S U RF LIFE SAV ING QU EENS L AND | ISSU E 2 0 | 2 0 1 9
Big summer for SLSQâ€™s helicopter crews
Volunteer lifesavers pack up the flags
Albatross Nippers make a splash
SURF LIFE SAVING QUEENSLAND
W E LC O M E
On behalf of Surf Life Saving Queensland (SLSQ), welcome to the latest edition of our quarterly publication, Beyond Patrol. The past few months have been a difficult and challenging period of time for the entire surf lifesaving community, after two of our Victorian colleagues tragically lost their lives while performing a rescue at Port Campbell over the Easter long weekend. To lose anyone in the surf is a devastating outcome, but the feeling is magnified exponentially when it involves some of our own. Our thoughts are with the family, friends, and club-mates of Ross and Andrew Powell, who made the ultimate sacrifice that day in the name of vigilance and service. Their bravery and actions in treacherous conditions will never be forgotten. It is a sombre and heartbreaking reminder about the stark reality our surf lifesavers and lifeguards face each time they raise the flags on patrol. The ocean is an unpredictable and unforgiving environment and, unfortunately, there’s an element of risk involved in every single rescue performed. But that doesn’t stop lifesavers and lifeguards all over the country rising to the call and putting themselves in harm’s way to pull thousands of swimmers from the surf each year. It takes a special type of person to put someone else’s needs above their own, and our members are exactly that. The entire surf lifesaving movement has been built on the premise of being there to help someone in their hour of need, and I couldn’t be prouder of the work we do up and down the coast. There are literally hundreds of thousands of people still alive today, thanks only to the efforts of our surf lifesavers and lifeguards and, ultimately, that’s why we do what we do. So, the next time you’re at the beach, I encourage you to stop and say thanks to the men and women on patrol, and pause for a moment to reflect on those who paid the ultimate price so others could live.
Kris Beavis ACTING CEO Surf Life Saving Queensland
18 Manning Street, South Brisbane, QLD, 4101 | t. 07 3846 8000 | w. lifesaving.com.au Beyond Patrol staff and contributors | Writer: Cameron Ward | Designer: Vanessa Bertagnole Cover photo credit: City of Gold Coast
SURF CREW SAVING LIVES SLSQ is continuing to make waves off the beach, thanks to an innovative community awareness and educational program being rolled out at key locations across the state. Just over 12 months ago, SLSQ launched the Harbour Town Surf Crew Car on the Gold Coast, providing lifesavers with an additional weapon up their sleeves to engage with, and educate, beachgoers about surf safety. As part of the initiative, lifesavers rove up and down the Gold Coast in a dedicated red and yellow Surf Crew vehicle, stopping at high-usage beaches to deliver free, pop-up clinics about how to stay safe in the water. In its first summer of operation the program directly engaged with almost 35,000 beachgoers, proving so successful that it was expanded earlier this year to include a second vehicle for the wider Sunshine Coast region.
team of lifesavers travelling to North Stradbroke Island to spread the surf safety message.
SLSQ Community Awareness Manager Helen Hallett said the initiative was already playing a key role when it came to saving lives along the coast.
It came after the unpatrolled Frenchmans Beach was identified by SLSQ last year as a particularly high-risk coastal blackspot.
“Our goal as an organisation is to protect beachgoers and reduce drowning deaths across the state,” she said.
Working with local lifesavers and lifeguards, the Surf Crew ambassadors visited a number of key locations on the island including Cylinder, Main, and Frenchmans Beach along with the popular gorge walk.
“Quite often that means increasing or expanding our front-line services, but it’s also important that we’re doing everything we can off the beach to boost public education and ensure that anyone going for a swim has the skills and awareness to stay safe in the water.
Mrs Hallett said the program directly engaged with almost 500 people, including international and domestic tourists and other potential beachgoers.
“The Surf Crew program provides us with a wonderful opportunity to directly engage with thousands of beachgoers each year and provide them with vital information about how and where to swim safely.
“There are a lot of beautiful beaches on North Stradbroke Island, but there can also be some really challenging surf conditions at times, so it was a great opportunity for us to go over there and help promote beach safety,” she said.
“In addition, the car itself is also completely kitted out with a defibrillator, rescue tube, board, fins, and a first aid kit, meaning we have an additional resource up our sleeves and ready to respond in the event of an emergency situation,” she said.
“We directly engaged with almost 500 beachgoers across the day, promoting surf safety and encouraging them to swim only between the flags.
In addition to the Gold and Sunshine Coasts, the program was also expanded across the Easter long-weekend, with a
“We’re hoping those people will think twice about their personal safety next time they’re at the beach, and take appropriate steps to protect themselves and their families while in and around the water.”
“The Surf Crew program provides us with a wonderful opportunity to directly engage with thousands of beachgoers each year.” −Helen Hallett, SLSQ Community Awareness Manager
SURF LIFE SAVING QUEENSLAND
V O LU N T E E R S PA C K U P T H E F L A G S A F T E R A B I G S E A S O N O F PAT R O L S Thousands of Queensland’s volunteer surf lifesavers have officially brought the flags down on another year of patrols, with the 2018/19 season coming to a close on Monday, 6 May. After eight months, and more than 350,000 hours on patrol, lifesavers from Forrest Beach down to Rainbow Bay will now take a well-earned break over the winter months before the 2019/20 season officially kicks off towards the end of this year. Throughout the season, which began on 22 September last year, SLSQ’s patrolling members spent each weekend and public holiday standing guard on Queensland beaches, watching over and protecting millions of people in the process. In total, they performed 125,857 preventative actions to proactively keep swimmers safe in the water, and treated 23,277 first aid patients for various injuries including cuts, abrasions, marine stings, and more. Most importantly, they directly rescued 1,411 swimmers in distress. The figures represent a significant growth on volunteer patrol activity when compared to the previous season, including a 61% jump in preventative actions, a 106% increase in first aid treatments, and a 19% spike in rescues. SLSQ lifesaving services manager Peta Lawlor said the numbers provided a clear and tangible demonstration of the vital role that surf lifesavers perform up and down the coast. “Our volunteers have done an extraordinary job this season, and they’ve certainly earned the chance to put their feet up and relax over the next few months,” she said. “It takes an incredible amount of training, dedication, and hard work to become a fully-fledged patrolling lifesaver. It’s
“To know 1,411 beachgoers were pulled from the surf and given a second chance at life is something that each member of our movement should be proud of.”
−Peta Lawlor, SLSQ Lifesaving Services Manager
not always an easy job, but it’s a vital role, and we couldn’t be prouder of their collective efforts over the past eight months. “To know that 1,411 beachgoers were pulled from the surf and given a second chance at life is extremely rewarding, and something that every single member of our movement should be rightly proud of. “And that’s not even taking into consideration how many potential incidents and tragedies were averted altogether thanks to early intervention, quick thinking, and other preventative measures. “As we reflect back on the season, we know there are countless mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, sons, and daughters who still have their loved ones alive and with them today, thanks to the efforts of our patrolling members. That’s a wonderful outcome for Queensland and a wonderful outcome for our organisation as a whole.” In terms of individual clubs, Surfers Paradise recorded 131 rescues across the season, up from 99 last year. In addition, Burleigh Heads Mowbray Park performed 71 rescues and Metropolitan Caloundra recorded 69, reflecting the huge crowds on the Gold and Sunshine Coasts this season. Meanwhile, a concerted and state-wide focus on early intervention saw a number of clubs record a significant spike in preventative actions. This was led by the likes of Hervey Bay (337% increase), Bribie Island (190% increase) and Emu Park (158% increase), amongst others. Ms Lawlor said the value and contribution of surf lifesavers extended far beyond the work they do on the beach. “Collectively, our volunteers spent more than 350,000 hours out on the beach protecting swimmers this season, which is a huge effort on their part. The economic and financial value of their work, and what they bring to communities across Queensland, is almost immeasurable,” she said. “It’s also important to recognise that figure doesn’t include the countless additional hours our volunteers spend off the beach and behind the scenes with training, education, fundraising, administration, and all those other jobs that are required to keep a surf club up and running year in, year out. “They truly are some of the unsung heroes of Australia, and their work across the season really speaks for itself. “As most people were out celebrating Christmas, kicking back on Australia Day, enjoying the Easter long-weekend,
and recovering on New Year’s Day, our volunteers were hard at work, doing what they do best to ensure that everyone who visited the beach could enjoy their day safely.”
on the Gold Coast, surf lifesavers will continue to perform daily dawn patrols in and around Surfers Paradise from 5:30am.
While the majority of surf lifesavers across the state will now take a well-earned rest over winter, SLSQ’s most northern members from Port Douglas down to Mission Beach will continue patrolling during the cooler months.
These services will be coordinated by the State Operations and Communications Centre at Mermaid Beach, which operates 365 days of the year.
In addition, a number of other services will remain active and operational across the cooler season to ensure maximum protection for anyone venturing into the water. SLSQ’s professional lifeguards, who operate all-year-round, will maintain patrols at key beaches across the state. The Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter Service will also be a regular sight across South East Queensland, with pilots and crew on-call around the clock to assist with any emergency search and rescue operations. Meanwhile, SLSQ’s 24/7 emergency response groups will remain active and operational across the winter months and,
“It obviously becomes a lot quieter on the beach over winter, but it’s still important we’re doing everything we can as an organisation to protect those people who are venturing into the water for a swim,” Ms Lawlor said. “Our professional lifeguards do an exceptional job each year and they’ll continue to patrol some of Queensland’s busiest spots over the coming months. “We’ll also dedicate a fair bit of time over the quieter season to reflect on the past eight months, review our existing services, and consider any additional patrols or initiatives that we can roll out on Queensland beaches next summer and beyond.”
SURF LIFE SAVING QUEENSLAND
H E L I C O P T E R C R E W S F LY H I G H THIS SUMMER It could almost be the very definition of déjà vu. SLSQ’s Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter Service (WLRHS) was on a routine patrol one afternoon in March when crews responded to an emergency situation unfolding off the Tweed Bar. A male jet skier, aged in his 50s, was struggling in the water after falling from his craft and injuring his shoulder. With the patient battling to stay afloat in the treacherous conditions, and unable to make it back up on his ski, it quickly turned into a race against time. Responding immediately, the WLRHS winched a rescue swimmer down to assist, before securing the patient and transporting him safely back to shore, where he was handed over to ambulance officers in a stable condition. In a remarkable twist of fate, the WLRHS – flown by the same pilot – had winched the same patient to safety in almost identical circumstances a year earlier, at Jumpinpin Bar near South Stradbroke Island.
While this particular story had a positive outcome, albeit with a twist, it could have easily been a different story if it weren’t for the vigilance, service, and quick response of the pilot and crew that day. However it’s all part and parcel of SLSQ’s helicopter service, which has developed into an iconic sight across the state since its first flight more than 40 years ago. And, with record crowds flocking to Queensland beaches in recent months, the WLRHS has proved more important than ever. Across the peak holiday period, crews combined to save eight lives, ranging from jet skiers through to surfers, boaters, and swimmers in distress. Just as importantly, the service also worked directly alongside SLSQ’s lifesavers and lifeguards to boost coastal safety and prevent countless incidents from developing through proactive measures. In fact it’s this side of the WLRHS that makes it truly unique within Queensland, according to chief pilot Paul Gibson.
“It’s important to recognise that not all rescue helicopter services are the same. The WLRHS is a proactive service first and foremost, and it’s something we really pride ourselves on,” he explained.
“We aim to work closely with our lifesavers and lifeguards on patrol to identify potential risks and take the appropriate steps to prevent any incidents from occurring in the first place.
“We’re obviously tasked to assist with search and rescue operations as needed but, in the meantime, our crews aren’t just waiting for the phone to ring; we’re constantly working with our lifesaving operations on the ground, and being as proactive as possible to protect beachgoers and reduce the risk of a potential drowning from occurring.
“If we’re doing fewer rescues, it generally means our men and women on-the-ground, along with our community awareness teams, are doing a fantastic job when it comes to educating members of the public about surf safety and protecting beachgoers in and around the water.
“We conduct regular aerial patrols, up to twice-daily in peak periods, and those flights are all scheduled around tides, conditions, and known danger times for swimmers, surfers and, more recently, jet skiers.
“In a perfect world, we would prefer to be doing dozens of preventative actions and minimal rescues,” he said. While Mr Gibson said he’s extremely proud of the service and its work, he admitted its preventative nature can make it difficult from time-to-time.
“In the past few months alone, we’ve successfully rescued a number of jet skiers after spotting them in trouble while on our routine patrols. It might seem lucky that we happened to be flying nearby at the time, and in some ways it is, but there’s a lot of planning and preparation that goes on behind-the-scenes to help put us in the right place at the right time,” he said.
“It obviously takes a lot of money to keep our craft up in the air and, while we do get funding from Westpac and the Queensland Government, we still rely on community support, donations, and other financial streams to help bridge the gap,” he said.
Since its inception back in 1976, the WLRHS has developed into one of SLSQ’s core lifesaving weapons and, with more than 10,000 missions and 850 rescues to its name, it has forged a well-earned reputation as one of the world’s finest aviation services.
“It can be hard to compete with some of the other services across Australia, who roll out quite emotive fundraising campaigns based on the people they’ve assisted and the number of rescues performed. Quite often we see patients reunited with the pilots and crews who rescued them, and it’s a really effective way to generate goodwill and raise vital funds.
“There are more than 850 people out there who owe their lives to the service, and for our pilots and crew, there’s no greater reward than that.” −Paul Gibson, WLRHS Chief Pilot However, Mr Gibson said these statistics only told half the story. “There are more than 850 people out there today who owe their lives to the service and, for our pilots and crew, there’s no greater reward. Having said that, we don’t measure our success entirely on the number of rescues completed,” he said. “In reality, 850 rescues over 40-plus years of flying isn’t a particularly huge number when compared to some of the other helicopter services across Australia and it’s largely because, like all facets of surf lifesaving, we place a heavy emphasis on preventative actions.
“It’s a different story for us; all being well, once we assist a patient, we drop them back at the beach or with the nearest lifesaving patrol, and generally never see or hear from them again, which can make it difficult when it comes to leveraging our work to attract donations and sponsors. “We’ve been propping up the service, but the challenge for us is to keep finding additional funding, whether it’s through Government, sponsors, or community support, to ensure that we’re able to fly high and patrol Queensland’s coastline for many years to come.”
SURF LIFE SAVING QUEENSLAND
A L B AT R O S S N I P P E R S M A K E A S P L A S H AT S TAT E C H A M P S There were plenty of smiles, laughs, and a few tears of joy when a group of youngsters representing the Albatross Nippers lined up in the March Past at this year’s Queensland Youth Surf Life Saving Championships on the Gold Coast. The brainchild of Nobbys Beach coach and long-term lifesaver, Nick Marshall, the Albatross Nippers program was specifically developed to give children with special needs and other challenges an opportunity to get involved in surf lifesaving. Their inclusion within the 2019 Queensland Youth Championships marked the first time in the event’s 50-year history that a dedicated team of children with special needs lined up to participate as a united team. The idea behind the Albatross initiative first came to Mr Marshall when he noticed several disabled siblings of existing nippers sitting on the sidelines, watching on, and clearly wanting to join in the fun and excitement. It inspired him to find an avenue where anyone and everyone, regardless of the challenges they face in life, could experience the joy and benefits of SLSQ’s iconic Nippers program. Fast forward five years and now, the Albatross Nippers attend monthly sessions on the Gold Coast, having fun, learning new skills, and testing themselves in a variety of beach and water-based activities. “When parents ring up and tell me about their kid’s restrictions, I just say ‘come along, we’ll make it work.’ In terms of disabilities, there are no restrictions,” Mr Marshall said. The program continues to grow from strength to strength and, with SLSQ in the midst of celebrating the 50th anniversary of Nippers, it proved the perfect opportunity to break new barriers and line up at the Queensland Youth Championships. “I wanted an opportunity to exist for these Albatross Nippers to experience a nipper carnival and all the chaos and fun that comes from representing your club and region,” Mr Marshall said. “There’s never been a team of special needs children ever participate in Queensland, if not the country, in surf lifesaving, and there is no better event to showcase what they are doing and have done than this event where we will usher in a new half century of nippers.
“This truly is an inclusive program where the same opportunities exist for everyone despite any difficulties they may face,” he said. More than 1,650 youngsters from all corners of Queensland flocked to Burleigh Heads on the Gold Coast for this year’s Youth Championships, making it one of the largest junior sporting events in the country. SLSQ membership development manager Jamie Findlay said it was wonderful to see Albatross Nippers marching out and participating alongside other junior lifesavers from across the state. “The look of joy on their faces was incredible to see, and you could tell just how much it meant to not only the kids involved, but also their family and friends watching on as well,” Mr Findlay said. “The Queensland Youth Championships is one of our pinnacle sporting events, particularly for nippers, and it’s really important that everyone has an equal opportunity to participate. “Programs like Albatross Nippers provide these young kids with a chance to learn new skills, meet new friends, gain confidence, have fun, and develop both physically and socially. “In a way it sums up everything that’s great about the surf lifesaving movement; no matter who you are, where you come from, or what challenges you face in day-to-day life, every child should be able to enjoy the beach, enjoy the ocean, and enjoy everything that Nippers has to offer.”
State Champs bigger and better than ever There were thrills, spills, and plenty of action in between as thousands of the state’s top surf sport athletes flocked to the Gold Coast over two weekends in March to contest the 2019 Queensland Youth, Open, and Masters Surf Life Saving Championships. As the pinnacle sporting events on SLSQ’s calendar, the championships attracted more than 3,500 lifesavers from as far north as Port Douglas, right down to Coolangatta and Rainbow Bay on the state’s most southern border. In addition, roughly 6,000 coaches, spectators, and support crew from all corners of the state converged on the Gold Coast across the two weekends of action.
In total, the events injected an estimated $3.5 million directly into local businesses and communities on the Gold Coast, highlighting their overall importance and value to regional economies across the state each year. The Queensland Youth Championships saw more than 1,650 junior lifesavers race off across three days from March 8-10 at Burleigh Heads.
And therein lies the key difference between surf lifesaving and other sporting codes. Regardless of the event, athletes or discipline, the underlying purpose of our sporting competition is to improve and refine lifesaving skills, recruit and retain members and, ultimately, save lives on Queensland beaches.
Meanwhile, the Masters and Senior Championships featured more than 1,500 of the state’s fittest and fastest lifesavers at Broadbeach from March 15-17.
From sprints and board paddles to surf swims and the highly-technical rescue and resuscitation event, all of the skills performed in the competitive arena are also on display when our volunteer members and professional lifeguards line up to patrol Queensland beaches.
While the action was fast and furious, what can often be lost amongst the excitement of racing is that every competitor lining up is a trained surf lifesaver in their own right, with the skills and knowledge to protect Queensland beaches.
Importantly, the Queensland Championships serve to highlight those vital skills and fitness components to help recognise members who are not only world-class athletes, but skilled surf lifesavers as well.
“This truly is an inclusive program where the same opportunities exist for everyone despite any difficulties they may face.” − Nick Marshall, Lifesaver
SURF LIFE SAVING QUEENSLAND
D R O N E S S E T TO L A N D O N QUEENSLAND BEACHES
Surf Life Saving Queensland (SLSQ) is continuing to leave no stone unturned when it comes to increasing and improving safety for all beachgoers up and down the coast.
A new initiative will see surf patrols take off next summer, after SLSQ announced a partnership with Westpac to roll out ground-breaking drone technology at key beaches.
It follows a record-breaking season on Queensland beaches, with huge crowds and a sizeable jump in the number of swimmers pulled from the surf.
As part of the newly-launched Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Drone Program, 51 of the high-tech devices will be deployed across Australia, including 12 in Queensland, to boost frontline services and increase safety up and down the coast.
Tragically, there has also been a significant increase in the number of fatalities and drownings recorded on Queensland beaches, with the vast majority occurring at unpatrolled locations and/or outside of designated patrol hours. Importantly, SLSQ has recently announced and delivered a number of key new initiatives to bolster surf safety and protect all beachgoers along Queenslandâ€™s coastline.
Once up and running, trained surf lifesavers and lifeguards will operate the drones all-year-round at up to 25 locations including key beaches in the wider Sunshine Coast, Gold Coast, Wide Bay Capricorn, and North Queensland regions. The digital eagles can be rapidly deployed to equip surf lifesavers and lifeguards with accurate aerial surveillance
technology, assisting with spotting both rips and swimmers in distress while relaying vision with pinpoint accuracy back to operators on the ground. SLSQ lifesaving operations coordinator Jason Argent said the new technology would play a key role when it came to increasing safety along Queensland’s coastline. “SLSQ has been testing drones for a number of years now, under various conditions and in different capacities, and it’s really exciting that we’re now in a position to be officially rolling out this valuable technology on Queensland beaches, thanks to support from Westpac,” he said. “The surveillance capabilities of these drones will enable us to closely monitor any rips, currents, sand bars, and tidal movements in the water and, of course, keep an eye on any swimmers who may have strayed outside of the flags or need our help. “While drones won’t replace the need for surf lifesavers and lifeguards on the beach, they will definitely add significant value to our existing services. “The added height they give us, along with that different perspective and viewpoint, means we can be a lot more effective and proactive with our surf patrols. “There could certainly be scenarios down the track where a drone is able get up into a position to spot something that isn’t visible to our assets on the ground, and it’s not unrealistic to say these devices could literally mean the difference between life and death in the right circumstances,” he said. With operator training currently underway, the initial deployment of drones across Queensland is expected to occur in the coming months, before the full program is up and running ahead of the peak 2019/20 summer months. In a bid to further protect beachgoers, Mr Argent said the drones would also be used to monitor marine life along the coast, including crocodiles and sharks. “We know in North Queensland that crocodiles have been, and continue to be, a big safety issue for residents, tourists, and even our own surf lifesavers and lifeguards,” he said. “Importantly, these drones will help us identify, monitor, and track crocodiles on land and in water, and the potential benefits of that are huge. “Once again it allows us to be a lot more proactive in the manner we go about protecting swimmers, monitoring the water for marine life, and closing a beach if and when we see a crocodile nearby. “Our surf lifesavers and lifeguards can also use drone technology to keep a close eye out for sharks in the water, and will be able to respond in a quick and efficient manner to clear the water when required.”
The Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Drones will be operated in a number of locations including the Sunshine Coast, Gold Coast, North Stradbroke Island, Wide Bay Capricorn, North Barrier, and North Queensland.
Remote safety remains a priority Meanwhile, SLSQ is continuing to actively explore all opportunities when it comes to increasing safety at high-risk beaches along the coast. It comes after new statistics revealed more than 80% of all rescues performed in the past 18 months by Queensland surf lifesavers and lifeguards occurred at unpatrolled locations or outside of the red and yellow flags. Mr Argent said the figures were an obvious concern to the organisation, and something it would continue to address moving forward. “Ideally we want all beachgoers to be seeking out and swimming between the red and yellow flags, but unfortunately, our data indicates a lot of people are putting their own lives at risk by entering the water at unpatrolled locations,” he said. Last summer SLSQ increased its reach and coverage up and down the coast, rolling out additional roving jet ski patrols and building upon its fixed network of coastal cameras. In addition, two mobile cameras and emergency response beacons were dispatched to unpatrolled and identified blackspots during peak holiday periods. The coastal cameras allowed lifeguards and surf lifesavers to monitor high-risk stretches of coast around-the-clock, while the beacons can be activated by members of the public to directly alert SLSQ if a beachgoers is in danger and requires immediate assistance. “Our core focus will always remain between the flags but, at the same time, it’s important we’re also looking at ways to boost safety and minimise incidents at high-risk and unpatrolled locations right up and down the coastline,” Mr Argent said.
SURF LIFE SAVING QUEENSLAND
S E A J E L L I E S L I G H T U P AT NEW EXHIBIT An engaging and interactive new exhibit launched recently by Sea World will help shine a light on some of Queensland’s most fascinating, and potentially dangerous, marine stingers. Sea Jellies Illuminated, developed in partnership with Griffith University and SLSQ, provides Sea World visitors with an exciting opportunity to get up-close and personal with some of Australia’s most weird and wonderful jellyfish. From Irukandji to Blue Blubbers and everything in between, visitors have the chance to inspect a wide range of sea jellies in ‘illuminated’ displays while learning more about these complex aquatic creatures. The exhibit also contains a working laboratory, allowing guests to view Griffith University students and scientists undertaking genuine research projects in real-time. Importantly, there is a strong focus on public safety, with a dedicated SLSQ feature providing guests with key information about how to protect themselves and avoid stings while in and around the water. With huge crowds of international and domestic tourists flocking to Sea World each year, SLSQ acting chief executive officer Kris Beavis said it was a wonderful avenue to educate beachgoers about stinger safety. “It’s no secret there’s a huge range of marine stingers in the water off Queensland, ranging from those which are largely harmless through to some that are extremely dangerous and potentially deadly,” he said. “Unfortunately, there are also a lot of myths and misconceptions out there when it comes to jellyfish, and this exhibit provides us with a fantastic platform to communicate with potential beachgoers and hopefully clear up some of that confusion. “Visitors are provided with information about the different types of jellyfish they might find in Queensland, precautions they can take to help stay safe in the water, and what to do if they happen to get stung. “It’s information that all beachgoers can benefit from, regardless of where they’re from and where they plan on swimming,” he said. Griffith University Head of Marine Science Professor Kylie Pitt was instrumental in setting up the exhibit, and said it was also an exciting opportunity to showcase some of the world-class research currently being undertaking.
“The new Griffith Sea Jellies Research Laboratory is a stateof-the-art facility, which places Griffith University at the forefront of jellyfish research internationally,” she said. “The laboratory provides an amazing opportunity for the public to see research being done and to gain a greater understanding of what scientists do, why research is important, and how research benefits the environment and society. “There are about 1.2 million people who visit Sea World each year, and it’s great they can come up and see the lab, and actually watch some research being done in real time. “It’s a really good initiative in terms of engaging people in science, and it’s quite fun – you’ll be sitting at the microscope in the lab, and you have all these little kids who are really captivated by even the basic science and research we do,” she said.
Lifesavers stung by record summer Coincidentally, the opening of Sea Jellies Illuminated comes off the back of a record-breaking season along Queensland’s coastline, with huge swarms of bluebottles and other jellyfish keeping surf lifesavers and lifeguards on their toes In the summer months from December 2018 through to February 2019, SLSQ patrols treated an unprecedented 37,058 patients for bluebottle stings. Of these, 2,677 stings
were recorded at Noosa, 2,576 at Sunshine Beach, and 1,833 at Maroochydore. Remarkably, it represents a 246 per cent increase when compared to the 10,660 stings treated across Queensland over the previous summer. Dr Pitt said it was extremely difficult to pinpoint an exact cause behind the sizeable jump in stings. “A lot of jellyfish populations cycle, so they can be really abundant for a few years and then they’ll disappear for a few years, but trying to understand the population dynamics and what drives them is not an easy thing,” she said.
“It’s information that all beachgoers can benefit from, regardless of where they’re from and where they plan on swimming.” −Kris Beavis, Acting SLSQ Chief Executive Officer
“It could be a couple of things, and one possible reason is the total number of bluebottles might have increased in previous years. “But it also might be the wind conditions; bluebottles sit at the water’s surface and they have a float that acts like a sail, so under particular wind conditions they’ll get blown on shore. It may have been, in this previous year, we had conditions that saw more bluebottles being washed up than normal.” In addition to bluebottles, it was also a bumper season for other jellyfish across the state, with a jump in the total number of Irukandji stings reported. In particular, there was a significant spike on Fraser Island, with at least 17 people treated for suspected stings since December, compared to just one case in 2017/18. SLSQ surf lifesavers and lifeguards were a common sight on Fraser Island over the peak summer months, conducting regular drags to help ascertain the extent and location of stingers in the water.
However, new research being undertaken by Griffith University, supported by SLSQ, could make that process much easier in the years to come. “One of the things we’re currently working on in collaboration with Professor Mike Kingsford and Professor Dean Jerry at James Cook University, is developing the use of environmental DNA,” Dr Pitt explained. “DNA techniques are so sensitive now that we don’t necessarily have to catch an animal to see whether or not it’s been in an area, we can do it by taking a water sample and testing for any traces of DNA. “As humans, we shed hair, we shed skin cells, and we’re constantly leaving behind a trail of DNA wherever we go, and it’s the same for animals including jellyfish.
Photos supplied by Griffith University
“What we’re trying to do is develop the methodology to the point where we can just sample the water and be able to say whether or not there’s been any Irukandji jellyfish there. We need to develop the technology further but, if we can do that, it means we will greatly increase sensitivity in our sampling and it will be the best way to determine where Irukandji occur,” she said.
SURF LIFE SAVING QUEENSLAND
NORTH QUEENSLAND LIFESAVERS R E T U R N TO T H E B E A C H Hundreds of lifesavers from Port Douglas down to Mission Beach have raised the red and yellow flags once more, with North Queensland’s volunteer patrol season officially kicking off in early April. While the majority of surf lifesavers across Queensland patrol over summer, the presence of marine stingers in the water over the warmer months mean that SLSQ volunteers in the state’s far north operate on a different schedule.
SLSQ North Queensland regional manager Rob Davidson said it was great to have local lifesavers back out on patrol. “North Queensland is home to some of the best beaches in Australia and right across the world for that matter, and I’m sure we’ll see large crowds out and about again this season,” he said. “Our lifesavers perform a crucial role in terms of watching over and protecting tens of thousands of beachgoers. On top of locals, we get a lot of international tourists, backpackers, and other visitors to our region and we obviously want to make sure that everyone can enjoy our beautiful coastline and go home safely at the end of the day. “But, while they deliver a crucial service to communities across North Queensland, it’s really important to remember our lifesavers are all volunteers who are giving up weekends and time with family and friends to help keep other safe. “We have a diverse and wonderful mix of people within our organisation, and the one thing they all have in common is a shared passion for surf lifesaving and a desire to give back to their communities.”
“We face a number of challenges in North Queensland that are quite unique to our region, including the likes of crocodiles and marine stingers, which can be found in the water at various times of the year.” −Rob Davidson, SLSQ North Queensland Regional Manager Volunteers from Port Douglas, Ellis Beach, Cairns, Etty Bay, and Mission Beach Surf Life Saving Clubs will watch over and protect swimmers on weekends and public holidays through to the end of November, with SLSQ’s professional lifeguards also set to continue their regular patrol services. Last year, North Queensland lifesavers treated almost 250 first aid patients for minor stings and injures, performed more than 3,500 preventative actions to help keep beachgoers safe and, most importantly, directly saved five lives via in-water rescues. Their efforts were well supported by SLSQ’s professional lifeguards who performed a total of 103 rescues across the year, including 61 at Green Island and 36 in the Cairns Esplanade Lagoon.
In addition to keeping a close eye on beachgoers, Mr Davidson said lifesavers and lifeguards were also tasked with monitoring the water for any dangerous marine creatures. “We face a number of challenges in North Queensland that are quite unique to our region, including the likes of crocodiles and marine stingers, which can be found in the water at various times of the year,” he said. “Importantly, however, we have extensive processes in place if we encounter a crocodile or dangerous stinger on patrol and it’s important to recognise those procedures not only help us keep beachgoers out of harm’s way, but also protect our own members as well. Our surf lifesavers and lifeguards do a lot of work off the beach and behind the scenes to ensure they are ready if and when those situations arise.”
R E A D Y, S E T, G O F O R L I F E S A V I N G WORLD CHAMPS The 2024 World Championships are officially heading back to Queensland after SLSQ and the International Life Saving Federation formally signed off on a Deed of Commitment to host the event on the Gold Coast. The Championships, which were last held in Queensland back in 1988, will split competition between Kurrawa Beach and the Gold Coast Aquatic Centre over 17 days of action in late August and early September. The sport’s pinnacle event is expected to attract more than 12,000 competitors and spectators from approximately 50 countries across the globe, injecting some $15 million back into the local economy. SLSQ President Mark Fife OAM said it was incredibly exciting to see the event returning to Queensland. “With thousands of competitors from 50 countries across the world expected to compete, it’s a great opportunity for SLSQ and our state as a whole, and everyone involved is committed to delivering a world-class sporting event,” he said. “Our lifesavers are some of the best in the world, and this will be a wonderful opportunity for them to test their skills and fitness against other top competitors from all over the globe.”
It is the generous involvement of our partners that enables us to continue to keep our beaches safe. Surf Life Saving Queensland would like to thank these organisations for their ongoing support.
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