Friday, October 16, 2020

What can we do about sharks?

If you are like me then sharks epitomise an innate fear that was built into my system from the get-go. So trying to be objective about them is difficult. It's fine to be able to say "I'm more likely to die from a bee sting than a shark bite", or be "run over by a car." And yet, it doesn't really help, does it?

Around Australia we are blessed with a magnificent marine environment and in order for that to stay healthy it needs to stay in balance. To stay in balance it needs to have top predators as well as all the rest. If we upset natures balance we find ourselves subject to various degrees of tropic cascading, which is the domino effect that causes other populations of plants and animals to fall when a link in the chain is broken. Losing too many sharks puts our truly amazing underwater world in serious trouble.

"As the top predators (like sharks) decline, a cascade of negative effects ripples through the entire ecosystem." CBS NEWS April 14, 2017, 3:48 PM Nature up close: Sharks

The Sunrise show had a recent item that highlighted the facts around those 'protective' shark nets and drum lines near big populations of people. You can view information about the Sunrise item by following this link

A quick overview of the Sunrise article allows the viewer to understand that the new documentary "Envoy Shark Cull" has the intent to show that current "Beach Protection" strategies underlined by shark nets and drum lines are based on culling practices rather than actually protecting swimmers and surfers. 

It seems that government data shows that the shark nets kill thousands of other animals (by-catch) that vastly outweigh the number of sharks the program wants to catch. Ugly examples of the by-catch are in the news regularly. The large number of dead and dying animals actually attract sharks. It doesn't guarantee that the sharks get caught in those nets either. In the case of drum lines, the lines are formally baited with food for sharks.

Of note it is important to understand that shark nets are open at both ends and they do not  reach the bottom so actually any shark can come within a netted area. An example occurred at a highly protected beach, Greenmount QLD, in Sept 2020 where a fatal shark bite occurred.

OK so what strategies might work better? 

Off the coast of Ballina, NSW they have recently harnessed new technology to assist in mitigating negative shark encounters. There has already been a successful result demonstrated. Early in Oct 2020 a drone was monitoring a surfing beach. It identified large shark in the water near a surfer and broadcast a message to him that the shark was nearby. Subsequently the surfer was able to avoid an uncomfortable shark encounter. Later on viewing the drone's footage (which has since gone viral blob: he admitted he had been surprised to note how close the shark had been.  

Answers aren't easy but from this armchair vantage point however I'm willing to suggest that more non-lethal protection for people in the water is an essential part in answering the question "What can we do about sharks?"

In the meantime remember.....

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Educators: International Ocean Literacy Portal

11.07.2018 - Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission

IOC-UNESCO launches new one-stop shop Ocean Literacy Portal

The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO is pleased to announce the launch of the Ocean Literacy Portal. This Portal has been developed to provide a one-stop shop for ocean literacy worldwide, by sharing existing global ocean knowledge. The resources will be accessible to citizens worldwide, from different backgrounds and of all ages, from students to educators, from researchers to policy makers.

Ocean literacy is defined as the understanding of our influence on the ocean and the ocean’s influence on us. Ocean literacy is a way not only to increase the awareness of the public about the ocean, but it is as an approach to encourage all citizens and stakeholders to have a more responsible and informed behaviour towards the ocean and its resources. It is not just knowledge about the state of the ocean but a deeper understanding of our individual and collective responsibilities to take care of the ocean.
The ocean literacy framework and approach has been developed by a group of educators and scientists in the United States, and then taken up, and adapted by European, Asian and African scientists and educators. While all these organizations and associations have been critical to promote ocean literacy nationally and regionally, the need for an international collaboration and exchange of good practices and experiences led to the engagement of UNESCO in ocean literacy, both through its Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) and its Education Sector.
The high-level United Nations Conference to Support the Implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14: Conserve and Sustainably Use the Oceans, Seas and Marine Resources for Sustainable Development, convened at United Nations Headquarters in New York from 5 to 9 June 2017, provided the platform to further promote the ocean literacy concept and framework internationally. A voluntary commitment #OceanAction15187, “Ocean Literacy for All: A Global Strategy to Raise the Awareness for the Conservation, Restoration, and Sustainable Use of Our Ocean”, was submitted by UNESCO in partnership with many institutions and other relevant partners. The main aim of the initiatives outlined in the Voluntary Commitment is to develop a global partnership to improve public knowledge across the world citizenry regarding our global ocean.
In this context, IOC has, at the occasion of the 51st session of its Executive Council, launched the Ocean Literacy Portal, developed with the support of the Government of Sweden. The Portal will serve as one-stop shop for ocean literacy worldwide to share resources, news and information about events and projects that are relevant for all ocean stakeholders, from different backgrounds and of all ages. The Portal has been built to respond to the need of the ocean literacy community to have access to educational resources that are based on rigorous scientific knowledge, that cover different themes, e.g. marine litter, ocean observation, marine policy, and that are useful for different users, such as educators, scientists, journalists, policy-makers and representatives of the private sector.
In addition, the Portal users will have the opportunity to register for a collaborative workspace. Through the Ocean Literacy Collaborative Workspace – UNESTEAMS, experts from all around the world will be able to work directly with fellow members by co-working on topics and ideas and co-creating and developing new joint projects. This is a further step towards creating a collaborative network.
“It is our hope that this platform will contribute to further information and communication regarding the understanding of our ocean,” said Francesca Santoro, IOC Programme Specialist in charge of ocean literacy activities.
For more information, please contact:
Francesca Santoro (f.santoro(at)
Teachers looking for resources the Online Ocean Literacy Toolkit can be found at:

AUSMEPA has several units of work for students and teachers on our website

Australian Marine Educator represents in Decade of the Ocean planning

MANY thanks to Victorian colleague, Mr Harry Briedahl, who attended the recent UNESCO workshop in Venice on behalf of marine educators in Australia. Educators were gathered in Venice to contribute to the roadmap.

13.07.2018 - UNESCO Venice Office

Roadmap for the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development

The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO is working to prepare the Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development. At the IOC’s Executive Council in Paris, member states approved the roadmap, in which ocean literacy plays a central role. There is a need to commit to a greater investment in ocean science, to encourage the scientific community, the public and policy makers to think ahead and aspire to real change. The decade will help us deliver the ocean we need for the future we want. Youth will be central in this process.

From 3 to 6 July 2018, the 51st session of the Executive Council of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO undertook major scientific and policy discussions and deliberated on important themes. On the agenda: ocean science requirements for addressing climate uncertainty, ocean observations and data, early warning and preparedness against tsunamis, multiple stressors affecting marine life, and strategies and tools for science-based ocean planning.
Furthermore, one of the main drives was to define the action plan in view of the Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030), proclaimed by the United Nations to gather ocean stakeholders worldwide under a common framework that will ensure ocean science can fully support countries in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goal 14 on the ocean.
The proclamation of the decade was made necessary because of the increasing need to support and encourage the many aspects of ocean science, especially due to current data on ocean health. As mandated by the UN General Assembly, IOC is coordinating the decade’s preparatory process, inviting the global ocean community to plan for the next 10 years in ocean science and technology to give new generations a chance to live in a sustainable planet.
After the debate, the 39 Member States of the Executive Council – acting on behalf of the 149 Member States of the IOC – as well as observers unanimously voted in favour of initiatives aimed to emphasize the importance of marine sciences for society. According to Francesca Santoro, IOC Programme Specialist, “the objective is to have people understand the importance of oceanography, and that ocean sciences are fundamental in ocean-related services such as fishing, transport and tourism”.
If oceanography is of utmost importance, so is education to raise awareness and forge minds. Ocean Literacy is an essential component of the Ocean Science Decade. Member states voiced the importance of youth in this process. The IOC project office at the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe, Venice (Italy), is focusing on Ocean Literacy and currently introducing it into school curricula in 36 countries around the world.
All countries are now aware that our ocean is in danger, making decisions is urgent and we must act. Most of all, we must transform knowledge and scientific research in concrete actions”, said Santoro. “We aim to engage private sectors, politics and all citizens to create a deep-rooted sense of common knowledge”.
With a greater understanding of the science, we must also reinforce our work on ocean literacy, so that decision-makers can fully take advantage of scientific research in order to affect real policy change.” , said UNESCO Director-General, Audrey Azoulay, at the opening of the 51st Session of the IOC Executive Council.
Our life and scientific research are closely connected. It is thanks to scientific research that we can make marine weather forecasting today, and detect tsunamis in advance to issue warnings in areas, which are subject to such environmental events. This is only one of the many examples as to how scientific research and our daily lives are closely connected.
Walter Munk, a pioneer in ocean research, was ready to remind us of this strong relation in occasion of the Roger Revelle Memorial Lecture held on 5 July during the IOC Executive Council. “The Allies put their strength and knowledge together, working for a common goal, reversing the outcome of the war”, disclosed Walter Munk. His work during World War II focused on wave forecasting and calculation may seem trivial, but in reality, it was essential for American boats to reach the beaches safely.
According to the 100-year-old scientist Munk, working together for a common goal is the key to facing the challenges of ocean pollution and global warming. It is vital to turn scientific research into concrete action. In the words of HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco, more than ever protecting the ocean requires us to think globally and collectively. We must join our forces, share our knowledge and embrace the cause of the Ocean to shape a future where humankind and seas benefit from each other.
During the plenary, Rosalia Santoleri, president of the Italian Oceanographic Commission, announced that Italy will be taking part in the preparations for the Decade. A workshop involving all nations facing the Mediterranean Sea will be planned, with coordination from Rome, and an agenda of initiatives starting January 2021 will be laid out.
The ocean is yet to be explored. Only 5% of the ocean floor has been mapped at high resolution and it is estimated that 1 million marine species are still unknown to science. Regardless of the great amount of research available today, our knowledge is still insufficient to manage biodiversity in 99% of habitable marine environments There are only 3 people in the world who have explored the deepest known point of the ocean. This information alone should be motivation enough to start acting and not only to respect our ocean, but also to discover it. We can all be a part of it, 2021 is not far off.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

INTERCONNECTEDNESS - what does that mean?

INTERCONNECTEDNESS - Goodness, that is a mouthful!

If you don't get a feel for this word perhaps you've heard the term interdependence, another mouthful, or more specifically, ecosystem services. The invisible axiomatic truth is that pretty much everything is connected to everything else. That may be in a primary sense, right here right now, or manifest as a kind of ripple effect off to the side or into the future. Simplistically we might refer to this as a domino effect.

The images below illustrate how we NEED to have healthy environmental systems, plants and animals, in order to have a chance for healthy lives ourselves. And sometimes, as in the case of Mangroves, we have for many years simply treated them with disdain. Below you can see a summary, written for a US audience, of how mangroves help us and what threatens them.

Below gives an inkling of the negative things happening everyday across world mangroves.

[These images were taken from the IUCN website article referencing the importance of mangroves at ]

This earth we live on has such a complex, diverse and enigmatic web of interconnected effects. Everything we do affects this place we live.

People have been working on understanding what when why and how these connections work over the entire evolution of humankind. Which are the things that effect our health and well-being and those things that are detrimental.

Human inventiveness and adaptability has affected those natural systems and their often hidden interconnections have affected our planet. Fire gave us comfort, better health and protection from animals who might eat us and it can burn forests down. Being able to grow crops has given us a steady food source and it has drained rivers and polluted receiving waters and lead to a changed pattern of eating.

Who would have thought that it took about 3,000 litres of water to get that yummy burger into your mouth? 

The more there are of us, the more changes we make. The statistics tell us that there are about 7.7 billion people on earth today, an increase of 6.1 billion people in only 117 years. The environmental systems that make the world habitable for us, producing breathable air, food, clean water, ARE struggling under the weight of our human numbers.

Is the climate changing? Well, clearly, it always does. Are we affecting the changing climate in ways that are different to past history? How could we not with the burgeoning number of people on the planet?

Humankind are such smart creatures. It's time to take stock of our interconnectedness. We will need to pull in our belts and make some brave decisions to look after mother earth and the cradle of the sea in order to ensure our own life on earth.

Monday, November 25, 2019

REDMAP; Keeping an eye on change

What is
The Redmap website invites you to share sightings of fish and marine critters that you think are ‘uncommon’ and do not usually live along your coastline. Over time, Redmap will use your ‘citizen science’ data and photos to sketch a picture of Australian fish and marine species that may be extending their distribution range – a.k.a shifting house - in response to changes in the marine environment, such as warming seas.

Redmap allows Australians to collect their own marine data, share stories and upload photos of ‘unusual’ sightings. Redmap is science created by the people for the people

It is really exciting to see what people discover and how things are changing in the ocean.

You should take a peek at

Wednesday, November 20, 2019


Below you can see the flyer for this seasons Victorian FISH COUNT by ReefWatch and Parks Victoria. If you live down south you'll find that it is a fun activity to help keep track of what is going on in Port Phillip Bay at Portsea.


Hi Jody,

The 2019 Great Victorian Fish Count is here!

Dive and snorkel groups across the state will be taking part in the annual Great Victorian Fish Count over the next 4 weeks. We're also thrilled to be offering special 'For Beginners' and 'Wild Families' Great Victorian Fish Count activities as part of the program. See all the details below. 
Every year, hundreds of people take part in Victoria's largest marine citizen science event to create a snapshot of the species that call Victoria's coastal waters home
This year, the Ornate Cowfish is the 'face' of the Great Victorian Fish Count, Victoria's largest marine citizen science event. These colourful cowfish remind everyone that our marine life rocks and with many opportunities to explore the Great Southern Reef and other spectacular natural marine habitats all along Victoria's coast during the fish count, who knows what else you'll find out there.
The Great Victorian Fish Count is on from 16 November to 15 December, so it's time to jump in the water now! 
You can find a fish count event near you here
The Count has been running since 2002, led by the Victorian National Parks Association in partnership with Museum Victoria, Parks Victoria, Coastcare Victoria, RedMap, local dive operators and local community groups with support from the Victorian Government. 

Special Wild Families Great Victorian Fish Count activities

'Wild Families', The Victorian National Parks Association's family nature program, is thrilled to be hosting Great Victorian Fish Counts for families with kids over 8 years old. The snorkelling event will be led by Dive2U with all equipment supplied (but bring your own wetsuit if you can).
When: Sunday 24 November 10am and 12 noon
Where: Rye Pier
Cost: VNPA members free, VNPA non-members $10 per person or $25 per family. (You can join VNPA membership here.)
For bookings (essential as numbers are limited) contact AJ Morton, or 0409 411 299.

Special Great Victorian Fish Count activities for beginners

This year, the Victorian National Parks Association is encouraging people to give the Great Victorian Fish Count a try for the first time and experience the unique marine life in Port Phillip Bay. With our partners Bayplay we are hosting a special activity at Portsea Pier.
When: Saturday 7 December 10am or 12noon
Where: Portsea Pier, 3755 Point Nepean Rd, Portsea

Cost: VNPA members free, non-members $10 per person or $25 per family. (You can join VNPA membership here.)
Registration essential at or (03) 5984 0888
Beginner snorkellers welcome.
We’d love you to join us!
Nicole Mertens
ReefWatch Project Officer
(03) 9341 6509
ReefWatch is our marine citizen-science program training volunteers like you to collect important information about Victoria's unique marine life.
Find out more here.
ReefWatch is a program of the Victorian National Parks Association.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019


Following a successful presentation at The World Maritime University in Malmo, AUSMEPA Executive Office, Julie Nash traveled on to Greece where she met with founding INTERMEPA members the Helenic Marine Environment Protection Association - HELMEPA

HELMEPA and AUSMEPA have a special bond. AUSMEPA, formed in the year 2000, is one of many offshoots from the original innovative Greek association formed in 1982. 
That's 37 years of educating, acting and changing behaviour! 

Additionally first Chairman of AUSMEPA was Captain Michael Alexander, who was raised in Greece. Captain Alexander lead AUSMEPA through some creative early years and stayed on in an advisory capacity for many years afterwards.

HELMEPA has done a remarkable job in demonstrating how the Greek community could and would make a difference to their coastal waters and shores. 

While visiting the HELMEPA education centre Ms Nash interacted with Greek students who showed a strong desire to help their environment. One activity undertaken regularly is beach clean-up. 

Thanks HELMEPA for leading the way and giving us all a wonderful example of how a motivated community can make a difference.  You can visit the HELMEPA website here.