BEYOND THE BEACH Exploring NSWâ€™s underwater treasures
Cape Byron Marine Park
Solitary Islands Marine Park
Forster - Tuncurry
Sydney Wollongong Kiama Jervis Bay
Jervis Bay Marine Park
Batemans Marine Park
Port Stephens Great Lakes Marine Park
OUR NSW MARINE PARKS CAPE BYRON
A PIT STOP FOR WHALES pg 6-7
JUMPING INTO ‘FISH SOUP’ pg 10-11 Lord Howe Island Marine Park
SHIPWRECKS, SQUATTERS AND SHIFTING SANDS pg 14-15
PENGUIN PLAYGROUND pg 18-19
WHERE DRAGONS DREAM AND SEALS SING pg 22-23
SPANGLED EMPERORS, SILVER DRUMMERS AND SPANISH DANCERS pg 26-27 Printed on 100% post consumer recycled paper Cover: Justin Gilligan/OceanwideImages.com Design: Yukiyoshi Kamimura/kamimuradesign.com Words: Cathy Coote/cathycoote.net
FOREWORD Ian Kiernan, AO
Chairman and founder Clean Up Australia
Like so many of you, I’ve spent my life around water and I can’t imagine it any other way. Whether it is a day at the beach, a surf or a sail, our NSW coast has it all. Just how lucky we are continues beneath the waves as well, with everything from humpback whales, weedy sea dragons and fur seals to an abundance of the best fish on show. But it’s no mistake that many of our most special underwater locations are also marine parks and that’s what the following pages are all about – discovering, admiring, and celebrating the best of what lies beyond the beach. When I sailed solo around the world in 1986-87, I looked forward to visiting the fabled Sargasso Sea at the heart of the Bermuda Triangle. Famous for being a “golden rainforest of the sea’’, literally covered by seaweed, I found instead a fading legend carpeted by rubbish. That’s what motivated me to create Clean Up Australia. Since the first clean up of Sydney Harbour in 1989, the public has demonstrated its overwhelming concern for the health of our waterways and coastal waters by acting to conserve the natural environment. But this is not enough to secure the long-term health of our oceans and marine life. Pollution such as oil spills and plastics, overfishing and a lack of safe havens for fish and marine life to recover and rebuild are challenges for which we must share responsibility. The community has demonstrated its commitment to action - we look to government and to business to also do its fair share. But something unprecedented is happening in NSW.
At a time when the scientific and economic evidence of the benefits of marine parks and sanctuaries has been acted on at a federal level – by creating the world’s largest network of marine sanctuaries — and in states such as Western Australia where the Liberal government has committed to creating seven new marine parks, the NSW Government is winding back the protection these safe havens represent. The O’Farrell Government has opened up marine sanctuaries to fishing from the shore and is considering making this permanent. It’s the equivalent of allowing hunting in national parks. Less than 7 percent of NSW waters are protected in sanctuaries. Removing that small amount of protection leaves our unique marine life exposed and vulnerable to devastation.
“Nowhere else in the world has such a backward step which allows fishing in an area set aside for fish and marine life to recover and rebuild.” Nowhere else in the world has such a backward step which allows fishing in an area set aside for fish and marine life to recover and rebuild. Throwing a line in from the beach may seem harmless, but with many of us doing it the impacts add up quickly. Sixty per cent of fishing in NSW happens from the shore. Recreational fishers catch almost 30 per cent, or 5740 tonnes, of the total commercial catch in NSW of more than 19,000 tonnes. Recreational fishing is also responsible for the majority of the catch allowed for nine of the top 20 harvested species in NSW. I’m an occasional recreational fisher and do believe
that most other recreational fishers are conservationminded as well. I also believe most recreational fishers understand that some areas must be set aside to allow stocks of fish and other marine life to rebound.
“85 per cent of people in NSW agreed or agreed strongly that some areas of the marine environment should be protected, even if it means recreational and commercial fishing is excluded.”
The government’s most recent public opinion poll on the issue found strong support for sanctuaries. The 2009 poll found 85 per cent of people in NSW agreed or agreed strongly that some areas of the marine environment should be protected, even if it means recreational and commercial fishing is excluded. In the Sydney metropolitan area this support was even higher, at 89 per cent.
Rather than threatening to roll-back protection, we should be heading in the other direction as scientists recommend – to work to protect our remaining iconic places and the feeding and breeding grounds that give so much back. The Liberal Party has a proud history of creating marine parks and its best known achievement was John Howard’s decision to protect a third of the Great Barrier Reef from exploitation. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is now an economic powerhouse, supporting almost $6 billion in industry and 60,000 jobs. I fear many of you in NSW will start thinking your efforts to protect your local environment as part of Clean Up Australia Day will have been in vain if the NSW Government pushes ahead with its destructive plan. No one wins if our unique marine life disappears forever, but everyone benefits if we protect our ocean resources, including fish stocks. Beyond the Beach shows us, in spectacular full colour, the incredible marine life that our marine parks safeguard and why our support of them is so important.
It takes time for the benefits of marine parks and sanctuaries to kick in, but when they do it’s a bonanza for regional economies and a foundation for sustainable fishing. Just ask the locals at Solitary Islands, our state’s oldest park that was declared under a Liberal government using legislation that was supported by everyone in parliament. What is happening now in NSW, however, places these achievements and benefits at risk. Short-sighted politics could reverse decades of working with the community and scientists to protect our state’s most precious marine places and provide sanctuary to our remarkable marine life.
— Ian Kiernan
Photo: Clay Bryce
CAPE BYRON A PIT STOP FOR WHALES Whales have always been big business in Byron. A century ago, whales were hunted for their blubber and oil, with Cape Byron operating a whaling station until 1962. These days, visitors to Byron still ‘hunt’ whales – but now, they only want to look. Whale watching is a major contributor to the local tourism industry. That’s just one of the ways that protecting marine life with the marine park has had a major positive impact on the local economy. The jewel in the crown of this marine park is Julian Rocks, a rocky outcrop two kilometres from shore. For the local Bundjalung people, Nguthungulli, Father of the World, created all the land and waters, the animals and plants. Nguthungulli now rests in a cave at Julian Rocks and the Elders have instructed that this special site must be protected. Captain Cook named the place Julian Rocks as he passed in 1770, after his niece and nephew, Juan and Julia. Two centuries later, locals in Byron recognised the amazing diversity of life here and campaigned for them to be protected back in 1982. The Julian Rocks area is a magnet for divers from all over the world who come to experience the huge variety in habitats and marine life. That’s a good thing for local tourism businesses, such as hotels and dive-tour operators. If Byron Bay is a holiday destination for people, then Julian Rocks is like a holiday town for fish. Water temperatures and currents change throughout the year, so many different creatures can be seen as the waters change. Manta rays glide by in the warmer months, gently flapping their majestic ‘wings’ like underwater birds. Like any coastal town, there are also year-round regulars. Here the locals include wobbegong sharks, turtles, cuttlefish, moray eels, banner fish, and shovel-nose rays.
Riding the waves: Surfers love the Byron area, catching breaks at much-loved spots like The Wreck. Photo: Attila E Kaszo
SIZE OF CAPE BYRON MARINE PARK
Big marine life equals big business: Whale-watching contributes around $300 million to the Australian economy each year. Hundreds of businesses around Australia offer whale watching tours. Across the country, more than 1.5 million people take a whale-watching cruise each year. Whale watching is a growing industry, and the most rapid growth in the country is right here in NSW, where the economic value of whale watching grew 37% each year between 1998 and 2003. Artwork: Donna Chapman
NUMBER OF FISH SPECIES THAT LIVE AT JULIAN ROCKS
TYPES OF CORAL AT JULIAN ROCKS
A snorkeler checks out the wreck of the Wollongbar, which sank in 1922. Photo: Alex Frings
HUMPBACK WHALE GIANTS OF THE DEEP Whales are an ongoing fascination for many Australians. Many of the spectacular antics that whale watchers love to observe are part of the humpback whale’s annual mating rituals. Males congregate to show what they’re made of by slapping the water with their tails, breaching, leaping and crashing down into the waves. The most impressive ones will be chosen by the females to father the next generation. These giants like to sing, especially the males. Their complex, eerie songs form part of mating rituals too, with whistles, groans and other-worldly sighs all part of the catalogue. Just like humans, they have songs which become fashionable, spreading around local populations of whales. Over time, the songs will evolve into something different. Humpbacks travel thousands of kilometres on their annual migration, heading to warm Pacific waters in winter each year to give birth, then slowly down to Antarctica for their yearly feast on krill. In NSW, that takes them down the coast each September/October. Their lifespans are much like our own – some reports say they can live up to 100 years. Individual whales can be recognised year after year by local populations in the towns they pass on their migrations. Migaloo, a white humpback, is so famous he has his own legislation governing how close whale watching boats are allowed to get. Whaling brought humpbacks to the brink of extinction in the 19th and early 20th centuries, until the international community rallied to protect them. Annual population increases of 10% have allowed this gentle giant to begin to recover. The population now numbers around 10 000, a dramatic increase from an estimated 500 which survived the end of whaling in Australia in the 1960s. However they still suffer beachings from noise pollution, collide with ships, and die entangled in fishing nets. Everything about whales is big, including their appetites. They need places where the species they eat – krill, plankton and small fish - are sure to be there in numbers enough to satisfy them on their long journeys. Humpbacks also need protected waters where they can give birth and rest in safety on their long migrations. Marine parks provide all these things, and are therefore crucial to their ongoing survival – and our ongoing viewing pleasure.
Photo: Attila E Kaszo
LENGTH IN METRES THAT A MALE HUMPBACK CAN REACH
METRES – LENGTH OF A HUMPBACK CALF AT BIRTH
KG –WEIGHT OF AN ADULT MALE YEAR ON YEAR GROWTH IN VALUE OF NSW’S WHALE-WATCHING INDUSTRY
SOLITARY ISLANDS JUMPING INTO ‘FISH SOUP’ How can you be solitary when you’re in a group of five? The Solitary Islands may have a slightly surprising name given their number, but it reflects their isolation, with tens of kilometres between many of the islands in the chain. The location of these islands, whose waters are now protected by NSW’s oldest marine park, mean they are bathed by warm tropical waters from the north, and cooler currents from the south. The result is a rich ‘mixing zone’ where tropical, sub-tropical and temperate marine species can co-exist. For many animals, this mixing of the water currents means this area is the most southerly or northerly part of their range. Have you ever jumped into fish soup? The huge numbers of fish living off the western side of North West Rock is known to divers as ‘Fish Soup’. This ‘soup’ has some of everything, with a massive diversity of fish: tropical predators like spangled emperor, bigeye trevally, mangrove jack, moses perch and brown sweetlips swim with mulloway, snapper, red morwong, silver trevally, bream and tarwhine. A celebrity also frolics in these waters, although you won’t usually find the papparazzi stalking this one – a little fish called Nemo, made famous in the movie of the same name. Nemo is a clownfish: one of the anemone fish, who shelter from predators in sea anemones and have special immunity to their stingers. It’s just as well, because the stinging cells would kill most other fish of the same size. Anemone Bay, on the northern end of North Solitary Island, supports the greatest number of anemones and anemone fish in the world. That’s a lot of Nemos. This whole area is turtley cool, with four species of sea-turtle flippering around: loggerhead, green, leatherback, and hawksbill. All of these turtle species are under threat, and are found in the marine park throughout the year, with greens and loggerheads nesting at several beaches in the park. Bird species you may find in the estuaries and mangroves include pied oystercatchers and waders such as red-capped plovers and curlews. The endangered Beach stone curlew has been recorded breeding in the Solitary Islands Marine Park. Whimbrels also like to drop in as part of their regular world tour, which involves breeding in the Arctic Circle and a snack in the Solitary Islands. For a place with ‘Solitary’ in the name, there’s certainly a lot of life here….
Where warm meets cool: A sea urchin nestles under bright pink coral. The blending of warm and cool waters allows the Solitary Islands to host an extraordinary diversity of marine life. Photo: John Turnbull www.marineexplorer.org
NUMBER OF ‘SOLITARY’ ISLANDS
THE AVERAGE NUMBER OF FISH SPECIES YOU WOULD SEE DURING A 30 MINUTE DIVE AROUND NORTH SOLITARY ISLAND
DEGREE, HOW MUCH WARMER THE SOLITARYS ARE THAN SURROUNDING AREAS, THANKS TO THE EAST AUSTRALIAN CURRENT
The place to find Nemo: Anemone Bay supports the greatest concentration of anemones in the world – up to 60 per square metre. Anemone fish like this one have immunity to the stinging cells, so can live safe from predators. Photo: John Turnbull www.marineexplorer.org
“When I started diving South Solitary Island in the late 1960s the marine life was incredible - tropical corals and reef fish were everywhere. In the 1970s and 80s I stopped visiting this special island as little of what I loved was left. Following the establishment of the Solitary Islands Marine Park, I’m happy to report reef fish are back and there are plenty of good size black cod, and schools of morwong and sawtail. Marine sanctuaries helped bring back a little patch of the world that I had feared was lost for ever.” – Bruce Chapman, local diver. Photo: Gary Bell/OceanwideImages.com
MARINE PARKS: A LIQUID ASSET
WAY MORE THAN A SOLITARY SUCCESS STORY…
BOB PALMER, LIQUID ASSETS ADVENTURE TOURS, SOLITARY ISLANDS MARINE PARK
MARINE SANCTUARIES MAKE ECONOMIC SENSE
“I count myself lucky to have lived around Coffs Harbour all my life, but a few years back you would have thought our beautiful coastal town was in deep trouble”. Listening to some, the new Solitary Islands Marine Park meant the tourism industry was facing its final days. “But it’s always been that way. Every new marine park has its scaremongers, but the negatives never eventuate. Running my own tourism business means I see the reality on the ground, and the reality is that it’s been a positive story all the way for local tourism businesses”. “We get about 1.5 million tourists coming here each year and they want to experience the natural beauty and see the amazing marine wildlife like whales, dolphins and seals. Without the marine park which draws people here, there’d be less wildlife to show them, so my business would suffer. And without the long term benefits and security that the park provides, there would be less of a future for tourism, so I wouldn’t be working at TAFE training up the next generation of tourism professionals either”. Our whole area has really benefited from the marine park. Times and people have changed. My grandfather was an old school commercial fisherman, taking all he could while the going was good. But these days we’re proud to be educating people about just how important our marine park is and the future that it offers. “I’ve now got two daughters and four grandchildren. I want them to enjoy all the things that I’ve loved about living here, and the Solitary Islands Marine Park is a big part of that. I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
Bob Palmer’s tourism success at the Solitary Islands Marine Park is a common story when it comes to protecting coastal waters. It’s an experience echoed in other states, as well as internationally, where marine parks and sanctuaries grow to become a strong part of the brand of a coastal town. Like a magnet, experience-seeking tourists are drawn by the lure of a marine park, with research from the Sustainable Tourism CRC at Curtin University showing that international visitors who visit natural attractions such as marine parks spend twice as much as other visitors. As reported in the NSW Parliament in 2011: “Research by the Australian National University shows that marine sanctuaries can increase economic outputs from a region and reduce the recovery time for popular fish. The Marine Parks Authority also has undertaken research on the impacts of marine parks on regional economies and found they increased business turnover and employment”. “For example, a report into the impact of the creation of the Solitary Islands Marine Park found annual business turnover had increased by almost $3 million in the Coffs Harbour area, and employment in the peak season also had increased.” Beyond putting towns on the tourism map, marine sanctuaries build resilience and capacity into local economies. They help to make fishing more sustainable, providing insurance against mismanagement by buffering negative shocks to fisheries. They can also help to rebuild stocks as fish grow larger in sanctuaries and disperse into surrounding waters. Marine sanctuaries preserve yet-to-be-discovered species and are sites of great importance to the science and research industries. They provide essential ‘ecosystem services’ such as carbon storage, natural disease and pest control and help to maintain healthy fish nurseries for the future. Protecting our unique NSW waters in marine parks is an important investment in the future of our state and its valuable marine resources.
Bob Palmer, Liquid Assets Adventure Tours, Solitary Islands Marine Park.
“...A report into the impact of the creation of the Solitary Islands Marine Park found annual business turnover had increased by almost $3 million in the Coffs Harbour area, and employment in the peak season also had increased.” - NSW PARLIAMENTARY HANSARD
PORT STEPHENS SHIPWRECKS, SQUATTERS AND SHIFTING SANDS Two-and-a-half hours north of Sydney, the Port Stephens–Great Lakes Marine Park is home to one of the top ten dive sites in the world. ‘The Pinnacles are a sight to be seen. The ocean floor is incredibly varied, with shipwrecks and sea caves to explore. Rock pinnacles shoot up from the seabed, providing a fascinating landscape of underwater cliffs and caves. Swirling schools of yellowtail kingfish, mulloway, teraglin, trevally and bonito congregate around the area, while critically endangered grey nurse sharks prowl the peaks looking for fishy meal. There are also endangered black cod, scores of big red snapper and some huge stingrays. Throughout the marine park, divers and snorkelers may see more than 600 species of fish. Juvenile green turtles are particularly abundant in the Port Stephens estuary. The deep water is home to a huge number of sponge gardens. Port Stephens is an ideal environment for these interesting species. Whilst sponges look like plants they actually belong to the animal kingdom. At Fly Point, the colourful sponge gardens are accessible to both scuba divers and snorkelers. Have you ever seen the devil? You’ll be pleased to hear he’s only 40 centimetres long and not very interested in people. The beautiful, secretive eastern blue devil fish lurks in caves down in the depths in water up to 30 metres deep, defending his territory from other males and breeding with females. Out of the water there are a lot of one-offs in the park. Cabbage Tree Island and Boondelbah Island provide the only nesting grounds in the world for the endangered goulds petrel. Seal Rocks provides a home for a group of Australian fur seals. Little terns, also very rare, breed on the beaches. The shifting sands of Stockton Beach bury and expose the past in turn: shipwrecks, a squatters’ settlement, and World War II fortifications. Wrecks include the Uralla, a steamer run aground in 1928, and the Sygna, a Norwegian carrier ship lost in 1954, whose stern is slowly rusting just offshore.
A delicate dance: A feathery nudibranch, or sea slug, glides along the sand. Photo: John Turnbull www.marineexplorer.org
HECTARES OF THE PORT STEPHENS GREAT LAKES MARINE PARK, BIGGEST IN NSW
YEAR THE MARINE PARK WAS ESTABLISHED
THE NUMBER OF CRITICALLY ENDANGERED GREY NURSE SHARKS THAT ‘BIG ROCK’ CAN HAVE AT ANY ONE TIME
The devil and the deep blue sea: The blue devilfish lives in water up to 30 metres deep, and is a wonderful sight for divers who get a glimpse of this elusive fish. Photo: Doug Anderson
NUMBER OF BOTTLENOSE DOLPHINS WHO CALL THE “DOLPHIN CAPITAL OF AUSTRALIA” HOME
From leatherbacks to loggerheads, six of the seven sea turtle species are threatened or endangered. Marine parks give them a safe place to feed and breed. Photo: Xanthe Rivett
HOOKED ON THE SCIENCE OF SANCTUARIES: PROFESSOR DAVID BOOTH My early years in Sydney were spent collecting tadpoles and butterflies, and a butterfly hunting trip in 1971 to New Guinea gave me my first opportunity to snorkel on a coral reef and butterflies gave way to butterfly fish soon after that! At Sydney Uni I was mentored by some of the great marine scientists, but it was probably joining the uni dive club that pushed me into the marine realm. And what a place Sydney is to be in the marine sciences! Australia has the richest marine life in the world. From the bizarre and delicate weedy seadragons to dolphins and massive humpback whales our own backyard, NSW, is home to much of it. That’s why my attention turned to marine parks. Marine parks are one key tool in the arsenal of marine conservation and the marine no-take sanctuaries that are zoned within them are vital. These areas of ocean and coast are effectively our ‘national parks of the sea’ where all wildlife and their habitats are protected. They give fish the space to feed, breed, grow and recover from overfishing. They also protect some of the most iconic and loved marine destinations along our coast so our kids and grandkids can enjoy them the same way we have. Science supporting the many benefits of marine
sanctuaries has been established for many years, both here in Australia and beyond. Over 1000 scientific papers on marine park costs and benefits have been published in the last decade alone. The clear consensus is that parks are now considered a critical piece of the jigsaw puzzle in maintaining our marine biodiversity. This is a position strongly endorsed by our two peak scientific organisations representing marine scientists, the Australian Marine Sciences Association and the Australian Coral Reef Society. Research has shown dramatic increases in the number and size of fish inside sanctuary zones, and spillover of stock to replenish neighbouring fished areas. Some of the best fishing spots now, and increasingly in the future, are likely to be on the edge of marine sanctuaries. Locally we’ve seen benefits like significant increases in the size and abundance of red morwong in sanctuary zones in the Jervis Bay Marine Park, and more and bigger mud crabs in the Solitary Islands Marine Park off Coffs Harbour, to name a couple of examples. So while the science is in that sanctuaries work, common sense tells us the same thing. Protecting key areas now allows marine life to survive, recover and thrive into the future. And that’s got to be great for everyone.
Local knowledge: David Booth is a Professor of Marine Ecology at the University of Technology, Sydney, He’s spent his working life studying NSW’s marine waters. Photo: Personal archive
Big, blue backyard: NSW is home to unique marine species like the weedy seadragon, and provides a crucial stopover for many migratory species, such as humpback whales. Around 80% of NSW’s marine species are endemic to Australian waters, meaning ‘these species occur nowhere else on earth. Science shows that we need marine parks to protect them properly, ensuring they have places to feed, breed and shelter. Photo: Attila E Kaszo
PERCENTAGE OF NSW’S WATERS CURRENTLY FULLY PROTECTED
PROPORTION OF PEAK MARINE SCIENCES ORGANISATIONS THAT ENDORSE MARINE SANCTUARIES AS VITAL FOR MARINE BIODIVERSITY APPROXIMATE NUMBER OF MARINE SPECIES IN NSW WATERS THAT ARE UNIQUE TO AUSTRALIA
JERVIS BAY PENGUIN PLAYGROUND Claimed to have the whitest sand in the world, Jervis Bay is a sight that has to be seen to be believed. The stunning bottle shaped bay is just three hours drive south of Sydney and is a favoured spot for holiday makers from across the state. Since 1998 the Jervis Bay Marine Park has protected these rich waters and the iconic marine life it holds. The unique shape of the bay combined with dynamic ocean currents mean that the marine park is a melting pot of warm waters from the north and cooler waters from Bass Strait and Antarctica. These cool waters are incredibly nutrient rich and provide essential food for much of the marine life of Jervis Bay. The marine park which extends beyond the bay, is home to a unique mix of tropical and temperate species including the weedy seadragon, eastern blue devil fish, bottlenose dolphin, fairy penguin, fur seal and the critically endangered grey nurse shark. More than 230 species of plants, hundreds of species of invertebrates, and over 216 species of reef fish, sharks and rays can be found throughout the marine park. The bay is also a drawcard for tourists and locals alike who flock to watch its marine wildlife. Humpback and southern right whales pass by on their seasonal migrations, and sometimes enter the bay to rest. About 60 bottlenose dolphins also swim and feed around the bay, with common dolphins often be seen in the deeper ocean waters. The only mainland colonies of Australian fur seals live in the Jervis Bay Marine Park. Out beyond the bounds of the bay on Bowen Island nests a large colony of fairy penguins. These incredible birds ‘fly’ through the water at over one and a half metres per second, chasing pilchards and small fish, to take to their burrows on the island. The area of today’s marine park has a long history of supporting thriving communities. The Yuin People have lived in the area for tens of thousands of years and have close ties to the bay, with many sacred sites throughout. In colonial times, dozens of ships were wrecked along the coast, with tales of hope and tragedy living on in the region. These days, the Royal Australian Navy trains nearby, including in a small part of the marine park. Locals, tourists and holidaymakers love the marine park for boating, fishing, kayaking, scuba diving, snorkelling, swimming, surfing and beach walking.
Looking beyond Governor Head, Jervis Bay National Park out to Bowen Island in Jervis Bay Marine Park where a large colony of fairy penguins nest. These incredible birds can ‘fly’ through the water at over one and a half metres per second. Photo: Attila E Kaszo
THE NUMBER OF SYDNEY HARBOURS OF WATER THAT JERVIS BAY HOLDS
Keeping things clean: The eastern cleanerclingfish offers a very useful service, removing parasites from larger fish such as gropers. Photo: Doug Anderson
THE APPROXIMATE NUMBER OF BOTTLENOSE DOLPHINS RESIDENT IN JERVIS BAY KILOMETRES THE LENGTH OF JERVIS BAY SHORELINE
A fairy without a wand: Little penguins are also called fairy penguins. Marine parks help to protect the fish they eat and the coastal places where they make burrows to raise their young. Photo: Attila E Kaszo
WEEDY SEADRAGON YES, DRAGONS ARE REAL, AND THEY LIVE IN OUR NSW MARINE PARKS These mild-mannered dragons rely on camouflage, not fire breathing and sharp teeth, to keep them safe. Instead of breathing fire out, they suck water in, feasting on small crustaceans and fish as they go. And they don’t have big teeth either. In fact, they have no teeth at all. Sensitive new age guys, the males do the eggrearing, carrying eggs on the underside of their tails for around a month until the hatchlings emerge and swim away. Content to go with the flow, they lack the gripping tails that allow their close relatives the seahorses to hand on to plants and rocks. Instead they just bob and float with the current, swaying underwater just like the seaweed they are disguised as. These dragons aren’t mythical, but they are suffering intense pressures due to habitat loss. Marine parks give them a place safe from trawlers, where the seagrass meadows they need to survive are untouched. Without this safe haven, they might indeed become something we only tell our children about in stories.
Photo: Doug Anderson
LENGTH OF A MALE WEEDY SEADRAGON IN CENTIMETERS
METRES UNDERWATER, THE DEEPEST THAT SEA DRAGONS CAN LIVE
EGGS THAT A MALE CAN CARRY UNDER HIS TAIL
BATEMANS BAY WHERE DRAGONS DREAM AND SEALS SING NSW’s newest and southern-most marine park tells a tale of our times. In decades gone by the waters of Batemans Marine Park were thick with boats chasing down whales and seals for oil and fur. Today the whales and seals are returning in a success story for our marine life and local communities alike. Batemans Marine Park stretches for 100 kilometres along the coast capturing a fantastic diversity of habitats. There are sponge gardens, sandy beaches, rocky shores, kelp beds, coralline algal banks, rocky reefs, islands and seagrass meadows. Batemans Marine Park is like combining forests, deserts, lakes and woodlands all into one protected area. Juvenile fish shelter in the marine park’s many mangroves and estuaries before heading out to sea. They join morwong, trevally and snapper which are found in abundance off Montague Island. Other fish like kingfish, albacore and yellowfin tuna follow the warm currents, and sunfish can be found catching the rays near Montague Island in the warmer months. Batemans Marine Park is a safehaven for elusive weedy seadragons which are difficult to spot nestled amongst the seaweed despite their vivid colours. Weedy seadragons lack the ability to attach themselves to vegetation and instead float on the whim of the ocean currents. Marine sanctuaries protect the habitats for these dragons of the deep. Above the surface, boats full of locals, tourists and holidaymakers alike are on the lookout for whales, dolphins, seals and fairy penguins. Batemans Marine Park hosts Australia’s largest colony of fur seals on Montague Island. Here a group of males relax on the warm rocks leaving the work of pup-rearing to females along the coast. The Australian fur seals aren’t the only mammals around, Antarctic fur seals and fierce leopard seals are also irregular visitors. Life isn’t lacking in the air above above the marine park either. Sooty oystercatchers forage on the rocky water’s edge searching for limpets and mussels and muttonbirds pass by each year on their way down to breed in Tasmania. Recently the marine park made headlines when a pair of highly endangered Goulds petrels were found nesting on Montague Island, this is only the fourth confirmed breeding ground anywhere on the planet.
Chameleon of the sea: The red cuttlefish is a master of disguise. Able to change colour and mimic its environment, this highly intelligent invertebrate is a delight to watch whilst scuba diving. The protection provided by Batemans Marine Park means the cuttlefish’s habitat is protected for the future. Photo: Doug Anderson
HECTARES AREA OF ESTUARIES, CREEKS, RIVERS, LAKES AND OCEAN IN THE PARK
KILOMETRES DISTANCE BATEMANS MARINE PARK STRETCHES ALONG THE COAST
Old wives tail: The old wife fish is named for the grinding sound it makes with its teeth when caught. Photo: John Turnbull www.marineexplorer.org
NUMBER OF FAIRY PENGUINS NESTING AT MONTAGUE ISLAND
Mr Mum: Like other seadragons, weedy seadragon males are in charge of the eggs. Photo: Doug Anderson
AUSTRALIAN FUR SEAL
Fur seals once numbered in the hundreds of thousands, but hunting in the 19th century reduced their numbers to catastrophically low levels. Populations are now slowly recovering as the seal enjoys full protection, but it is still listed on the IUCN Red List of threatened species. When is a seal not a seal? Australian fur seals are not considered ‘true’ seals at all, because they have the ability to ‘haul out’, using their flippers to ‘walk’ on land. If you like bushwalking, you might be lucky enough to see one dashing across the remote beaches in the far south of NSW, leaving distinctive flipper-and-belly tracks in the sand.
Skillful and agile hunters, these ‘dogs of the sea’ eat a variety of fish, including mackeral, redbait and leatherjackets. They also like octopus and squid. There’s not much equality between the sexes in fur seal society. Females spend pretty much their entire adult life pregnant or nursing pups, while males tend to congregate in bachelor colonies, only visiting the breeding rookeries at mating time. Childcare is not their strong point, either with pups being left lying on the beach while mum returns to the ocean to feed for up to seven days at a time. When each mother returns from hunting, she calls out and all the pups in the area respond hungrily. Mothers know their offspring, however, and only their own lucky pup gets any of the rich, fatty milk.
NUMBER OF ESTABLISHED BREEDING SITES OF AUSTRALIAN FUR SEALS
DAYS TIME THAT A MOTHER SEAL MAY LEAVE HER PUP ON LAND AS SHE FEEDS IN THE OCEAN
KILOGRAMS MAXIMUM WEIGHT OF A MALE FUR SEAL
LORD HOWE SPANGLED EMPERORS, SILVER DRUMMERS AND SPANISH DANCERS Where can you see a spangled emperor swimming with silver drummers and Spanish dancers? Only in the waters around Lord Howe Island, one of the most precious marine treasures on the globe. A two-hour flight from Sydney, divers, snorkellers and birdwatchers return here again and again to see the unique mix of wildlife in the world’s cleanest and clearest water. Home to only 347 people, tourist numbers are limited to just 400 at any one time, to protect the island’s sensitive ecology. Like Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef, Lord Howe Island is recognised internationally on UNESCO’s World Heritage list. And most of what is special here is under the water. An impressive 145,000 hectares of the marine environment is heritage listed - ten times the area of land. Home to the world’s most southerly coral reef, Lord Howe is a crossroads for ocean species. Five major ocean currents collide here, and the rich variety of water temperatures, nutrient levels and habitats allows a fascinating mix of tropical, sub-tropical and temperate species to survive. Lord Howe’s majestic mountains, rising out of the South Pacific, are well known. But did you know that underwater the topography is just as dramatic? The trenches, caves and volcanic drop offs provide an endless playground for tourists, with dozens of dive and snorkel sites. Green, leatherback and hawksbill turtles picnic around the seagrass meadows, munching on small crustaceans. You can snorkel or dive and get up close and personal – but only for as long as the turtle wants to hang around. They may seem slow, but sea turtles can swim up to 20 kilometres an hour - that’s more than twice as fast as Ian Thorpe! Under the water, it’s just as exciting. Ballina angelfish, who usually live in far deeper waters, can be seen here, along with an exotic kingdom of silver drummer, rainbow runners, and spangled emperor. Elegant spanish dancers - princesses among sea slugs - whirl their red skirts along the sea bottom, and lay eggs in a ribbon that looks ‘like ballerina’s tutu’. Thought to be unknown to the Polynesians who roamed across the Pacific, Lord Howe has had remarkably little interference from humans. Careful management means many species who have nowhere else to live survive and thrive in these waters. The marine park is the only thing standing between them and extinction. NSW is entrusted by the world with the care of this place.
Sluggish colours: More than 3,000 species of sea slug, or nudibranch, occur worldwide. Their bright colours make them stand out and they’re often seen when snorkelling or diving. Photo: Doug Anderson
SPECIES OF FISH
TYPES OF CORAL
NUMBER OF TOURISTS ALLOWED ON THE ISLAND AT ANY ONE TIME
Look at me: Starfish have rudimentary eyes on the end of each of their five ‘arms’. They can’t see as well as we can, but they can sense light and dark. Photo: Doug Anderson
NUMBER OF RESIDENTS ON THE ISLAND
Breathtaking life: The Lord Howe Island Marine Park is home to an astonishing 500 species of fish of which the spangled emperor is just one. Photo: Glen Cowans
THE OCEAN IS BROKEN IVAN MACFADYEN, INTERNATIONAL YACHTING ADVENTURER “I guess I’m what they call an ‘old salt’. I’ve been sailing for more than 40 years. I teach sailing, and I also take my yacht Funnelweb out on long ocean races. I love that feeling of being at one with the sea that develops after weeks out on the water”. “The army got me into sailing. They got us out onto the water as part of our training, and I’ve been hooked ever since”. “This year I sailed from Melbourne to Osaka in the 2 handed race and then on to the USA to compete in the world renowned Transpac Race. I was horrified at what I saw. The ocean was empty of life”. “I’ve done a lot of miles on the ocean in my life and I’m used to seeing turtles, dolphins, sharks and big flurries of seabirds. But this time, for 3000 nautical miles of the journey there was nothing alive to be seen. Trawlers worked day and night, raking across the ocean bed and killing off every living thing in the process. Usually on a journey like that you’d see seabirds everywhere, but this time it was just eerie silence”. “What was there instead was rubbish. Thousands upon thousands of different coloured plastic buoys, fishing lines, rope, nets, polystyrene foam. We were scared to start the motor in case we hit this rubbish and wrecked the propeller”. “Now, I’ve always loved fishing. I’ve been fishing for even longer than I’ve been sailing yachts, and that’s a very long time indeed! There’s nothing like landing your own fish and cooking it up for dinner the same night”.
metre long. We’d cook them up and eat them for dinner – so fresh. This time, things were different. I got barely a nibble on my baited lines. The biggest tuna I caught was little more than 30cm long”. “But there was one place where the ocean wasn’t dead. As we came up to the Hawaiian Islands, we saw seabirds. The noise was such a relief. In the water, there was life again: fish, turtles, whales and dolphins. All those things you would expect to see on an ocean journey”. “What was the difference? The Hawaiian Islands are home to one of the largest marine sanctuaries on Earth. Declared a ‘national monument’ by US President George Bush in 2006, the Papahānaumokuākea marine sanctuary spans almost 2,000 kilometres. There are all sorts of breeding grounds for different species of fish, which means that fish-eaters like dolphins, tuna, and birds can survive too”. “I was so happy to find out that we have marine sanctuaries at home in NSW. I thought, at least my home might be spared the complete desert that I found out there in the Pacific”. “Then I heard the Government were winding back our marine sanctuaries. I was just horrified”. “I’m no greenie. I just love the ocean and I love fishing, and I reckon we’ve got to protect what we still have so things don’t get as bad as what I saw on that journey to Osaka and America”.
“The first time I sailed in the Melbourne to Osaka race, back in 2003, I caught fish all the way. Big tuna, up to a
Small fish in a big pond: Marine species around the world are threatened by overfishing, pollution, dredging and loss of habitat. Studies have shown that, globally, the number of big fish in 2003 was just 10% of the number in 1950. Photo: Max Mason-Hubers, Newcastle Herald
Marine parks make a real difference: Ivan was struck by the difference between the lifeless oceans he saw in many areas and the thriving populations of fish and birds in Hawaii’s Papahānaumokuākea marine sanctuary, created by US President George Bush in 2006. Paul Scrambler, The Examiner
METRE – LENGTH OF TUNA IVAN CAUGHT IN 2003
CENTIMETRES – LENGTH OF TUNA IVAN CAUGHT IN 2013 YEARS IVAN HAS BEEN SAILING YACHTS
THE FUTURE Here in Australia, weâ€™re lucky. We lead the way in protecting our oceans, with marine parks and sanctuaries providing fish with the space to breed, giving threatened species a home and creating a powerful network of tourism assets. NSW has a proud history of protecting its marine life. Successive governments on all sides of politics have recognised the importance of marine parks and share a legacy that towns, communities and the environment benefits from today thanks to their foresight. However NSW now faces the prospect of being the only place in the world to be taking a backwards step on marine protection. Letâ€™s keep our marine parks intact. Our marine wildlife, our communities and our economy depend on it.
TAKE ACTION We know we can change the world for our marine life because we’ve done it before. Thanks to community action from ordinary Australians, we no longer hunt whales, but protect them instead. And because of the actions of 750,000 people demanding greater marine protection, Australia’s deeper Commonwealth waters are now home to the greatest network of marine parks in the world. These hard fought campaigns were championed by people like you. And yet our precious marine life closer to home in NSW now needs your help. The NSW Government has been wavering on its commitment to safeguard our seas. They’ve reduced protection within our marine parks and allowed fishing within our protected marine sanctuaries. If you love our oceans and the wildlife that call them home, stand with us to save the sanctuaries that save our marine life
You can show your support for NSW’s marine parks in two important but easy ways:
Contact the Premier.
Come together with more than 50,000 people from across Australia who have already become part of the Big Blue Army. Join us to save the sanctuaries that save our marine life: www.saveourmarinelife.org.au.
A simple phone call or email can make a world of difference for our marine life. You don’t need to be an expert - you just need to show you care. Please call the Premier on (02) 9228 5239 or send an email via http://www.premier.nsw.gov.au/
If we don’t act, who will?
With special thanks to the Earth Welfare Foundation, the Madden Sainsbury Foundation, the Madirriny Foundation and the Ross Knowles Foundation.