3 August 2007
Nominations for the 2007 Minister's Award for Coastal Custodians are being sought for Australian individuals and organisations who have worked to improve the coastal and/or marine environment.
The award runs nationally with a winner announced by the Minister for the Environment and Water Resources in Coastcare Week, the first week of December. The winner will receive $5000 prize money.
Last year's winner was Dr Tim Ealey, 80, who engaged the local community and schools to restore the coastal environment in Coronet Bay in Victoria's Westernport region. Through a remarkably persistent initiative, he planted sea grasses and mangroves to restore habitat in an area that had been degraded by an inflow of slimy silt.
Storm clouds gather at the entrance to south Scott Reef lagoon, North West Shelf, Western Australia. Image courtesy Rowan Wylie.
The objectives of the award are to encourage a culture of custodianship among Australians for their coastal and marine environments and to foster partnerships and cooperation to this end between individuals, organisations, schools, business and industry.
Nominations will be judged in consideration of the following criteria:
- the development of a practical solution to an identified marine or coastal environmental problem;
- an example of innovation in marine or coastal environmental remediation;
- an example of community or school-based awareness-raising about a marine or coastal environmental issue;
- a pro-active approach to cultural or behavioural change relating to the improvement of the marine or coastal environment;
- an example of marine or coastal environment monitoring leading to remediation action; and/or
- an example of cooperation between individuals, organisations, institutions, industries or businesses to improve the marine or coastal environment.
The Minister's Award for Coastal Custodians was initiated by the Australian Government to acknowledge the often untold good news happening in the Australian coastal and marine environment.
Over six years this award has been presented to some remarkable quiet achievers who have done extraordinary things for the coastal and marine environments within their local area.
Through initiative, hard work and a passion for their local environment, they have enlisted others to help and brought organisations - both public and private - together for the benefit of their communities.
The award recognises the quiet achievers who can be found around the coast, taking responsibility for their patch and making it a better place.
Whether it is the clean-up of marine debris, which despoils our coast and kills our marine creatures, or revegetation of important coastal dune systems, Australians are learning from each other how to improve their coastal and marine environments for future generations.
An application form and more information can be found at: http://www.environment.gov.au/coasts/coastalcustodians.html
A southern right whale breaching. Image courtesy Dave Watts.
The Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Malcolm Turnbull has announced that new scientific information and years of industry experience has led to improved guidelines for the protection of whales in areas of oil and gas exploration.
Revised guidelines released during July for public comment provide new parameters for minimising the risks to whales from sounds generated by seismic survey operators searching for new oil and gas fields.
"Developed with the oil and gas industry, conservation groups and Australia's best whale research scientists, the comprehensive policy reflects new scientific knowledge as well as expanded operational experience since the first edition was released in 2001," Mr Turnbull said.
"Australia continues to be a world leader in whale protection and research and this policy represents global best practice in minimising the potential impacts of seismic survey activities on whales."
While previous guidelines stipulated that seismic survey activity could not occur if whales were within three kilometres of the area, a rigorous examination of the available science and operational experiences supports new safety zones around seismic survey vessels. Seismic operations will now have to shut down if whales are within two kilometres of a survey vessel.
Other changes to the guidelines include:
- alterations to the night time operating provisions to manage whales in times of poor visibility;
- clearer advice on where and when significant impacts on whales may occur and the need to plan seismic operations around important habitats and times when whales may be present; and
- improved advice on adaptive measures should whales be encountered.
The policy will be implemented immediately with a view to refining the policy based on operational experience.
The public has the opportunity to provide comments until COB Friday, 31 August 2007. The Policy Statement on the Interaction between Offshore Seismic Exploration and Whales is available on the web at www.environment.gov.au/epbc
A catch of garfish. Image courtesy CSIRO.
The Bureau of Rural Sciences Fisheries Status Report 2006 released in July shows that work being done by the Australian Government to better manage Australia's fisheries is starting to show results.
A record 97 fish stocks were assessed in the 2006 report covering stocks managed solely by the Australian Government, through the Australian Fisheries Management Authority, as well as stocks managed jointly with other jurisdictions including international Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs).
Of the 97 stocks, 27 were classified as 'not over-fished' (up from 19 in 2005) and 19 were classified as 'over-fished' and/or 'subject to over-fishing' (down from 24 in 2005). A further 51 stocks were classified as 'uncertain'. Stocks are classified as 'uncertain' where insufficient information is available to provide a definitive classification and does not indicate a trend towards being 'over-fished' or 'not over-fished'.
Australian Minister for Fisheries and Conservation Senator Eric Abetz said the 2006 report highlights the across the board improvements in the stock status of Commonwealth fisheries.
This report is the first assessment since the commencement of the Securing our Fishing Future package was started in 2005. Under this programme, over 550 fishing concessions have been voluntarily surrendered in Commonwealth fisheries at a cost of $149 million and a range of management reforms introduced to better position the Commonwealth fishing industry for a sustainable and profitable future.
"This is fantastic news for Commonwealth fish stocks and great news for seafood consumers who can now buy their favourite Commonwealth-managed fish species with extra confidence," the Minister said.
"While it's great to see early success, the full benefits of the reforms under the package are not likely to be seen for some time," Senator Abetz said.
The Minister said the five stocks classified as subject to over-fishing were all highly migratory species (e.g. big eye tuna in the Pacific Ocean) managed internationally by RFMOs, and over-fishing was the result of excess fishing pressure from international fleets, not Australian vessels. Australia is working through the relevant RFMOs to ensure the long-term sustainability of these species.
The Fishery Status Reports are produced annually by the Bureau of Rural Sciences. A full copy of the 2006 report can be found at www.affa.gov.au/statusreports
Australian Customs officers conducting a surveillance flight. Image courtesy Australian Customs.
Border protection in the north of Australia has been boosted by the arrival of a new Coastwatch helicopter in the Torres Strait, the Minister for Justice and Customs David Johnston said today.
The Eurocopter AS350B3 Squirrel is part of a new contract with Australian Helicopters Pty Ltd to provide services in the highly sensitive and important Torres Strait.
"The larger and faster helicopter will operate from Horn Island and will conduct maritime surveillance in the Torres Strait region," Senator Johnston said.
"The entry into service of this new helicopter is an important step in the Coastwatch Sentinel program, which will provide effective civil maritime surveillance through to 2020.
The Sentinel program is valued at about $1 billion over 12 years and is integral to the activities of Border Protection Command in managing Customs and Defence assets to ensure that activity in Australia's northern waters is monitored and borders are protected.
Australian Helicopters Pty Ltd has been operating the Coastwatch helicopter surveillance and response service in the Torres Strait since 1995.