having observed their eating, mating, child rearing and social behaviour - there's one thing that still baffles her: Where do dugongs go when the tide is out? The only way to know is to tag them. "This would be a very exciting and challenging project but dugongs just stop breathing when they panic, so how can we catch and tag them without killing them?

"All along I've worked and campaigned for the protection of dugongs, and if tagging them would cause injury or even death, how could I look people in the eye?"

Article by: Normita Thongtham

Seagrass-Watch has monitoring sites in Thailand

For more information on dugong research in Australia, download Seagrass-Watch News Issue 23 2005 (2.1mb)



No more Chek Jawa tours - for now

Straits Times, Sunday, March, 25, 2007

TOURS to Chek Jawa, a popular nature enclave in Pulau Ubin, have been suspended because the stretch of wetlands needs to recover after being affected badly by heavy rains.

Tomorrow's guided tour by the National Parks Board (NParks) will be its last, until further notice.  Mr Robert Teo, the assistant director who heads the Pulau Ubin department of NParks' conservation division, said that this was the first time visits to Chek Jawa have been suspended since NParks took over its management in October 2001.

Record heavy rains in December last year and January this year had led to an influx of freshwater into the Johor River in Malaysia. The freshwater flowing into the Johor Straits, where Pulau Ubin is located, significantly altered the salinity of the water around Chek Jawa.  There was 'widespread death' of marine flora and fauna that were not able to adjust quickly to the changes, according to the NParks website. Mr Teo said that sea anemones, starfish and sponges were particularly hard hit as they were sensitive to the water's salinity level. Comparatively, fish could simply swim away and marine worms could burrow deep into the sand.

Suspending the tours will let nature take its healing course. Visiting tourists could further damage the still-recovering area by inadvertently stepping on the marine creatures.  Ms May Teo, 49, who has been a volunteer guide at Chek Jawa for three years, had a rude shock when she led a group of nature enthusiasts there on Feb 1. Instead of a 'beautiful and colourful' Chek Jawa which the first-time visitors she led were expecting to see, they were greeted instead by the stench of death. 'All the carpet anemones were gone and the sea star (starfish) were all melted or in pieces. I was so sad because it was my first experience seeing the creatures in that state,' she said.

But even amid the doom and gloom, life persevered, and some of the wetlands' denizens, including peacock anemones, managed to survive.  Mr Teo said that NParks is closely monitoring the situation and will review it in July. If Chek Jawa is in better shape by then, tours can resume. Public access to Chek Jawa is restricted to the free, guided tours organised by NParks.

Mr Chua Sek Chuan, 45, a marine biologist and a former chairman of the Nature Society (Singapore)'s marine conservation group, said that although the immediate impact of the rains was 'quite noticeable', in the long run, the place would recover by itself.

Another volunteer guide, Ms Ria Tan, 46, said that other nearby shores, such as those on Pulau Sekudu, could serve as a seeding ground to repopulate Chek Jawa. This is because the animals that are found at Chek Jawa are also found in these areas.  Hence, 'it is important to conserve all our shores and not just one or two', she added.

Chek Jawa was originally slated for land reclamation but nature groups and individuals lobbied to save it. In January 2002, the Ministry of National Development announced that Pulau Ubin would be left intact as long as the island is not required for development to allow Chek Jawa to be retained in its natural state.  Since its reprieve, about 20,000 people have visited the unique ecosystem in the 200 to 250 tours conducted each year, said NParks.

In order to enable more people to experience the rich biodiversity of Chek Jawa, the $7-million Pulau Ubin conservation and management plans were launched in April 2005. Work on the visitor centre, viewing tower and boardwalk is expected to be completed next month.  However, the amenities will not be open to the public until tours are resumed.

Meanwhile, one Chek Jawa lover posted this wish on the blog of TeamSeagrass, a group of volunteers who monitor the seagrasses on Singapore's shores: 'We wish our favourite shore a speedy recovery.'

Source and Article: Click Here

Article by : Boon Chan

Team Seagrass Singapore (Seagrass-Watch partner) monitors seagrass in Chek Jawa

For more information on Chek Jawa, download Seagrass-Watch News Issue 27 2006 ( 2.4mb)



Nature conservationists focus on seagrass to preserve eco-system

Channel NewsAsia, Saturday, March 24, 2007

SINGAPORE: There is a new conservation buzz in town, and it is all about seagrass. It is pure unbridled passion for nature conservation that has brought a group of nearly 30 volunteers together on a hot Saturday afternoon.

They are attending a workshop on documenting and collecting specimens of seagrass. For the uninitiated - seagrass is a flowering marine plant. Found mostly around Chek Jawa on Pulau Ubin, it acts as a buffer between the coral grove and the mangrove swamp.

It is also found at the Pulau Semakau landfill - where they provide food for marine animals - and act as a nestling ground for small fish.

"Seagrass help support our biodiversity and they help support our fish and prawn and other animals," says Dr Len McKenzie, Principal Scientist and Seagrass-Watch Programme Leader. "They are also supporting our endangered species like dugong and turtle which certainly pass through the waters of Singapore as they move between Malaysia and Indonesia. So it is very important that Singapore retain some of these green pockets of Seagrass, if you like, to ensure the sustainability of our ocean, sustainability of our fisheries and sustainability of our endangered species," Dr McKenzie continues.

This humble seagrass has also put Singapore on the world map. Nearly one-sixth of all seagrass species is found in Singapore - including half of all species in the Indo-Pacific region.

"That's the area stretching all the way from India all the way to the North America, and South America. So it is an important component of global bio-diversity," says Dr Nigel Goh, Head (Marine ), NParks.

The volunteers are up early the next morning to take a trip to Pulau Semakau to see firsthand, the seagrass habitat.

Says Siti Maryam Yaakub, Team Seagrass Coordinator, "Team Seagrass covers a new niche in the local conservation scene because the past 5-10 years or so since Chek Jawa had been put on deferment, you actually have a lot of awareness programmes and, I think that a step ahead of awareness is actually being proactive in monitoring the environment, in doing something tangible. So that's how Team Seagrass actually fills the niche and that's why we have so many volunteers as well."

Another volunteer has been publishing books on Singapore's eco-system and donating the proceeds, as much as $70,000, to nature and marine research. Another $50,000 from his latest book, "Singapore's Splendour-Life on the Edge" has also been committed. 

"After I joined the nature society, I was shown whole areas of Singapore that have so much diversity. Chek Jawa first came into the picture then and I was looking at Chek Jawa and that got me started working on the project and got me seeing many things in Chek Jawa which many people never saw because in Chek Jawa and in the inter-tidal areas, we went in very early in the morning - three, four o'clock - and a whole host of things running around, feeding, mating, avoiding us, running all over the place," says Dr Chua Ee Kiam, volunteer and author of "Singapore's Splendour".

"So there is so much, much to see unlike the public which goes in at three, four o'clock in the afternoon-so many things would have hidden.  "When I saw so many things, I decided to document this and this area, and these creatures and after that, decided to do a book on this so that Singaporeans can see for themselves."

And who knows, as Singaporeans become more aware of the rich marine environment around them, this live classroom sessions may well attract more volunteers.

Source and Article: Click Here

Article by By Noor Mohd Aziz



Restore Seagrass--Recover livelihoods (Thailand), Sunday, 18 March 2007

15 fishing boats crews or ‘Reung Pitd’ with more than 30 people including seagrass experts and WWF marine biologists, together replanted 1500 seagrasses collected from a neighboring natural area of 1600 km2. ‘Mud at the replanting area is in good condition and suited to seagrass planting. Inaddition, natural seagrass which was covered by sediment in the past has begun to start resurfacing.

It is a good trend for sea grass to blossom out in the future.’ said a seagrass expert, Subpachai Dhammachod. On first appearances, ‘Seagrass areas’ may not be as beautiful or have as much economic value compared to the beauty of coral reef biodiversity attracting tourism or the same benefits gained from mangrove forests. But fishing communities at Bann Koh Nok, Klong Chareong and Fai ta feel in totally different ways since the Tsunami.

Supat Budnoi, one of local fishermen who has been living there more than 20 years said ‘Before the disaster destroyed various things such as property and natural resource, communities relied on this seagrass area to make a living either as a main income or as a supplemental occupation. Collecting sea wing shells which are popular for consumption, horse crab king crab in some seasons; Fishing for species including Sea Bass and Cod which are quite common locally were the way of life. Since the Tsunami disaster, the giant wave’s enormous sediment covered a 10 km2 seagrass area. Sin ce then the, the source of living has disappeared. Although 2 years has already passed, the previous seagrass has not recovered. The communities now have to fish in the further open sea which costs in time, money and more risk to personal safety’

For these reasons, the fishing community of Moo 2 realized that they needed to restore the previous seagrass area to be abundant again by experimenting with removing the neighboring natural seagrass and replanting it where it previously existed. They were supported by Tha Din Dang village’s community, the village neighboring the surviving seagrass area.

‘However, Sea grass restoration by this replanting experiment is only one method which can’t expect 100 % outcome. We have to monitor the survival rate, growing and use by aquatic animals over time. It is very good to see communities consolidate and collaborate for their own local natural resources which is their family life supermarket.’ stated Kittipan Sabkoon, a marine biologist of WWF Thailand.

These activities have been supported by the Green Coast project, a collaborative venture between IUCN, WWF and Wetlands International, which aims to recover natural resources and restore livelihoods for communities after the Tsunami. Other projects Green Coast has supported include restoring the previous sea grass-nursery of aquatic animals, recovering coastal fishing areas and participatory sustainable use of natural resources planning

Source & full story: Click Here



Green, Green Seagrass

The Cairns Post, Tuesday, March 13, 2007, page 27

TAGAI State College,Thursday lsland Secondary Campus is a Reef Guardian school and it is our responsibility to protect and conserve seagrass. The Seagrass-Watch program is sponsored by the Department of Primarylndustries( DPI),Torres Strait Regional Authority (TSRA) and Department of Education, Science and Training (DEST) and occurs once every school term.

There are seagrass monitoring sites on Thursday and Horn islands. Hammond lsland has just recently established a site at one of their beaches. Anyone with an active interest in marine conservation can become involved. Jane Mellors from DPI in Townsville and other marine conservationists along with students, teachers, rangers and community members work together to collect seagrass data to monitor growth and report findings to the DPI.

The Seagrass-Watch program is an important marine conservation priority for the Torres Strait. It also encourages combined effort from other community members to get involved because seagrass is a vital part of the Torres Strait seasonal calendar.


Picture, top: Tagai State College Thursday lsland Secondary Campus students and volunteers take part in Seagrass-Watch.

Picture, bottom: Stacee (right) and Sinitta (left), monitoring seagrass on Horn Island, Wongai Beach.

Article by: Stacee Ketchell, Yr 11 Tagai State College, Thursday Island Secondary Campus



Save our seahorses

New Sunday Times online, Sunday, March 11, 2007

When the movie Junior starring Arnold Schwarzenegger as a pregnant scientist was released in 1994, people had a good laugh at the absurd idea of extreme role reversal. But there is nothing laughable about pregnant male seahorses, because nature intended it to be that way. Seahorses, just like pipefishes and sea dragons, originate from the Syngnathidae family, where the males are the ones impregnated. Studies have shown them to be faithful partners. Marine Biology lecturer Choo Chee Kuang believes they are even more faithful than humans. “When the males are pregnant, female seahorses do not flirt around,” says Choo from Universiti Malaysia Terengganu (formerly Kolej Universiti Sains dan Teknologi Malaysia or KUSTEM).

Contrary to popular belief, seahorses are poor swimmers. They use their tail to grasp at seagrasses all the time and most species have very limited home range. The tiger tail seahorses, for example, occupy just 1m square home range throughout their lifetime, says Choo. As such, the survival of seahorses depends gravely on seagrass beds, just like the endangered turtle and dugong, which feed on seagrass. Seagrass has a complex root system, which can extend up to 30cm into the seabed to fix and stabilise sediments. It also absorbs and recycles nutrients and oxygenates the water through photosynthesis.

Around the world, seahorses are being exploited for the aquarium and traditional medicine trade. Despite being listed in the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, the seahorse population has declined more than 50 per cent between 1990 and 2000. “It’s a matter of time before they face extinction,” says Choo.

Development is another factor for the decline. Seahorses are rapidly losing their fight for survival due to pollution and elevated sea water temperature discharged from coastal coal-fire power plants. The seagrass at the Pulai River estuary, where Choo and his team conduct seahorse studies , is located right in the middle of ongoing development. Pulau Merambong in the estuary is the single largest intertidal seagrass bed in Malaysia. “However, there are not more than 400 seahorses left in a place this vast,” says Choo.

Industries have also caused the nearby Tanjung Piai to lose more than 50m of its shoreline in 2003 alone, and it is continuously eroding away. “By the time we reach Wawasan 2020, Tanjung Piai will be gone. So will many other sea life,” says Choo. “It’s only a matter of time, at the rate we exploit our oceans.” Still, Choo refuses to let his hope of saving the marine life be dimmed and is using the seahorse as an icon for marine conservation to save seagrass, which will also save other lives, through the Save Our Seahorses (SOS) organisation.

SOS recommends integrated coastal management plans to be implemented through a formation of a Pulai River Estuary Committee. “If humans can harm the environment, humans can also do the reverse. We can conserve it for the future generation,” says Choo. “Let’s give our seahorses a fighting chance at life.”

Related Article: Click Here

Source and Full Article: Click Here

Seagrass-Watch is a partner of SOS Malaysia. Since September 2005, SOS volunteers have used Seagrass-Watch monitoring techniques to monitor the seagrass beds located between Malaysia and Singapore.



Dugong death prompts "Go Slow" message in Moreton Bay, Monday, March 05, 2007.

The death of a large, healthy male dugong due to boat strike near Moreton Bay's Macleay Island recently has prompted a reminder from Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service ( QPWS) for boat skippers to "go slow for those below".

Environment Minister Lindy Nelson-Carr said that on Friday 16 February a member of the public reported a boat strike on a dugong after they felt the impact while travelling on a water-taxi and saw blood in the water.  A dugong that washed up two days later on Macleay Island with boat strike injuries was most likely the same animal.

Ms Nelson-Carr said since the beginning of 2000, at least 13 dugong had been killed in Moreton Bay after being hit by a boat, and most had been in the southern part of the bay. "It is important for skippers to slow down in the shallower areas of the bay where the dugong feed on seagrass," she said.

In 1997, QPWS introduced five "go slow" areas in critical turtle and dugong habitat within Moreton Bay MarinePark.  Rangers have been working with ferry operators to reduce boat strike impacts on dugong outside those "go slow" areas.

QPWS District Manager Miles Yeates said the dugong had been tagged by a University of Queensland researcher in 2003 on Moreton Banks in the northern part of the bay, and had not been recorded again until it washed up dead on Macleay Island in the bay's south.

"Ironically, the carcass with its tag has provided us the first confirmed movement of a dugong from one part of the bay to another", Mr Yeates said. "The dugong was healthy and eating seagrass at time of impact, we found fresh seagrass in its mouth."

Ms Nelson-Carr said the Moreton Bay Marine Park Zoning Plan review had begun and would examine the strategies currently in place to help conserve significant species such as dugong. Dugong are classed as vulnerable to extinction. The large herbivores feed on seagrass and can grow to 500kg and 3m long.

Source and Article: Click Here



Seagrass Watch gets down and dirty (Moreton Bay)

BayJournal, Sunday March 04, 2007

Ken and Nadia O'Carrol check out their southern Moreton Bay site.The important and popular volunteer monitoring programme Seagrass Watch has a number of new projects underway this year says Keira Price in the Moreton Bay Newsletter.

Hopefully, we will begin to see some results from the temperature data loggers that have been placed at numerous sites in the bay and will continue to collect data with these devices.

We will be producing a Seagrass-Watch Manual that will be included in the kits to provide an extra source of useful information for identifying species as well as a reference to monitoring techniques in the field.

Another project we are reviewing is sediment testing (measuring sediment composition), with the aim of including this in our regular monitoring.

This may add another warning sign to potential dangers to seagrass beds and the bay as well as helping in identifying best sediments for transplantation in our proposed seagrass rehabilitation program.

More training days and "BBQ's on the Bay" will be planned throughout the year and more information about hese will be given as the events come up.

This year will also hopefully see the start of a new Seagrass-Watch program on the Gold Coast.

Picture: Ken and Nadia O'Carrol check out their southern Moreton Bay site.

Article by Keira Price

Source and Article: Click Here


Great Sandy Strait Fauna & Flora Watch wins Community Award for 2007

Friday, February 23, 2007

Community Group, Great Sandy Strait Fauna & Flora Watch, has won the The Burnett Mary NRM Coastal Community Award for 2007.  The Award is for excellence in activities that have contributed to the significant improvement of local coastal and/or marine environments, including estuaries, dune systems, wetlands and saltmarsh ecosystems.

Spokesperson for the group, Mr Gordon Cottle said that the group was thrilled to win the award, and that special thanks must go to group members, Robyn Bailey, Paul Bailey, Hanne Larsen and Pat Cottle. "A wonderful achievement for such a small group."

GSSFFW is an active participant of the Seagrass-Watch program, monitoring 18 sites throughout the Great Sandy Strait.

Gordon has been a major force in the program's success in region.  He is also inventor of the "Cottle Corer", a modified seed corer which is used by Seagrass-Watch groups for sampling seagrass seeds.

Seagrass-Watch HQ would like to congratulate Gordon, Pat, Robyn, Paul and Hanne on their wonderful achievement, and tireless effort in monitoring the Great Sandy Strait.  A job well done and an award well deserved!!!

The Official presentation will be next week at BMRG Offices Bundaberg.





Action to save Reef

The Courier Mail, Friday, February 23, 2007, page 19

Pesticide run-off may be polluting larger areas of the Great Barrier Reef than originally thought. A series of satellite images obtained by CSIRO scientists have confirmed for the first time that sediment plumes travel to the outer reef and beyond.

It was originally believed the plumes - which can contain pesticides, herbicides and other micro pollutants from river systems- affected only the inner Great Barrier Reef lagoon and the inner reef corals. But the new images, taken by NASA's MODIS satellite by GeoScience Australia's Alice Springs site between February 9 and 13, show they are travelling up to l35km offshore.

The images were taken during the heavy rains in far north Queensland, and show floodwaters carrying a larger sediment load than during regular rainfall and river flow. CSIRO scientist Amold Dekker said the images would change the way scientists analysed reef pollution and that they showed land care
practices needed to be improved to save the Reef from destruction.

"This is the first time it's been really proven that this is a phenomenon that we need to start incorporating into our studies of how we manage the land and what flows from the land, and how it affects the Reef," he said. "It's a good example of nature being a bit more complex than we think (and) we have to start studying how often these sediments and contaminants reach the outer reefs."

Recent studies have shown agricultural chemicals are so poisonous to coral that they can prevent spawning, even when present in minuscule amounts. This hindered the Reefs ability to regenerate and protect itself.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority is overseeing the implementation of the l0-year, $40 million Reef Water Quality Protection Plan to improve land management practices in the catchment area. It's a plan that Dr Dekker believes should be supported by farmers, tourism authorities and the govemment. He said revegetating areas around waterways would help catch the sediments before they reached the ocean.

Article by: Christine Flatley

Related Article: Click Here

Seagrass-Watch is a component of the Reef Water Quality Protection Plan



CSIRO imagery shows outer Great Barrier Reef at risk from sediment plumes

CSIRO Media release, Thursday, February 22, 2007

Queensland coastline, from Cairns in the south to the Daintree in the north February 9 2007: Sediment run-off, appearing as browns and aquas, appears to have clouded the entire inner-reef. At the top of the photo, run-off from the Daintree River (1), a yellow-brown in colour, travels away from the coast towards Balt Reef and the Trinity Opening (2). Sediment plumes emanating from Cairns' Baron and Mulgrave Rivers can be seen merging with similar plumes from southern rivers into a plume travelling over 100kms through the Grafton Passage (3) and into the open ocean. Image credit – CSIRO/GeoScience Australia
Princess Charlotte Bay in far North Queensland February 9 2007: Sediment, brown and green against the blues that show 'normal' reef waters, from the Annie River (1), North Kennedy River (2), Normanby River (3) and Marrett River (4) washes into Princess Charlotte Bay, past Flinders Island (5) and along Corbett Reef (6) before being carried into the Fairway Channel (7) and into the ocean.
Image credit – CSIRO/GeoScience Australia

A stunning series of satellite imagery of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef released by the CSIRO shows for the first time visual confirmation of the theory that sediment plumes travel to the outer reef, and beyond.

The remotely sensed images, taken from February 9 to 13 this year, challenge conventional thought that sediment travelling from our river systems into the GBR is captured by the longshore current and travels no more than 10 to 15km offshore, affecting only the inner Great Barrier Reef Lagoon and the inner reef corals.

Images captured by CSIRO show large plumes of terrestrial material following unconventional patterns and travelling quite fast as far as 65 to 130km, to the outer reef and, in some instances, travelling along the outer reef and re-entering the reef.

The plumes are the result of heavy rainfalls in northern QLD around late January to early February 2007, with the resulting flood waters carrying a larger sediment load than during regular rainfall and river flow. As such floods have not occurred for a while the accumulated material in the creeks ands rivers coupled with increased sediment runoff from the land is causing a significant transport of terrestrial material to all areas of the affected reefs and reef waters.

Managers of the GBR have long been examining the effects of run-off of sediments, including pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers, on the reef corals.

The images challenge the traditional school of hydrological modelling, which says sediment plume movement in the mid to northern GBR usually go north and never directly flow to the outer reef is spared the direct effects of such river floods.

“A re-think is needed now that we know where flood plumes go,” says CSIRO scientist Arnold Dekker, ”and what this means as organic micropollutants may be travelling to parts of the reef scientists hadn’t thought to look before.”

The images were taken from NASA’s MODIS satellite by GeoScience Australia’s Alice Springs site for a new product being developed by the Wealth from Oceans Flagship to track coastal and ocean events in real-time, building on the technology behind the successful SENTINEL bushfire tracking system.

While extreme coastal events have been captured by remote sensing before, this is the first time they can be seen and analysed straight after the event as there are now more satellites imaging the Earth and CSIRO has invested in fast information delivery systems.

Title: Great Barrier Reef under threat Media: Audio Size: 6.77Mb (Podcast 20 Feb 07)

In this seven-minute podcast, Dr Arnold Dekker, from CSIRO’s Land and Water division, discusses the threat to the Great Barrier Reef from flood run off.

Source and article: Click Here

Related article: Click Here




Australian Government Envirofund

February 2007

The Australian Government Envirofund is the local action component of the Australian Government's $3 billion Natural Heritage Trust. It helps communities undertake local projects aimed at conserving biodiversity and promoting sustainable resource use.

Community groups and individuals can apply for grants of up to $50,000 (GST inclusive) to carry out on-ground and other actions to target local problems.

Round 9 now open: Round 9 will cover the normal range of activities funded by the Envirofund, with a total of $20 million in funding available for projects across Australia.  Copies of the Round 9 Guide and Application Form are now available. Click Here

Applications for Round 9 close at 5pm on Friday 27 April 2007. Your signed original application must be received at the Envirofund office in Canberra on or before that date.




Koh Yao villagers stage pier protest (Phuket,Thailand)

Phuket Gazette, Tuesday, February 20, 2007

PHANG NGA: About 30 protectors have been camping out for over a month on Klong Son Beach on Koh Yao Yai, demanding the government scrap plans for a pier to be built there by a large land developer.

The protesters comprise poor Muslim residents of Village 3 and representatives from non-governmental organizations supporting their cause. The villagers see the project, which includes dredging of 100,000 tons of seabed sediment to build an offshore breakwater, as a threat to the marine environment that they rely on to make a living. The villagers began their protest after the project had been approved by all relevant government agencies during a July 20 meeting chaired by Phang Nga Governor Winai Buapradit.

Citing arguments put forward by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE) ordered that the project be postponed indefinitely while the Ministry of Transport (MoT) reconsiders its approval, which was granted at the recommendation of the local Marine Department office.

Earlier this month, NHRC Commissioner Vasan Panich told the Gazette that the site is part of “tsunami protection” zone, one of many coastal areas protected from development in order to leave intact natural barriers to any future tsunamis. K. Vasan said that the proposed construction would “certainly” affect offshore seagrass beds that sustain the area’s highly-endangered dugong population.

At Gov Winai’s request, the headman of Village 3 explained to the protesters on February 17 that the company cannot begin work until the ban is lifted – but to no avail. “They refuse to budge until the government revokes its approval, because they don’t believe that Naracha will abandon the project otherwise,” said the headman, who asked that his name not be printed.

“This is a big problem in Phang Nga at the moment, so the Governor has asked for my help in getting the protesters off the beach,” the headman explained.

“I plan to set up a meeting between the protesters and a local Muslim leader. They respect him, so maybe he can convince them to leave the beach and wait at home for the project to be canceled,” he said.

Source and article: Click Here



First aerial survey to map dugong numbers

Bangkok Post, Wednesday February 14, 2007

The first aerial survey of marine life along the Gulf of Thailand coast will begin next week. The 10-day operation will focus on the dugong population and the condition of the seagrass bed, the animal's only food, Marine and Coastal Resources Department chief Nisakorn Kositrat said.

The project, jointly implemented with the Foundation for Preservation and Development of Thai Aircraft, will last from Feb 19 until 28. The foundation will provide two aircraft along with senior pilots. The department will send marine experts to collect information.  The operation will cover 350 kilometers of coastal area in Chon Buri, Rayong, Chanthaburi and Trat provinces, said Mrs Nisakorn.  Information obtained from the survey would be used in the drafting of a national plan for marine species conservation.

''Our marine experts usually use research vessels or boats in survey operations, which is time-consuming and gives us only limited information,'' she said. ''The aerial survey will help us to gain data on a wider scale in a shorter period.''  Experts will plot the positions of marine species found during the survey and use a global positioning system (GPS) to track the creatures down later on.

In the first stage, the operation will focus on dugongs and the seagrass bed. If successful, the project will be expanded to other animal species and marine resources, including sea turtles, mangrove coverage and coastal erosion, said Samran Gesorn, the project's chief pilot.

There are few dugongs left in Thai waters, including the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea. A recent departmental survey found the number had increased from 126 in 2005 to 128 last year, a much-needed boost to efforts to preserve the rare creature and the seagrass bed.

There are 500 square kilometers of seagrass bed in the Andaman Sea, and only 25 sq km in the Gulf of Thailand.

The foundation is providing two fixed-wing planes with quiet engines which will not scare the animals away.  Established by Group Captain Veerayuth Didyasarin, the foundation maintains old aircraft for use in non-profit activities. Last year, it helped the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment collect data and map out forest fire locations in Chiang Mai. It also plans to work with the ministry on an aerial study of land erosion, for use in a national erosion prevention plan.

Source and article: Click Here



Seven years of science keeps Reef great

12 February 2007

After seven years of studying the Great Barrier Reef, the Cooperative Research Centre for the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area (CRC Reef) has closed its doors, leaving a legacy of better understanding of reef systems and their key threats, as well as a collection of expert advice which has significantly influenced policy and management of coral reefs throughout the world.

The centre, which operated from 1999 until 2006, provided a basis for partnerships between reef managers, tourism and fishing industries and research providers.  "It has been a privilege to be part of this venture which has created a network of research providers, research users, educational institutions and communities working towards common goals," said Sir Sydney Schubert, Chairman of CRC Reef.

CRC Reef undertook collabrative research that informed on the major issues facing reef managers and industry including: biodiversity conservation, emerging tourirsm and recreation pressures, global warming, and the effects of overfishing and water quality on reef systems.  "Results from CRC Reef's research were transmitted in ways that users could understand and really use, said Sir Schubert. Our Scientists went beyond the data to provide expert opinion and form consensus views on major issues."

Throughout its existence, the Centre supported the eduction and training of more than 100 doctoral students. The students were trained in collaborative, user-focused research that equipped them for real-world applications. Many are now leading researchers and managers of marine systems around the globe.

In 2003, CRC Reef expanded its scope into the Torres Strait to work in partnership with Torres Strait islanders to address sustainable use of marine resources in the region.

During it existence the CRC Reef:

  • Improved understanding of the impacts of global warming on coral reefs.
  • Helped to develop an early warning system for coral bleaching.
  • Provided critical advice and information used in developing the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority's new zoning plan for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
  • Supported the Great Barrier Reef Seabed Biodiversity Project, which mapped seafloor habitats and associated fauna, assessed the impacts of trawl fisheries, provided baseline data for monitoring changes arising from the new zoning of the Park, and resulted in the discovery of more than 7,000 types of organisms many of which were undescribed new species.
  • Raised awareness of water quality as a key threat to the Great Barrier Reef.
  • Developed best-practice mooring and pontoon design to optimise strenght of moorings for reef tourism pontoons.
  • Improved understanding of human impacts on dugongs leading to better managment measures.
  • Conducted one of the largest and longest fisheries experiments in the world, resulting in information that directly changed fisheries legislation and demonstrating that reefs which are closed to fishing have larger and more abundant fish than fished reefs.

CRC Reef was funded by the Cooperative Research Centres Programme through the Department of Education, Science and Training. Its members, which co-funded many research projects, included the Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators, the Australian Institute of Marine Science, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, the Great Barrier Reef Research Foundation, James Cook University, Queensland Department of Primary industries and Fisheries, the Queensland Seafood Industry Association, Sunfish Queensland Inc and the University of Queensland.

The knowledge base and partnerships created by CRC Reef are being built on by the Marine and Tropical Science Research Facility. MTSFT is part of the Commonwealth Enviroment Research Fund through the Australian Department of Enviroment and Water Resources. The MTSRF funding is managed by the Reef and Rainforest Reasearch Facility (RRRC).  CRC Reef's research continues to support the management and wise use of the GBRWHA.

More information about the achievements of CRC Reef can by be found in a booklet entitled 'World Heritage Research: Making a Difference' which will be launched by Sir Sydney Schubert at 12 noon on Monday 12 February at the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority's Reef HQ, Flinders St East, Townsville.

For more information:
Sir Sydney Schubert, Chair, CRC Reef Research Centre. Phone: (07) 3262 7924
Dr David Williams, Australian Institute of Marine Science. Phone: 0419 679 753

A copy of the booklet : Click Here



Investigation into sinking barge begins, Monday, February 12, 2007

Maritime Safety Queensland (MSQ) has started investigating why a barge started sinking during a cyclone off the coast of far north Queensland last week. MV Wunma was carrying 5000 tonnes of zinc concentrate when it was swamped by heavy seas whipped up by cyclone Nelson in the Gulf of Carpentaria.

Ten crew members had to be winched to safety, and there were fears the ship would sink before a salvage team could secure it. The 113-metre barge was stabilised on Saturday and arrived in Weipa this morning, where investigations and repairs will be carried out.

A spokesman for MSQ today said that officers would carry out physical inspections of the boat and ensure that crew members on board followed the appropriate procedures during the cyclone. "They'll also be making sure the crews had appropriate training for this sort of situation,'' the spokesman said. He said the investigation could take as long as two months.

Mining company Zinifex, which owns the Wunma, had been warned in an academic report in 2002 there was a high risk it would spill its load or sink in a cyclone. However, Zinifex is now confident the barge's cargo will remain secure. The damage to the barge had caused community concern that any spillage of the toxic cargo could result in an environmental disaster.

The gulf is home to a wide variety of fish, plant and animal species and has one of the largest dugong seagrass beds in the region.

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UPDATE: ABC online, Thursday, February 15, 2007: Mining giant Zinifex Century is testing for environmental pollution after a barge carrying 5,000 tonnes of zinc almost sank in heavy seas in the Gulf of Carpentaria in far north Queensland.

The company says a small quantity of the mineral cargo was lost when the barge was hit by cyclone Nelson last week. Zinifex spokesman Matthew Foran says it would have been diluted quickly and is not likely to pose a threat to humans or marine life. "We thought it was probably the best idea to engage an independent operation to do some assessments and so we have engaged Charles Darwin University to undertake this sampling program of the sea floor bed, just to confirm had there been any spillage," he said.

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Gulf of Carpentaria in zinc spill scare

AM Radio, Thursday, February 8, 2007
Reporter: Louise Willis

Extracts of a transcript from AM. The program is broadcast around Australia at 08:00 on ABC Local Radio.

In the muddied waters of the Gulf of Carpentaria in Australia's far north, a 5,000 tonne barge damaged by tropical Cyclone Nelson is in danger of sinking with its full load and causing an environmental disaster. Local environmental and Aboriginal groups are outraged, saying the mining company responsible for the barge has been warned about its operations for years.

As the category two cyclone bore down on the Queensland coast, huge seas disabled a minerals barge in the Gulf and forced its crew to call for help. The barge was ferrying zinc ore from the Zinifex mine to bulk carriers waiting further offshore. The crew is safe on board another ship and authorities are now focusing their efforts on stopping the barge from sinking, or spilling its load into the water. General Manager of the Zinifex Mine, Greg McMillan, says he's confident the barge will be saved.

The incident has outraged local Aboriginal activist Murrandoo Yanner. "We are extremely concerned the fact that this ship is sinking with 5,000 tonnes of toxic zinc on one of the largest grass beds, as in Dugong sea turtles, seagrass beds in the region in extremely concerning" Mr Yanner said.

The fishing industry is also concerned. Gary Ward from the Gulf Fishermen's Association. "Should that go into the environment, it basically would close down the fishing industry in the Gulf of Carpentaria straight away." Mr Ward said.

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Diver treated after dugong strike

The Courier Mail, Thursday, February 08, 2007

A diver at the Gold Coast's SeaWorld tourist attraction has been admitted to hospital after being struck on the head by a dugong.  There were no witnesses to the mishap involving a normally placid mammal that can weigh up to 400kg.

SeaWorld spokeswoman Wendy Morgan said the diver was carrying out routine maintenance in the dugong tank just before 8am (9am AEDT) today.  "We believe one of the dugongs got caught in the dive equipment as the diver was vacuuming," Ms Morgan said.  "The dugong may have got caught up in the vacuum cord because they're quite curious. "

"None of the divers saw the incident so this is what we believe happened." Once the dugong realised he was caught, Ms Morgan said it was thought he took off and struck the diver on the head.  "It wasn't malicious in any way," she said.

"The diver started to sink to the bottom. One of the other divers went in and brought him up to the surface and they activated the emergency response procedure.  They did a full spinal retrieval of him from the water."

An ambulance took the diver to Gold Coast Hospital in a neck brace, which has since been removed.  "He's conscious and he's responding well to treatment," said Ms Morgan. 

It was unclear if the diver suffered concussion.  SeaWorld has not released the diver's name.

Dugongs are large grey mammals which can grow up to 3m long and feed on seagrass.  They swim by moving their broad spade-like tail in an up and down motion, and by use of their two flippers.

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Poison run-off killing Reef:

Study says small quantities of pesticides are dangerous

The Cairns Post, Thursday, February 8, 2007, page 20

Pesticide run-off is putting Australia's fragile coral reefs at greater risk of destruction,according to a scientific study. The study, published in the Marine Ecology Progress Series journal, shows corals on the Great Barrier Reel are being harmed by agricultural chemicals, even in small quantities.

Scientists from the Australian Institute of Marine Science, the ARC Centre of Excellence for Reef Studies and James Cook University say pesticides are so poisonous that they can prevent coral  spawning, and affect the reef's ability to regenerate and protect itself. The corals most at risk, the study found, were those in their infancy. "Previous studies have focused only on the adults,which seem more robust to insecticides." AIMS scientist Dr Andrew Negri said.

"Our study looked at the fertilisatlon, larval development, survival and metamorphosis and we found that some of these stages were very vulnerable to these chemicals at very low concentrations."

The study found coral settlement- a crucial development stage - was reduced by between 50 and 100 per cent following 18 hours' exposure to very low concentrations of pesticides. The agricultural fungicide MEMC (methoxy-ethyl-mercury chloride), which is used on sugarcane crops, was found to be particularly aggressive.

Tiny concentrations of MEMC were found to not only affect vulnerable baby coral but to cause bleaching in adult corals in tiny concentrations. The researchers have suggested water quality guidelines for the reef may not be sufficient to adequately protect all coral life stages.

They have warned that chemicals combined with rising sea temperatures caused by global warming may result in the destruction of the Great Barrier Reef.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and farmers are involved in a 10-year, $40 million Reef Water Quality Protection Plan to improve land management practices in the catchment area.

Seagrass-Watch is a component of the Reef Water Quality Protection Plan

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Measures taken to prevent repeated blue-green algae outbreak

ABC News Online, Monday, February 5, 2007

The Department of Environment will set up new management regimes for Broome's Roebuck Bay to try to avoid a repeat of the current algal bloom.  The blue-green algae, commonly known as 'mermaid hair', is smothering seagrass and threatening marine and bird life for the second year in a row.

The department says samples of the algae sent to Queensland will be tested to gauge its level of toxicity.  Spokesman Troy Sinclair believes excessive nutrients washing into the bay could be to blame.

"We're looking at setting up some programs to identify the nutrient cycles of Roebuck Bay a bit better so we can identify exactly how much nutrients can be assimilated into the environment without any detrimental problems," he said.  "That will help us identify management regimes in future years."

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Seagrass-Watch HQ is currently working with Local Seagrass-Watch Coordinator Danielle Bain to establish seagrass monitoring with Environs Kimberley in Roebuck Bay.



Lessen Reef risks by pooling data

The Cairns Post, Saturday, February 3, 2007, page 2

Scientists could ward off environmental disaster by pulling together to create a Reef-risk plan, a North Queensland-based marine expert said yesterday.  Reef and Rainforest Research Centre Prof Russell Reichelt said more than a dozen scientific institutes and universities at present carried out research. Pooling data could pinpoint Reef sites in urgent need of protection, Prof Reichelt said.

"We need to analyse the Reefs ecology as a whole, not the separate parts, and then look at how we can improve the long term health of the Reef with more targeted actions." he said.  "Looking at more than one factor at a time, would produce a more comprehensive picture of the resilience of the Barrier Reef. It may be that certain areas are prone to bleaching and poor water quality so those would be targeted for more urgent action.

"Cleaning up the water flow from some rivers may become more of a priority." Studies carried out by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, the CSIRO. James Cook University and other scientists, were "tremendous" he said. "This is not to criticise current efforts," he said. "But we need to keep finding ways to do even better."

Delicate coral was under significant threat as hotter summers warmed the ocean, Prof Reichelt warned. "We need to take the pressure off the Reef and give it the best chance of surviving," he said. "Mass bleaching could potentially be happening every year for 20 years. "If it happens every year there'll be a steady loss of corals on the Great Barrier Reef."

There have been eight documented bleaching events on the Reef dince 1979, most recently in 2002, when 55 per cent of corals were bleached and 5 per cent died. Prof Reichelt said the Reef would face additional problems in the future, including coral disease, over fishing of sharks and rising acidity in the ocean. An Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, released in Paris last night, was expected to predict temperature rises of between 2-4.5°C by 2100.



Scientist urges risk survey to help save reef

ABC Online, Wednesday, January 31, 2007. 17:41 (AEDT)

A leading scientist with the Great Barrier Reef Foundation says identifying the most resilient areas of the reef could help save it from extinction.  A leaked report that is due to be presented to a global conference on climate change in Paris this week has predicted the reef could become extinct within 20 years.

But marine scientist Russel Reichelt says climate change does not impact evenly across the reef and some areas will survive better than others.  He says a full risk survey of the reef could identify which parts will be more easily saved, but it would cost millions of dollars.

"If some of the more serious predictions look like happening, I think we need to target our efforts and really work on the areas where the best conservation outcomes can be achieved," he said.  "Pull the health of the reef up by removing the stresses in very targeted efforts, and what you need for that is an integrated risk and threat and response map."

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Barrier Reef could face extinction in less than 20 years - report

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

SYDNEY - The Great Barrier Reef will become functionally extinct in less than 20 years if global warming continues at its current pace, a draft international report warns.

A confidential draft of the report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), obtained by The Age, says that global warming will cause billions of dollars of damage to coastal areas, key ecosystems and the farming sector without massive greenhouse gas emission cuts.

In a chapter on Australia, the draft IPCC climate impacts report warns that coral bleaching in the Barrier Reef is likely to occur annually by 2030 because of warmer, more acidic seas.

The reef is one of several iconic areas of Australia identified in the report as key hot spots for climate vulnerability. Others include the Kakadu National Park's wetlands, the Murray-Darling Basin and alpine zones in southern Australia.

Australian Conservation Foundation executive director Don Henry said the report was a big wake-up call. "They are saying our beloved Barrier Reef is at grave risk," Mr Henry told Sky News. "We've got a major economic and environmental problem unless we heed the call of these scientists. "I think the science is getting clearer about how just how serious and urgent it is." - AAP

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Roebuck Bay under threat from algae

The West online, Monday January 29, 2007, 8:45 WST

An algal bloom has invaded a 4km stretch of Broome’s iconic Roebuck Bay, prompting concerns the outbreak could damage the fragile marine habitat, a vital feeding ground for dugongs and hundreds of thousands of migrating birds.

The blue-green alga lyngbya, commonly known as mermaid’s hair, is believed to be the culprit, smothering the bay’s mud flats for the second year in a row. Authorities are unsure of the cause of the bloom, its consequences and what should be done to respond to the outbreak.

The algal bloom also raises possible health concerns because its toxins can cause skin and eye irritations if swimmers or other people visiting the popular tourist attraction come into contact with it.

Local environmental groups and the Broome Shire Council are calling for a scientific investigation into the bloom amid concerns it could have a serious and long-term impact.

The Department of Environment and Conservation is monitoring the bloom and consulting scientists over potential causes but says identifying the primary cause may take time and is essential before recommending remedial management.

Mermaid’s hair has been an extensive problem in the Eastern States, with an outbreak of the bloom prompting the Federal Government to spend $1 million to tackle the problem three years ago after concerns it could devastate coastal ecosystems in Queensland’s Moreton Bay.

Broome horticultural lecturer Kim Courtenay said he was worried that stormwater run-off from about 20 outlets which flowed into the bay could be contributing. He said stormwater previously ran off to wide verges where it soaked into the ground but increased development and changes to the drainage system had directed the water — and its added nutrients — into the bay.

“Some say with such a system the current environmental problem (of lyngbya) has been inevitable and reversing it will require a major, and no doubt costly, about face in local storm management,” Mr Courtenay said. “There is a major environmental event occurring on the Roebuck Bay foreshores, the likes of which has not been seen in living memory.”

Environs Kimberley director Maria Mann said local environmental groups would meet the council to discuss the bloom. “It is only going to get worse and worse unless the shire does something about stormwater run-off,” she said.

Article by : Amanda Banks
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New red tide species detected off Sepanggar

DAILY EXPRESS NEWS, Sun January 21, 2007

Kota Kinabalu: Marine scientists at the Borneo Marine Research Institute (BMRI) of Universiti Malaysia Sabah have identified a new specie of red tide in Sepanggar Bay.

Prof. Datin Dr Ann Anton, who heads the harmful algal bloom (HAB) research group at BMRI, disclosed that scientists are studying the recent red tide in order to determine the factors that caused them and eventually to examine the ways and means of preventing the blooming of harmful algal species.

The on-going studies include finding innovative methods of identifying the species for early detection of the blooms, studying the ecology of the red tide species and measuring the ocean currents, which help in dispersing the red tide blooms.

The red tide which began last week caused the water to be reddish in colour due to the presence of Cochclodinium polikrikoides, one of the species that causes red tide.

This species does not produce harmful substances (toxins), but kills fishes through asphyxiation or lack of oxygen due to the gills being clogged by the cells.

Consumption of fish that dies as a result of oxygen deprivation caused by Cochclodinium polikrikoides does not produce any health hazard for humans.

However, Dr Normawaty Mohammad Nor, a BMRI lecturer, has identified another specie of red tide in Sepanggar Bay, namely Gymnodinium catenatum. This species forms chains in which as many as 30 cells per chain were observed. Gymnodinium catenatum is known to produce a toxin that causes fish deaths. The toxin, commonly known as Paralytic Shellfish Poison or PSP, are readily accumulated by mussels and oysters and when affected shellfish are consumed by humans they can cause neurological and gastrointestinal problems, and in severe condition may result in death.

PSP toxins are also produced by Pyrodinium bahamese var compressum, another red tide species commonly found in the west coast of Sabah's coastal waters.   Gymnodinium catenatum blooms have been reported in North America, Europe, Australia, China, New Zealand, Japan, Singapore, the Philippines and Indonesia.

The symptoms for the PSP include a variety of gastrointestinal and neurological symptoms. Symptoms for a mild case include headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and a tingling sensation around the lips, gradually spreading to the face and neck.

However, in an extreme case of PSP, the symptoms are much more severe. A person may experience muscle paralysis, respiratory difficulty and death may occur between two and 24 hours after ingestion.

Meanwhile, BMRI Director Prof. Dr Saleem Mustafa, suggests the relevant agencies need to include monitoring this harmful alga - G. catenatum in coastal waters of Sabah and to intensify research on the chemistry of the toxins produced by it.

He said the poison produced by G. catenatum could be easily accumulated by suspension feeders like mussels and oysters, and when affected shellfish are consumed by humans, they can cause neurological and gastrointestinal disorders.

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World Wetlands Day: 2 February 2007

Department of Environment and Heritage, January 2007

World Wetlands Day is celebrated each year on the 2 of February. It marks the anniversary of the signing of the Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar Convention) in Ramsar, Iran, on 2 February 1971.

World Wetlands Day was first celebrated in 1997. Since this time government agencies, non-government organisations and community groups have celebrated World Wetlands Day by undertaking actions to raise public awareness of wetland values and benefits and promote the conservation and wise use of wetlands.

These activities include seminars, nature walks, festivals, launches of new policies, announcement of new Ramsar sites, newspaper articles, radio interviews and wetland rehabilitation.

The international theme for World Wetlands Day 2007 is 'Wetlands and Fisheries', in recognition of the importance of fish and fisheries to all people around the world. Raising our awareness of the importance of wetlands and fish increases our appreciation of the challenges we are now facing in sustainably managing our wetlands amidst the many, often conflicting, uses.

The World Wetland Day slogan 'Fish for tomorrow?' encapsulates many of these challenges we are facing, which include:
• Sustainable management of fish (and other marine species) populations, especially those that are commercially fished
• Supporting sustainable aquaculture practices
• Effectively managing wetlands and other important fish habitats to protect and conserve fish populations
• Increasing buyer awareness of fish species for consumption
Healthy and functional inland and coastal wetlands play a very important role in the management and conservation of our important fish resources. They provide important habitat for fish populations, including rare and endangered fish species, and are spawning and nursery areas for many fish and other marine species.

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World Wetlands Day - Ramsar Convention on Wetlands web site: Click Here



Invitation to World Wetlands Day Forum

January 2007

Boondall Wetlands Environment Centre (Brisbane, Australia) will once again be hosting a free Forum evening with a panel of specialists in Wetlands and Fisheries on Wednesday 31st January 2007.

Speaker and topics include:

  • Norm Duke (Centre for Marine Studies, University of Queensland) Marvellous Mangroves –Their Role In Wetlands And Fisheries (Draft Title)
  • Kurt Derbyshire (Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries) Managing Queensland's Fish Habitats To Sustain Fisheries
  • Kellie Williams (Moreton Bay Seafood Industry Association) Environmentally Sustainable Commercial Fisheries – Fishing For A Future
  • Craig Bohm (Australian Marine Conservation Society) Sustainable Seafood – It’s Your Choice

An evening of stimulating presentations and discussion over wine and cheese at Boondall Wetlands Environment Centre (31 Paperbark Drive, Boondall), 6-9pm. Wine and cheese will be served from 5:45pm.

Bookings are essential: please call the Brisbane City Call Centre on 3403 8888.



Croc attacks policeman in Torres Strait

Monday, January 8, 2007. 7:12pm (AEDT)

An off-duty policeman has escaped from an attack by a large crocodile in the Torres Strait in far north Queensland. Sergeant Jeff Tanswell from Thursday Island police station was snorkelling on a reef near Adolphus Island when the croc attacked him about 15 metres from shore just after 12pm AEST.

He was at the reef with his wife, who is also a police officer, and three other off-duty police officers. It is believed he was attacked from behind by the crocodile, which grabbed him by the head and shoulders and pulled him under the water.

The crocodile swam away and his wife managed to get him back into the boat.  He suffered wounds to his face and ear, but his injuries are not life-threatening. 

Police Sergeant Andrea Leonard says Sergeant Tanswell was about 15 metres from the shore with his wife and two other off-duty police officers.  "Now he was attacked from behind by the crocodile which grabbed him by the head and shoulders and pulled him under the water," she said.

"They both surfaced again soon after and the crocodile then swam away from him and into deeper water and that's when his wife, Senior Constable Tanzer, positioned the boat between her husband and the crocodile and actually assisted him into the boat.  "She then immediately picked up the other people who were still in the water."

Sergeant Tanswell's facial wounds were not serious and he has been released from hospital.

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