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Big surf Lennox Head Saturday July 19

Photos copyright Mic Smith
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Whale calf dies in Gold Coast shark nets

A humpback calf has died in a shark net off Bilinga Beach in the Gold Coast.

The calf was trying to swim under the net when it was caught, Queensland Fisheries Shark Control Manager Jeff Krause told Gold Coast ABC this morning.

Mr Krause says the whale was already dead when the Marine Animal Release Team arrived.

It’s been 10 years since a humpback died in a control program shark net, the Manager of the shark net program says.

The mother has gone on her way, he says.

Shark Control Program nets and drumlines, situated near 85 beaches to protect swimmers, snared a total of 713 sharks in 2012, according to Queensland government data reported in a Guardian article about a humpback that was released from a Sunshine Coast shark net a year ago.

A freedom of information-obtained analysis from 2009 shows seven dugongs, 36 sea turtles, 90 dolphins and two humpback whales were caught and killed by shark nets in five years between 2004 and 2009.

Anyone who spots a whale or other marine animal tangled in fishing gear or shark netting should call the 24-hour Shark Hotline on 1800 806 891.

Back to the scene: Broadwater dugong sighting

Surfers used to see dugongs on the seaward side of South Stradbroke up till 5 years ago.

Surfers used to see dugongs on the seaward side of South Stradbroke up till 5 years ago.

Click here to watch Mic Smith’s ABC Open video where a fisherman revisits where he saw a dugong in the Gold Coast Broadwater

Friday night turtle II

Originally posted on Walking the cat:

turtle (1 of 1)Photo taken by the husband in Marsa Fukeri (Egypt) earlier this year. Notice the remora latched onto her back. We repeatedly watched turtles trying to scrape off their somewhat cumbersome passengers but these guys are usually back in place within seconds.

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Palm Beach humpback whale rescue

July 10.

Text and photos by Mic Smith

This young humpback has just been towed out of shallow water but is still in the shallows inside the surf break.

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The whale has been stranded for about 36 hours on Palm Beach, Gold Coast.

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A major rescue attempt has been running since the stranding, with excavators, tents to shield it from the sun, the Seaworld boat, ropes, harnesses and a rescue team. Numerous police have cordoned off  a large crowd to give the whale some space and reduce the stress of the intervention.

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It was emotional for the large crowd during the highs and lows of the rescue. At about 7am the whale seemed very weak and didn’t appear to be responding well to being dragged into deeper water.

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By 8.15, however, the whale was able to swim again and went straight out to sea.


Muttonbird bander baffled by chick’s absence

May 2014.

By Mic Smith

A Port Fairy bird bander is baffled by low numbers of mutton bird chicks in their burrows at a well know nesting area.

Short-tailed Shearwater expert in Port Fairy, Philip Du Guesclin, says in one night only 19 chicks were found.

Mr Du Guesclin, who has been banding the chicks for 30 years, says he is baffled to find so few as he usually finds between 50 and 150 chicks in a night to band.

The banding is done immediately after the adults leave for their annual migration to Japan, Alaska and Siberia. The adults give the chicks a last feed before they go and the chicks follow them a few weeks later in early May.

Mr Du Guesclin says he is not sure if the chicks had left early or weren’t there in the first place.

He says this is the best time to assess the bird numbers as the chicks move out of the nests at night to start to warm up for the long flights ahead, so there is less chance of injuring birds when treading on burrows.

Last year thousands of mutton birds washed up dead or dying along the Australian East coast on their return journey from the northern hemisphere.


Beckham makes stand against rhino horn

David Beckham launches the #WhoseSideAreYouOn campaign against the trade and consumption of endangered wild animal parts. Photo from United for Wildlife Facebook page.

David Beckham launches the #WhoseSideAreYouOn campaign against the trade and consumption of endangered wild animal parts. Photo from United for Wildlife Facebook page.

By Mic Smith

Ask any Vietnamese and they’ll say one of the biggest international stars of football is David Beckham.

So when Beckham the former Manchester United football player launches a campaign against the buying of rhino horn (sung te giac) and ivory, there’s a pretty good chance that people will switch on to what he is saying

Beckham, who debuted with Manchester United in 1992 and played for England in three FIFA World Cups, teamed last week with England’s Duke of Cambridge, Prince William, to put pressure on consumers of illegal wildlife products.

People who are buying or using the parts of endangered animals like rhinos and elephants need to consider what they are doing more closely, he said.

“Are we on the side of the criminals or are we on the side of the animals?” Beckham said.

“It really is devastating and we are in a world where our generation and the younger generation really can make a difference and we need to do it now,” he said.

The “United for Wildlife” campaign led by the legendary footballer Beckham and Prince William aims to bring the trade in wild animal parts like rhino horn out in the open and show the world what is happening.

The campaign slogan #WhoseSideAreYouOn invites people to side with Beckham on Twitter in this “deadly game” against the dealers and consumers of endangered animal parts like rhino horn.

For the campaign to be successful at reducing trade and consumption of rhino horn, Vietnam is an important target for Beckham’s message as Vietnam has one of the highest rates of rhino horn consumption in the world.

In a 2013 article on the official Manchester United website MU’s commercial director Richard Arnold said some 30 million supporters watched the team on TV in 2012 and over 2.4 million Vietnamese fans have registered their interest in the English football club.

EDO objects to Queensland Government law changes to reduce standards for environmental approvals

Yesterday the Queensland Government passed amendments to the major projects legislation, the State Development and Public Works Organisation Act 1971 (Qld) (SDPWO Act), EDO states on its website.

The Act is part of the ‘one stop shop’ model of delegating approval powers from the Commonwealth to the States, to approve destructive impacts on the places you love, such as World Heritage Areas, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and other federally-listed species and matters of national environmental significance.

Instead of the Commonwealth deciding approvals under the stronger legislation, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth) (EPBC Act), the changes will allow the Qld Coordinator General to use the major development legislation to approve impacts on matters of national environmental significance, using inferior criteria compared with the EPBC Act.

Queensland Coordinator General Barry Broe's professional background is in infrastructure, major projects and transport across all aspects of planning, design, funding, procurement, construction, operations and maintenance

Queensland Coordinator General Barry Broe’s professional background is in infrastructure, major projects and transport across all aspects of planning, design, funding, procurement, construction, operations and maintenance

The Coordinator General signed off in May on the Carmichael Mine, Australia’s potentially biggest coalmine, which will use the extra ports at Abbot Point when the expansion goes ahead.

The Environmental Defenders Office’s main points of concern are:

  • This Bill, according to the draft Qld Approval Bilateral, would apply to all matters of national environmental significance, including the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and World Heritage. The Bill does not even meet the standards of the EPBC Act.
  • The Coordinator General, responsible for promoting development, is proposed as decision-maker yet has an insolvable conflict of interest, whereas under the EPBC Act the Federal Environment Minister makes decisions. For further information on the way the Coordinator General approves conditions, see the allegations reported by Four Corners here.
  • The Bill includes inferior public access to information compared to the EPBC Act and falls below standards for transparency.
  • The Bill includes inferior accountability provisions as less people qualify to go to Court to remedy illegality compared to the EPBC Act, and the declarations power is too narrow. The Bill falls below basic standards of accountability for public interest environmental legislation. For example in 2003 and 2004, the Nathan Dam Federal Court case was successful in correcting serious legal errors that impacted on the Great Barrier Reef but the applicants would not have qualified to go to Court under the inferior proposed rules in the Bill.
  • Weakened rules apply in the Bill as to if an action must undergo assessment and approval as a ‘bilateral project declaration’ compared to a ‘controlled action’ decision by the Cth. Nathan Dam again is an example of the existing EPBC Act working.
  • The existing SDPWOA includes inferior provisions to outlaw supply of false and misleading documents compared to EPBC Act. For an example of Cth legislation working, see the current Abbot Point T3 EPBC 2008/4468 investigation.
  • The Bill lacks any power to reject clearly unacceptable project whereas such efficient powers exist under EPBC Act. This risks wasting public time and money. For example of how this works, see the ‘clearly unacceptable’ decision in GKI Resort EPBC 2009/5095.

Last month, EDO Qld presented their concerns to the Parliamentary Committee considering the Bill. Read EDO Qld’s tabled supplementary submissions here.

The changes are also relevant to the Draft Approval Bilateral Agreement, which is open for public comment until 13 June 2014.

The approval bilateral agreement is the instrument giving effect to the one stop shop model and the full delegation of approval powers to Qld.

EDO Qld is currently preparing public information on this which will be released shortly.

The Abbott Government cut funding to legal aid across the board, including cutting all funding to the Environmental Defenders Office, which had been federally funded for 20 years. See more on that story here.

With no money from federal or state funding EDO relies on donations to operate.

PSA by ENV re Tiger Bone

ENV partners with HSI


Humpback bubble circle


Humpbacks use bubble curtains to capture fish as these photos from Whale and Dolphin Conservation’s Facebook page show.

The whales dive and then swim back towards the surface in a circular pattern. As they swim to the surface, they “blow bubbles” that form a ring, entrapping and concentrating fish into a ball, WDC says.

The feeding behaviour is often performed in groups with clear roles defining who will create the bubbles and who will eat first.

According to one study done by the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, whales will sometimes poach fish that other whales entrap with the bubble technique.

Whales of the Australian East Coast population sometimes use this technique in the Antarctic during summer, when they grow massive amounts of blubber. They tend to eat much less during the migration season up to the Great Barrier Reef.


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