Saturday, January 24, 2015

Seadragons & their Friends

A guide to Seadragons and other Syngnathidae (seahorse relatives) will be launched in South Australia this week. 

It will showcase the amazing and delightful diversity of seahorse relatives in South Australia.
You may not live there but you will be enchanted with this publication anyway.

For more information contact the Conservation Council of SA here

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Global Ocean Commission present "A Rescue Package for the Ocean"


AUSMEPA takes time to look at what information is available across the world that will help inform teachers and students about matters concerning the ocean. This presentation is a very thorough and broad scope view of what is happening in the ocean, why and what the authors believe is the way forward.

Find the Global Ocean Commission website here

Friday, January 9, 2015

GHOST NETS; act, engage and educate

Across the northern part of Australia there is an organisation called Ghost Nets Australia

For some years now they have been working with Indigenous Rangers, northern Indigenous Communities, as well as scientists and other partners on a variety of actions and activities to remove the wandering death traps known as ghost nets. These silent predators continue to entangle and kill long after the are discarded or lost by fishing vessels. The nets are often found washed on shore, deposited by currents enmass into estuaries and onto beaches and rock, often with creatures still entangled. 

Just in time! This beautiful turtle was found barely alive during patrol by Dhimurru Rangers. Photo by Jane Dermer.

If the nets haven't reached shore they may lie unseen near the surface and can damage boats traveling across the water. To get some perspective on the problem an example is sited of a six tonne gill net extracted from the coast of North East Arnhem Land in 2006. It required a partnership effort from several organisations to get the heavy cumbersome net off the beach.

Collection of tonnes these of nets by Indigenous Rangers and volunteers has continued over many years. One outcome has been the re-use of nets through art workshops and exhibitions. This active innovation has resulted in a wider public understanding of the nature of the ghost net threat and greater community engagement.

Workshop participants at St Pauls Village on Moa Island, Torres Strait. Picture by Dennis Newie.

Well known ghost net artist Nancy Nawwi (pictured in red) from Darnley Island very graciously devoted a lot of time to working on the fish. Photo by Greg Adams

For more information click here and to request an electronic copy of their newsletter here

'Art and the walls of death' (click here) is another article with great photos about the Ghost Nets project.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Mystery object at Coogee Beach

How exciting is it to discover some new strange thing as we walk along our amazing Aussie beaches on hot summer days.  

AUSMEPA was recently contacted about this magnificent specimen found on Coogee Beach, NSW. 

Looking at this mysterious object it would be hard to guess that it is egg of a shark! So many things to think about, questions to ask. What kind egg is it and did it wash up prematurely with an embryo inside? Why does it look like this? What are the long stringy bits?

The first thing we can observe is the shape of the egg case. It has raised edges like a screw or something twirly. It is brown and although you can't see it in the photo one end has an opening.

A google search can help to find the right one. 

A screw shaped egg case tells us that it one of the horn shark family (Heterodontidae). Australian horn sharks are Port Jackson Sharks however there is more than one species.

This particular egg case belongs to the slightly smaller duller coloured Crested Horn Shark. It is a Port Jackson shark with a twist, it has raised ridges over the eyes. 

The two small sharks look much the same and yet they differ in how they secure their eggs when they lay them. Both have brown egg cases to blend in with their surroundings. However the Port Jackson Shark takes its egg in its mouth and gently screws its egg into cracks and crevices between rocks. The Crested Horn Shark uses the tendrils of its egg case to tangle up and secure in seaweed. (Notice in the photo above the amount of seaweed washed up on the beach where the egg case was found.)

Well, we've solved the mystery of this egg case except for one thing. Was there a baby inside? I guess we'll never know however the family who found it took great care to take the egg back out into the water and to secure it as well as possible just in case.

To find out more about about the differences between Port Jackson and Crested Horn Sharks click here

What will you find on your next trip to the beach?