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2 December 2002
Coastcare Week 2002
Australian marine experts and Coastcare Week Ambassadors, Ron and Valerie Taylor, today urged South Australians to help protect our threatened marine species or risk losing them forever!
The Taylors issued the call as part of Coastcare Week (1 -7 December) which is drawing attention to the plight of Australia's threatened and vulnerable marine species in a new campaign — 'The Coast is Our Home'. The South Australian Coastcare community this week is focusing on the preservation of Australian Sea Lions and the Western Blue Groper.
Ron and Valerie Taylor have been worldwide pioneers in marine education for over 50 years. They filmed the live shark sequences in the blockbuster movie 'Jaws' for Steven Spielberg in the 1970's and made a series of hit television programs about marine life.
"The Australian Sea Lion is now listed as Rare under South Australian legislation," Ron Taylor said.
"Unfortunately, Sea Lions are still affected by human activities such as entanglement in fishing gear and nets, particularly shark nets, entanglement in rubbish, pollution, reduction in food supply and human disturbance.
"To protect these magnificent animals it is imperative that everyone takes their rubbish home with them. The ocean is not our dumping ground," Ron said.
Last century seals were hunted for their meat, oil and fur. By 1820 seal populations had reduced significantly and some breeding colonies, such as the Australian Sea Lion colony in Bass Strait, were completely destroyed. Today all seals are protected in Australia and populations are slowly recovering from this over harvesting.
Found only in Australia, there are estimated to be 10,000-12,000 Australian Sea Lions between The Pages Islands in South Australia and Houtman Abrolhos off the Western Australian coast. The principal breeding colonies of Australian Sea Lions are located at Kangaroo Island and Dangerous Reef in South Australia.
"Since 1975 Australian Sea Lions have also been protected under Commonwealth legislation. Some small colonies in South Australia are protected by the Great Australian Bight Marine Park which was created in 1996 by the South Australian Government and added to in 1998 by the Commonwealth Government."
Valerie Taylor, who was awarded the 2002 Australian Senior Achiever of the Year for marine conservation, said the Western Blue Groper is another marine species threatened by human activities and environmental degradation.
"The Western Blue Groper is considered by some fisheries researchers and conservation experts to be potentially threatened, due to a reduction of inshore populations by spearfishing and recreational line fishing," Ms Taylor said.
"During the early 1980s, divers reported that Western Blue Groper numbers were rapidly declining in areas south of Adelaide. This was largely thought to be attributable to fishing, including recreational and spear fishing."
"In South Australia, the Western Blue Groper is often caught as bycatch in finfish and shark fisheries.
"Western Blue Gropers are very curious about divers and boats making them easy prey for many anglers and spearfishers. Unfortunately this 'personality' trait is leading to their demise."
"We encourage all anglers to do what they can to avoid catching Western Blue Gropers, and to help ensure the continued survival of this species in southern Australian waters."
The related species Eastern Blue Groper, found in Victoria, NSW and Queensland, is a protected species in New South Wales. There is some protection in SA - fishing for this species is prohibited in Spencer Gulf, Gulf St Vincent, Investigator Strait and Backstairs Passage, under S.A. Fisheries Act (1982).
Ron and Valerie have worked tirelessly over the years to raise awareness about the need to protect many marine species including Marine Turtles, the Grey Nurse Shark and Seal Lions.
"Coastcare is something we all need to be part of," Mr Taylor said.
"This year Coastcare Week aims to increase awareness about the very real threats our marine species are facing. We also want to highlight what people can do in the community to protect these species.
"We know relatively little about the ocean whereas we know so much about animals and plants that live on the land. We simply do not know the real number of threatened marine species. We do not even know the level of rarity of most marine species.
"However, what we have observed is a whole range of marine creatures that just aren't around in the same numbers because of the impact nutrients and sediments from catchments, coastal development and over fishing," Mr Taylor said.
South Australian Coastcare Coordinator, Damian Moroney, said "Coastcare assisted in funding a recent project aimed at assessing the abundance and size distributions of Western Blue Groper populations at Kangaroo Island, SA.
"Reef Watch volunteer scuba divers in conjunction with SARDI Aquatic Sciences and the Coast and Marine Branch collected data which is now assisting scientists and the Marine Species of Conservation Concern Working Group to determine the conservation needs of this species."
Coastcare is a program of the Commonwealth Government's Natural Heritage Trust, in partnership with State/Territory and Local Governments.
For more information on Coastcare or to join a Coastcare group, please call Environment Australia's Community Information Unit on 1800 803 772 or visit the web site at: www.ea.gov.au/coasts/coastcare
Interviews with Ron & Valerie Taylor, contact Ross Woodward or Jessica Morrow from Media Key on (03) 9787 5844.
Media in SA can also contact South Australian Regional Coastcare Facilitators.