Monday, October 31, 2011

Smart Ocean / Smart Industries Program Program for Data Collection from Vessels and Platforms

News Release


Maersk, Transocean, Other Leadership Companies Joining Forces to Create International Program for Data Collection from Vessels and Platforms
31 October 2011 –
Leading ocean companies are working to expand and better coordinate the collecting of ocean and atmospheric information from ships and offshore structures through the “Smart Ocean / Smart Industries” program developed by the World Ocean Council (WOC). The UNESCO Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) is hosting the initial WOC workshop on 12-13 Dec 2011 in Paris.
The need to better understand and monitor the ocean and climate has never been greater. Government and scientific institutions have limited facilities and resources to obtain marine and atmospheric data. Shipping, offshore oil and gas and other ocean industries, e.g. ferries, fisheries, offshore wind, aquaculture and others, operate thousands of vessels and platforms. These provide tremendous potential for cost-effectively collecting ocean and climate data. Expanded information will help improve the modeling and predictability of weather, ocean conditions and climate change, and will support responsible use of ocean space and resources – with clear benefits for science, government, society, and business.
A WOC Working Group co-chaired by A.P. Moeller-Maersk and Transocean is beginning work to develop a comprehensive structure and process to scale up data collection from “smart” ships and platforms and expand the spatial and temporal extent of observations by leadership companies.
At Maersk Line, Eskild Lund Sorensen, Environmental Manager stated that, "With more than 500 commercial vessels sailing on the major trade lanes of the world, Maersk Line pledges to protect the marine environment upon which its business depends. As a member of the WOC, we will contribute to promoting ocean sustainability by making our assets available to the ocean research community through strategic, structured and long-term research partnerships and collaboration."
Heather Null, Transocean’s Environmental and Corporate Responsibility Manager, said, “Transocean has approximately 100 active rigs worldwide and we have a long history of partnering with the science community and oil and gas industry colleagues to collect environmental data from offshore rigs. The WOC initiative creates a new opportunity to build on this history to jointly observe and understand the marine environment.”
The WOC program will catalyze the role of leadership companies from a range of ocean industries in the systematic, regular, sustained and integrated collection and reporting of standardized oceanographic and atmospheric data. This will provide critical information to scientific programs that improve the safety and sustainability of commercial activities at sea and contribute to maintaining and improving ocean health. The program is being developed in close collaboration with national and international ocean and climate observations programs, and with existing voluntary observation programs.
Peter Hinchliffe, Secretary General of the International Chamber of Shipping (a Founding Member of the WOC), voiced strong support, “The ICS encourages shipping companies, other ocean industries, and voluntary observation programs to get involved in this important initiative. More and better data will result in improved ocean and climate models. These will advance the predictability of ocean and weather conditions, with tremendous benefits for the safety and efficiency of all marine operations.”
The IOC will host the initial WOC “Smart Ocean / Smart Industries” workshop. The meeting will convene industry, science and government representatives to develop: a) a shared understanding of the program need and opportunity, b) the initial design of the process and institutional framework and c) the roadmap and workplan for moving forward.
IOC Executive Secretary, Wendy Watson-Wright, stated, “The IOC is extremely pleased to host the initial WOC workshop on this far-reaching initiative. The WOC, with its growing network of ocean leadership companies, is uniquely positioned to catalyze a coordinated program of ocean and climate observations by industry and ensure it is integrated with international and national science and observation programs.”
The workshop will bring together representatives from: a) shipping, oil and gas, ferry, offshore wind, mining, fisheries, navies, etc; b) existing voluntary observation programs; c) marine technology, instrumentation, IT/communications; and d) international and national oceanographic/metrological organizations. Space is limited. Interested parties should contact:

About the World Ocean Council (WOC)

The WOC is the only international, cross-sectoral alliance for private sector leadership and collaboration in “Corporate Ocean Responsibility”. Companies and associations worldwide are distinguishing themselves as leaders in ocean sustainability and stewardship by joining the WOC. Members to date include over 36 leadership organizations from a wide range of ocean industries: oil and gas, shipping, seafood, tourism, ocean technology, maritime law, marine environmental services and other areas.

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©2011 World Ocean Council | 3035 Hibiscus Drive, Suite 1 | Honolulu, HI 96815

ABC Science: Great Garbage Patch exposed article

The following article posted by ABC Science here reminds us why it is so important to make changes in how we live!

The Great Garbage Patch exposed

Tim Silverwood sailed the wild seas with a research team in search of the North Pacific's heart of plastic.

Tim Silverwood
Tim Silverwood aboard The Sea Dragon in search of the infamous Great Garbage Patch.(Source: Tim Silverwood)
To become 'becalmed' when sailing could be considered a curse, or is at very least an inconvenience. After eight days and 1500 kilometres of rough seas north of Hawaii to be becalmed was all I could dream for.
My journey to the middle of the North Pacific Ocean on a 72-foot sailboat to research plastic pollution started around four years ago when I travelled to India and saw huge levels of trash entering waterways and the ocean.
I was confronted by the realisation that my big blue backyard was under attack from levels of plastic pollution I'd never thought imaginable, so I started organising informal beach clean ups in my local area on the Central Coast of NSW.
Together with Amanda Marechal and Roberta Dixon-Valk, I helped establish 'Take 3 - A Clean Beach Initiative, a non-profit organisation where we encourage everyone to simply take three pieces of rubbish with them when they visit a beach, waterway or coastal area.
Then earlier this year, I read an article from the San Diego Union Tribune titled '$10K buys a trip to see floating trash'mocking the announcement of a call for participation in a research expedition to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
"Still looking for that perfect Valentine's gift? How about a 20-day tour on the high seas to search for the world's largest garbage dump?" it asked in the opening line.
I didn't have $10K but boy did I want to sail to see that trash. Within a week I'd confirmed my spot on the voyage and decided this wouldn't just be a holiday, this would be the start of a new chapter.

First stop Hawaii

Not pretty: Kamilo Beach is known as the 'world's dirtiest beach'. (Source: Tim Silverwood)
My journey started in Hawaii, launch point for the sailboat, and innocent victim of the scourge of debris from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
On many of the islands' windward, easterly facing beaches, huge amounts of debris are dumped by waves in an unrelenting assault on these beautiful shorelines. Kamilo Beach on the southernmost tip of the Big Island of Hawaii has earned a tag line as 'the world's dirtiest beach'.
I visited the notorious 500 metres of craggy coast with the founders of Beach Environmental Awareness Campaign Hawaii to help with a clean up and document their work.
I was mentally prepared to see the 'plastic sand' of Kamilo, I'd seen it portrayed on TV and in photos before, but after only minutes of excitedly darting around and photographing piles of colourful junk I had to stop and digest exactly what I was witnessing. The tiny chips of plastic spread all over the beach had once been serviceable items that had clearly spent a long and bouncy second life on the wild seas and were now reduced to unrecognisable bits of plastic, stranded high and dry on this abominable stretch.
A beach clean-up in Australia relies upon thick bags, gloves and litter pickers, but on Kamilo the team from BEACH have had to modify their utensils to dustpans and brushes and specially designed 'sand sifters' to collect the tiny shards of plastic.
We removed over 400 kilograms of rope/net, huge amounts of 'plastic sand' and an array of plastic items ranging from hagfish traps (used widely in coastal Asia), plastic tubing (used as spacers for oyster farming in Japan), fishing crates, half eaten plastic bottles, crates, buckets, toothbrushes, bottle caps and broken fishing buoys.
The next weekend we removed another 700 kilograms of rope and net from Kahuku Beach on the north-east coast of Oahu.

Time to sail

Trawling for trash: Dr Marcus Eriksen examines a trawl sample. (Source: Tim Silverwood)
After spending ten days documenting the impact of marine debris in Hawaii, I gathered at Honolulu Marina to meet the 12 people I would sail with over the next three weeks.
The group included scientists, artists, film makers, PhD students, divers and environmentalists from seven countries. Together we would collect data for a range of studies for seven scientists from five universities.
The captain and first mate, the only two paid crew, were quick to advise that we would be working every day to help run the boat and the research, which was coordinated by Dr Marcus Eriksen, director of Research and Education with Algalita Marine Research Foundation and co-founder of the 5 Gyres Institute.
Eriksen was undertaking his fourth crossing of the North Pacific Gyre to research marine debris and completing the final stage of a two-year project gathering evidence of plastic accumulation in each of the world's five major gyres.
We planned to sail along a transect from Hawaii to Vancouver that would pass directly through the central accumulation zone of the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, known the infamous Garbage Patch.
To plot our route to the centre of the gyre, Eriksen uses a computer model developed by oceanographer Nikolai Maximenko of the International Pacific Research Centre (IPRC) at the University of Hawaii. The model maps where and when ocean currents transport floating items such as traceable buoys, which show on the screen as tiny red dots converging on the 'hearts' of our major oceans like a finely tuned virus.
Gyres are astoundingly huge (the entire North Pacific Gyre can easily be compared to twice the size of the USA) the central accumulation zones are much tighter, so basically we were chasing a garbage patch the size of Texas on our voyage.
United by the mystique and drama surrounding the issue, we were excited and apprehensive as we familiarised ourselves with the boat and prepared our small bunks for one night of acclimatisation prior to a morning departure.
On 7 July under clear skies, a moderate swell and with a steady breeze we sailed away from the high-rises of Waikiki and into the vast blue sea.

Not smooth sailing

Rope rafts: the crew spotted debris such as this conglomeration of rope from day two up until six days before they reached Vancouver. (Source: Tim Silverwood)
The central accumulation zone of the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre generally aligns with the centre of a massive, consistent high-pressure system approximately 1000 kilometres north-east of Hawaii.
The calmer conditions associated with the centre of the high pressure system are critical for trawling across the surface of the ocean at the speed of 2 knots to collect a detailed snapshot of the ocean using the 'manta trawl'. If the ocean is too rough this type of trawl is ineffective and it becomes seemingly impossible to spot debris amongst a panorama of white capping waves.
But the weather wasn't on our side. Six hours into the voyage, as we rounded the western cape of Oahu, the wind and seas picked up dramatically, replacing our contented smiles with pale features and clammy hands.
Instead of tracing a path directly through the centre of the accumulation zone we were pushed by strong winds and large seas through the western flank of the convergence zone to the north-western tip, chasing calmer conditions.
The wild weather continued relentlessly for five days and resulted in some team bonding as we took turns giving our lunch back to the sea. I was horribly seasick and maintained a mild nausea for almost the entire voyage, respite only possible when on the outer deck or lying down in my bunk.
We were divided into three groups and assigned a rotating 'watch' that lasted either four or six hours and encompassed all hours of the day. Tasks like launching and collecting the research trawls and recording data were peppered among regular duties such as cooking, cleaning and sailing the boat.
For a week we battled the sea to find calm. Unable to use the manta trawl during this time we used the aptly named 'high speed trawl' (as it can slice through the surface of the water at speeds of ten knots) to gather data on the distribution of debris on the ocean surface.
Once we found calm conditions we were able to 'dip' back towards the centre of the accumulation zone but not enough to see the true 'heart'.

A soup not an island

Grim reality: The crew found tiny shards of plastic in every trawl they completed including items such as toothbrushes, spray nozzles, pen caps and a very faded grey toy gorilla. (Source: Tim Silverwood,)
There are many misnomers about the Garbage Patch. There is no floating island of trash nor has there ever been one. The concept of a 'floating island' was coined by the media after Captain Charles Moore first discovered the accumulation zone in 1997. The best analogy for the Garbage Patch is a giant plastic soup. Debris not only floats on the surface of the ocean it also descends throughout the entire water column, making it less spectacular to look at and physically impossible to 'scoop up' and remove, as so many bemused citizens suggest when they hear of this plastic 'island'.
From two days outside of Hawaii until six days before we reached Vancouver we regularly spotted larger 'macro debris' items including conglomerations of rope and net up to five metres long, fishing floats, crates, buoys and consumer products including children's toys, toothbrushes, disposable bowls, bottles and a yoghurt container.
Admittedly, I had expected to see more 'macro debris' items scattered on the surface, something to draw a parallel with the notorious reputation, but instead I discovered the true and frightening reality of the state of the North Pacific Gyre in the trawl samples.
Tiny shards of 'micro debris', just like the plastic sand of Kamilo Beach, glistened among a treasure-trove of biota almost like they were meant to be there. It doesn't take long to realise that the larger items we spotted were merely the forebears of future plastic sand. Time, friction, tide and the relentless sun would secure their fate.
Despite the conditions, we completed dozens of trawls and found plastic in every trawl, from recognisable items like pen caps and a toothbrush to tiny pieces including the infamous 'nurdle', the pre-production pellets used in the manufacture of plastic.
Slowly meandering through the Juan De Fuca Strait on the final leg into Vancouver we were confronted by our return to 'civilisation'. Huge ships en route from China to North America, vessels laden with coal and oil and cargo, steamed past our undersized eco-warrior on their way to feed the insatiable appetites of the world.
Sipping my first latte in Vancouver (out of a reusable mug of course) I wondered if Kamilo's plastic sand represents the beach of the future? Whilst our consumption of plastic is increasing, I feel with voyages like this and global education of how plastic impacts the environment and humanity, we still have time to make changes that will protect our ocean.
Don't waste that time, the time is now.
See more photos from Tim's journey in our photo gallery.

MEDIA RELEASE: ‘Rockpools’ – A new free educational resource for schools

Executive Director of AUSMEPA, Mr. Michael Julian said today how pleased he was to announce the release of the latest free educational resource about investigating rockpools, which is available to schools from the AUSMEPA website

Mr. Julian acknowledged the excellent financial support of AUSMEPA’s sponsors and ship members; he said without this support we would not be able to provide marine educational resources free of charge to schools and the community. To see a list of sponsors, please see

Rockpools are one of nature’s most magical and exciting places to explore. Every person should get at least one chance to seek out the secrets of this beautiful compact world of plants and creatures. Students can use this website to find out more about the secrets of the fascinating rockpool creatures and seaweeds. The curriculum materials will help teachers and their students design one of the best possible learning experiences.

The question always asked by children is ‘how do plants and animals survive in a rockpool’? Employing a student’s innate curiosity about the unusual we invite teachers to use discovery of intertidal wildlife to begin an exploration of science, ecological, environmental and conservation topics.

Research topic areas for enquiry based education include pages on an assortment of seemingly alien invertebrate and vertebrate animal types from some of the simplest up to some of the smartest. Rockpools are rich in animal foods too, like the lovely seaweeds and seagrasses brought to light in this unit.

Studded with wonderful original photos of rockpool inhabitants the webpages also feature photos of students deep in discovery of that unique place where the air the land and the sea meet.

One of the key inclusions in this unit and of special interest to teachers will be the use of
Safety is a foundation topic and essential when considering a school excursion. To assist teachers in considering an excursion we have included links to some of the wonderful Marine Discovery and Environmental Education Centres around Australia.

Another key inclusion in this unit and of special interest to teachers will be the use of the National Curriculum within the teachers’ notes. AUSMEPA understands the accountability and reporting requirements for teachers and provision of this asset has been high on the list of teacher requests.

The new education resource  builds on the already established units of work on other marine education topics; marine pests carried in ships’ ballast water and hull fouling, climate change and its affect on coral bleaching, stormwater pollution, ships and ports and the marine environment and leadership in coastal conservation; all available here

These FREE marine educational programs are provided by AUSMEPA to meet the objective of making all users of the marine environment more aware of the importance of protecting the marine environment for future generations.

For more information about AUSMEPA please visit the website or contact Michael Julian on

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Rhondda Alexander Memorial Education Grant now open

Following Rhondda Alexander's tragic death in July 2010, the Australian Marine Environmental Protection Association (AUSMEPA) Board agreed to establish a memorial to Rhondda in the form of an annual Grant.

AUSMEPA is proud to announce the second round of grant nominations is now open. We invite Australia schools to submit applications. 

The 2012 closing date for applications will be in midway through Term 1, and received by close of business Thursday 1st of March.


The following information and criteria will be helpful to those schools considering projects for submission during 2012.  A grant amount of up to $3,000 will be awarded to a school marine education project that leads to students actively improve the marine environment. This can include educating the local community and other behaviour change activities.  

Main criteria:

1.      Students must have a major role in organising the project.
2.      On completion of their project the students will create a video clip communication product suitable to be placed on the AUSMEPA website. Permission slips will be required.
3.      The project must have a major coastal conservation application either by direct action or involvement with community education (they have equal weight).
4.      The innovative approach to the project has application to other schools.
5.      The quality of the project content, outcomes and outputs.
6.      The grant money should used for resources not already available at school however may be used for example to go towards purchasing or hiring equipment that the school would not normally have.
7.      The application must be fully completed, signed and dated by the school Principal.

Other important information

  1. All applications must have both a concise and a detailed description of the student project. Details of expected educational outcomes for students and how this project links to marine conservation must be outlined.
  2.  An individual teacher needs to be designated as project leader and primary contact between AUSMEPA and the school.
  3. There must be a budget showing how the grant will be spent. There is no requirement to find matching funding. It is anticipated that some projects may find small unexpected variations in expenditure. Please note there is no requirement to obtain any additional funding however if other sources of funding are made available these should be detailed in the budget.
  4. The project may be undertaken with a community partner. If there is a partner, details of their role and support needs to be included in the application
  5. Supporting documentation can be provided as an attachment however the primary assessment will be restricted to the application information.  NOTE:  The application may also be supported by a presentation prepared by the students using one media of their choice to explain why their project is important. Examples of media could include video clip, PowerPoint presentation, song, poem, poster, or postcard etc.
  6. Principal’s signature is required to confirm that the project has the full support and encouragement of the school community. The Principal will supervise the expenditure of the grant taking into account there may be variations that the school will be responsible for resolving.
  7. The project will be considered to be concluded upon confirmed receipt of the student’s video clip communication about the project, accompanied by Parent Permission Slips for student images and budget sign-off by the Principal.

To register your interest please email to register your interest and an electronic application form will be sent to you.


How do plants and animals survive in a rockpool? Employing a student’s innate curiousity about the unusual AUSMEPA invite teachers to use discovery of intertidal wildlife to begin an exploration of science, ecological, environmental and conservation topics. AUSMEPA’s new unit of work ROCKPOOLS will stimulate a wide range of students. Our practical experience has shown us that many students who are difficult to engage on other topics warm quickly to this one. It is based on the study of one of natures most magical and exciting places to explore.

Research topic areas for enquiry based education include pages on a assortment of seemingly alien invertebrate and vertebrate animal types from some of the simplest up to some of the smartest. Rockpools are rich in animal foods too, like the lovely seaweeds and seagrasses brought to light in this unit.

Studded with wonderful original photos of rockpool inhabitants the webpages also feature photos of students deep in discovery of that unique place where the air the land and the sea meet.

Safety is a foundation topic and essential when considering a school excursion. To assist teachers in considering an excursion we have included links to some of the wonderful Marine Discovery and Environmental Education Centres around Australia.

However one of the most anticipated inclusions in this unit and of special interest to teachers will be the unpacking of the National Curriculum within the teachers notes provided in pdf format. We understand the accountability and reporting requirements for teachers and provision of this asset has been high on the list of teacher requests. The Contents of the download includes:

Rockpool poster on school request
  • Australian Curriculum: Science Version 1.1 December 2010
  • Incorporating The Australian Curriculum: Science
  • Overarching Ideas ‐ Organisation of the unit of work
  • Assessment ideas ‐ Classroom preparation
  • Activities – Prior learning
  • Student goals
  • Tuning in
  • Investigative questions
  • Finding out – research  
  • Finding out – field work planning
  • Finding out – gathering data in the field  
  • Finding out – analysing data
  • Drawing conclusions, finding solutions
  • Communication

Try it. We’re pretty sure you’ll like it. You can find it here