Category Archives: Marine conservation

Birdlife Australia: Long distance champions flying into extinction

8 May 2015

While the world celebrates World Migratory Bird Day this weekend, BirdLife Australia’s Threatened Species Committee has released grim news confirming that seven of Australia’s migratory shorebird species are on a trajectory to extinction.

Australian’s love the battlers, and small-time heroes. These little birds seem insignificant, but they are amazing travellers, facing all the torrents of winds, seas, currents but face increasingly hostile and dwindling safe landings.

“Once common species like Eastern Curlew and Curlew Sandpiper are now Critically Endangered with Bar-tailed Godwit, Red Knot and Great Knot not far behind”, says Samantha vine, Birdlife Australia’s Head of Conservation. In 30 years these birds could be gone forever, and perhaps most alarming is the fact that the once numerous and widespread Red-necked Stint has moved onto the Near Threatened list. Modern Australia, the land of mammal extinctions, is now repeating their “success” with migratory birds!

Read also a previous article on our website: Disappearing migratory shore birds

“This miraculous bird, (Red-necked Stint) no bigger than a sparrow, is capable of flying more than 20,000 km each year. But like other migratory shorebirds, it needs Australia, China, Korea and other Asian nations to work together to protect the rich mudflats that fuel its migration,” continued Ms Vine. If they don’t have a safe stop-over point for rest and food, they die of starvation!
(image: Red-necked Stint (Calidris ruficollis), Winter Plumage, Ralph’s Bay, Tasmania, Australia)

BirdLife Australia is not going to let these birds disappear without a fight. They are calling on the Australian Government to do more to protect migratory shorebirds at home and in Asia. BirdLife has launched a petition asking Federal Environment Minister, Greg Hunt to develop:

        • A strong national wetlands policy to address the cumulative impacts of multiple threats to our shorebirds (the ‘death by a thousand cuts’); and
        • An ambitious strategy to engage our international partners in the protection of habitat important to the survival of our shorebirds.

Wetland habitat loss and degradation is a significant threat to migratory waterbirds, and the conservation of important sites both within Australia and along their migration routes is essential to their survival. Many pressures are contributing to this degradation, of which population growth and associated coastal development are of particular concern.

Housing has become a major industry in Australia. As a result, important habitat is being lost to port developments, housing and industry in Australia each year. But it will also put a spotlight on communities taking action to protect the wetlands and shorebirds they love.

Please sign the petition, Shorebirds in Crisis

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Dugongs and Sea Turtles are still being slaughtered in Australia under Native Title

author: Colin Riddell

Many people don’t realize it, but The Native Title Act of 1993 section 211 still allows the hunting of endangered and vulnerable species within our country.

You can follow the campaign live on Colinwhocares Riddell on facebook.

Dugongs, turtles and over fifty other Australian animals are hunted and inhumanely slaughtered in large numbers, under the guise of traditional hunting practices.

This outdated act does not reflect the endangered status of these animals and we demand they be protected. No one is starving in Australia, one of the most affluent countries on the planet – and there is no need to hunt these animals for food.

The killing has to stop. Dugongs and turtles are endangered, and we are witnessing a rapid and unwarranted decline. We can no longer stand by and watch, witness to the impending extinction of this precious marine life.

We therefore call for an urgent change to the Native Title Act 1993, so that any endangered or vulnerable animal or marine life is excluded from hunting by any means, for any reason.

Sign the petition:

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Seabird numbers plummeting

A recent study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, shows that marine systems are apparently becoming gradually less able to support seabirds. The study focused on populations that scientists had monitored at least five times between 1950 and 2010, which accounted for 19 percent of the world’s seabird population, encompassing 162 species.

They found the monitored (19%) portion of the global seabird population to have declined overall by 69.7% between 1950 and 2010. The researchers found that during that period the monitored seabird populations declined by 69.7 percent.

Human activities such as fisheries and pollution are threatening the world’s marine ecosystems, causing changes to species abundance and distribution that alter ecosystem structure, function and resilience. In response, increasing numbers of marine biologists and managers seek to achieve management measures allowing the persistence of healthy, productive and resilient ecosystems.

Seabird population changes are good indicators of long-term and large-scale change in marine ecosystems because seabird populations are relatively well-monitored, their ecology allows them to integrate long-term and large-scale signals. So, the implication is that our oceans are not supporting seabirds, and they are sick! Threats include entanglement in fishing gear, overfishing of food sources, climate change, pollution, disturbance, direct exploitation, development, energy production, and introduced species (predators such as rats and cats introduced to breeding islands that were historically free of land-based predators). These are all related to lethal “human activities”.


The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species indicates that one third of seabird species are threatened with extinction, one half are known or suspected to be in decline, and at least four species are extinct.

One big game-changer for seabirds over the last century has been the industrialization of fishing, which has depleted seabirds’ food sources. Other threats include entanglement in fishing gear and oceanic pollution.

Because of the El Nino weather phenomenom that is happening across the Pacific, scientists say the ocean is just too warm right now. “It really limits the productivity of the ocean from the base level so in the case of the common murre which feeds on small fish, these are not as plentiful as they normally are during a normal ocean condition year,” explained Herman Biederbeck, ODFW biologist for the north coast.

Our oceans are dying. Time is rapidly running out for the world’s oceans and the creatures that live in them as the Earth’s climate continues to warm, say scientists. Their analysis showed that ‘business-as-usual’ would have an enormous and ‘effectively irreversible’ impact on ocean ecosystems and the services they provide, such as fisheries, by 2100.

Mankind has probably done more damage to the Earth in the 20th century than in all of previous human history.
Jacques Yves Cousteau

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Sharks: 450 million years of survival, but may be gone within decades

Researchers found that up to a quarter of the planet’s well-known marine species, from the Mediterranean monk seal to the Pondicherry shark, are in danger of being wiped out. This overturns the conventional scientific wisdom that marine species are far safer than other terrestrial species. In each case, between 20 and 25 per cent of species are threatened with extinction

Sharks are at the top of the food chain in virtually every part of every ocean, and in this role they keep populations of other fish healthy and thus prevent them over-feeding.   They are a  “keystone” species, meaning that removing them would causes the whole food chain structure to collapse.

Sharks have survived for 450 million years, but may be gone within the next decades.  Keeping marine ecosystems healthy is not optional!

Due to overfishing, commercial fleets are forced to go deeper in the ocean and further down the food chain for viable catches.  As such, like their terrestrial counterparts, the mass extinctions of fish, marine mammals and other aquatic life could occur within decades.

A top-order predator with a menacing appearance that belies its calm nature, the grey nurse shark’s east coast Australian population is struggling to survive, with only an estimated 500 left. Eating almost any kind of fish, crustacean, sharks, rays and squid, this predator is key in maintaining a balance in the marine ecosystem along the Australian coastline. While hunting this shark was legal in 19th century, poaching the fish has been common throughout the 1900s.

Critically endangered:

Glyphis garricki (Northern River Shark)
Glyphis glyphis (Speartooth Shark)
Carcharias taurus (Grey Nurse Shark, east coast population)

(image: Grey nurse shark)

Overfishing and depleted fish stocks could be the reason sharks are seen around shores. Sharks are already heavily threatened by over-fishing, and they are important apex predators that help in the health of our oceans.

Sharks belong in the ocean, and it’s their home.  They are necessary in maintaining healthy marine ecosystems.  We can’t drain the oceans, and kill more endangered wildlife.  It’s time to get things more in perspective and realise that there are risks to everything we do.

“Culling” sharks, and the death of other non-target species that will be hooked, can’t guarantee safety on the beaches.  In fact the Western Australia shark kill program could dangerously create a false sense of security, leading to more fatalities.   It’s a case of those entering the ocean need to be aware of apex predators, and take precautions.

Two experts from the University of WA’s Oceans Institute say a cull would make little difference to the number of people being attacked every year.  “Before suggesting we cull economically and ecologically important shark species, with no scientific assessment of their populations, we need to educate people about the risks involved when entering the ocean.”

The ocean is a dangerous place, and more people drown each year than are taken by sharks.

Shark “culls” futile
Surf Life Saving South Australia suggests that there is a “much higher risk of drowning at the beach.. than from being bitten or killed by a shark”.  A NSW university study found that, on average, 21 people drown in rips around Australia each year, compared with eight killed in cyclones and six in bushfires.

When shark culling was carried out in Hawaii between 1959 and 1976, more than 4500 were killed. Control programs have not had measurable effects on the rate of shark attacks there. Western Australia’s cull is based on pressure to ”do” something for human safety, however ineffective.

Those entering into the sphere of apex predators should take full precautions, but this killing plan could give false assurances of safety.

Sharks do not deliberately target people! It’s  an anthropomorphic and paranoiac reaction to imagine they are out to find human prey, or make any conscious efforts to track humans. If a shark sees a human splashing in the water, it may try to investigate, leading to an accidental attack.

There has been 20 fatal shark attacks in WA in the past 100 years – seven of them in the past three years.  WA has experienced a massive population growth in recent years, with almost two-thirds of the state’s total growth coming from migration.  Rather than more misanthropic sharks, there’s more people are in the water!

The best way to avoid lethal shark attacks is to take appropriate precautions.  Entering the territory of apex predators should naturally include precautionary tactics, not the cull of the animals that are an important part of marine ecosystems.

A report titled “Global catches, exploitation rates, and rebuilding options for sharks” finds that based on an estimated total global biomass, this accounts for between 6.4% and 7.9% of all sharks killed per year – most simply for their fins, while the rest of the animal is dumped in the sea.

Some sharks denied protection in Australia
The Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals gave new protection status to 31 migratory species at a conference in November. However, Australia is submitting a “reservation” to ensure a recent international listing granting protection status to three species of thresher shark and two species of hammerhead does not take effect in Australian waters. Humane Society International has described the move as an “unprecedented act of domestic and international environmental vandalism”.

Yet, our Abbott government is willing to be the environmental pariah of the world, with heavy axing of funding to science and research, a denial of action on climate change, and now is backing away from its international obligations by opting out of protecting five shark species!

Environment Minister Greg Hunt is myopically more concerned about the economic welfare of recreational fishers?  This “environmental vandalism” shows a complete lack of vision, and scope, in government policy-making!

In Mr Baird’s first election policy commitment, he said $100,000 would be spent on a technology trial at popular beaches. Surf life saving clubs will also be given specialist training and shark deterrent equipment.
“One thing we will not be doing in NSW is culling sharks,” said Mr Baird.

Western Australia

More than 100 of the world’s 370 plus species of shark live in Western Australian waters.
These range from the 30cm pygmy shark to the world’s biggest fish, the gentle whale shark, which grows up to 12m long and is a popular feature of the WA aquatic tourism industry.

The presence of many species of shark as ‘apex predators’ – occupying the top level of the food chain – is an indication of a healthy marine environment.

September 11, 2014:
The Environmental Protection Authority recommended against the WA government implementing its shark kill zones for the next three summers and Premier Colin Barnett ruled out using drum lines this coming summer.
What You Can Do:
Donate money to support Sea Shepherd’s direct action campaigns.

  • Don’t buy or consume shark products.
  • Vocally oppose restaurants and shops that sell shark products; demand that they stop.
  • Educate others on the plight of sharks and their importance to the ecosystem.
  • Encourage everyone you know to watch the award-winning documentary Sharkwater.

Call on Premier Baird to remove lethal shark nets

Greenpeace – Action

Save WA sharks and stop the cull

CommunityRun:save the shark

Raise awareness about shark finning and make it illegal

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