7 November 2008
The discovery of hundreds of new marine species and previously unknown undersea mountains south of Tasmania highlighted the extraordinary environmental value of a newly-declared Commonwealth Marine Reserve Network, according to Environment Minister Peter Garrett.
Releasing the findings of two recent CSIRO marine research voyages to the Tasman Fracture and Huon Commonwealth Marine Reserves, Mr Garrett said the discoveries were a surprising insight into the biodiversity of the largely unexplored Southern Ocean.
“Scientists from around the world have analysed the fascinating findings of these voyages, which included 274 species new to science and a further 80 seamounts, or undersea mountains, which are some of the most biologically important habitats in our oceans,”
Mr Garrett said.
“The richness of molluscs found in these voyages has been described by marine scientists as astounding and requiring a complete rewrite of textbooks for this type of fauna.
A new species of Trichopeltarion. This species is restricted to seamounts in south-eastern Australia. Image courtesy of CSIRO.
“These discoveries, in just two of the 14 reserves which form the South-east Commonwealth Marine Regional Network, show just how important that network and indeed the entire Commonwealth marine jurisdiction is in conserving Australia’s remarkable deep ocean biodiversity.”
Reserves in the South-east Commonwealth Marine Reserve Network, declared in July 2007, cover a total of 226,000 sq km of ocean off Tasmania, Victoria, southern New South Wales and eastern South Australia.
Similar reserve networks will be developed in Australia’s other four marine regions over the next two years.
Data from this marine research project came from two surveys undertaken on the Marine National Facility Vessel – the RV Southern Surveyor – using multibeam sonar and underwater video transects, as well as seafloor sampling in November 2006 and April 2007.
As well as the 274 species new-to-science brought to the surface and analysed, 86 species previously unknown in Australian waters and 242 previously-studied species were encountered.
The newly-discovered 80 seamounts, detected using sophisticated sonar equipment onboard, raised the total in the region to at least 144, which is easily the highest concentration in Australian waters.
Scientists also discovered 145 new undersea canyons, raising the regional total to at least 276.
A management plan for the South-east Commonwealth Marine Reserve Network is in preparation and is expected to be released for public comment later in the year.
The Australian Government Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts contributed more than $900,000 to the CSIRO's $1.49 million project.
For more information, footage and still images, see:
- Teeming biodiversity discovered in extinct volcanoes off south-eastern Australia
- Marine voyages discover hundreds of new species in the Southern Ocean
- ScienceImage: Teeming biodiversity discovered in extinct volcanoes off south-eastern Australia
Cuttlefish, Great Barrier Reef. Image courtesy of GBRMPA.
The Greater Barrier Reef will benefit from water quality improvements and reduced run-off with the allocation of $23 million in Australian Government funding to natural resource and industry groups.
The funding is part of the Australian Government’s $200 million Reef Rescue package, which is designed to reduce the amount of fertilisers, chemicals and sediments entering waterways that drain to the Great Barrier Reef.
Details were announced by the Australian Government Environment Minister Peter Garrett and Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Tony Burke.
“The Australian Government recognises that many farmers have already carried out great work on their properties to improve land management practices,” Mr Burke said.
“Most of this $23 million will help farmers in the sugar, horticulture, grazing, cropping and dairy industries to continue that good work, which will boost productivity and reduce costs.
“Projects will include the use of GPS-guided farming to reduce soil compaction and erosion, managing and re-vegetating cane drains, and converting machinery to use fertilisers and herbicides more efficiently.
“The funding will also help research and development to improve reef lagoon water quality.”
Under Reef Rescue, regional and industry organisations work with private landholders and land managers to help the Great Barrier Reef resist the impacts of climate change.
The money will roll out in the next few weeks throughout Queensland coastal catchment groups and to industry.
“Improved land management can have a real impact on the health of this internationally renowned, World Heritage listed natural wonder. Through Caring for our Country, the Australian Government has set a clear objective of reducing nutrient and chemical discharge from land to the Reef by 25 per cent by 2010,”
Mr Garrett said.
“I am very pleased that through this program, the Australian Government is bringing together farmers, land managers, environmental groups and the industry in an unprecedented way to ensure that the Great Barrier Reef has the best chance of survival, particularly in the face of dangerous climate change.”
Five regional organisations will each receive up to $7 million to work with industry organisations, land managers and landholders to give the Reef a better chance to survive climate change impacts.
In addition, just over $1 million will support a partnership between five primary production industry organisations, the Queensland Farmers’ Federation and the Regional Groups Collective to raise awareness of the need for land management changes.
The Ministers said that land managers and landholders were also being supported to manage stock access to waterways, to prevent stock from trampling river banks and helping to reverse instability and erosion.
For more information visit www.nrm.gov.au
Whale. Image courtesy of Dave Paton.
Environment Minister Peter Garrett has announced the appointment of Mr Sandy Hollway AO as Australia’s Special Envoy for Whale Conservation.
Mr Garrett said Mr Hollway’s appointment was the next step in the Government’s comprehensive strategy to bring an end to commercial and so-called 'scientific' whaling.
“Mr Hollway's appointment builds on the intensive diplomatic engagement the Australian Government has undertaken to date and will see Australia deepen our dialogue with leaders in Japan and other countries ahead of the southern summer,” he said.
“Mr Hollway is a highly experienced former public servant with a strong background as a professional diplomat, and he brings to the position the mix of intellect, skills and experience necessary to help advance the Government’s objective of ending Japan's so-called 'scientific whaling' and improving the conservation of whales globally.”
Mr Garrett said the Envoy had had initial discussions in Japan and the United States with key officials, and Mr Hollway had reported to him and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Stephen Smith, on the progress of these discussions.
“Since coming to Government, we have taken a robust approach on the issue of commercial and so-called 'scientific' whaling, through bilateral dialogue with Japan, multilateral diplomatic representations and through an unprecedented reform agenda within the International Whaling Commission,” he said.
“At the recent Commission meeting in Chile, Australia's proposals to change the focus of the Commission to whale conservation were strongly supported by a substantial number of nations.
“Australia continues to work in co-operation with other countries to build a new global consensus on whale conservation.
“To that end, I look forward to Australia hosting an international workshop early next year to plan the non-lethal whale research partnership for the Southern Ocean.
“This partnership will be open to all nations and will direct research on internationally-agreed priorities and demonstrate once again that all essential whale research can be performed without killing a single whale.”
Mr Garrett said he remained hopeful that progress could be made ahead of the southern summer.
“We will continue our intensive engagement and will continue to consider all options to bring an end to commercial whaling, including possible international legal action.”
Lord Howe Island Marine Protected Area. Image courtesy of the Lord Howe Island Tourism Association.
A 14-minute video on Australia’s internationally-recognised Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) is now available on the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts Coasts and Oceans homepage.
The video, introduced by Minister Peter Garrett, explores the benefits of MPAs, including perspectives of marine industry and conservation sector stakeholders.
The video is available at:
Prawns. Image courtesy of the Bureau of Rural Sciences.
Projected changes in temperature, ocean currents, rainfall and extreme weather events due to climate change are likely to significantly influence fish stocks and marine ecosystems, a new report shows.
Minister for Climate Change and Water, Senator Penny Wong, released the CSIRO Implications of Climate Change for Australian Fisheries and Aquaculture report.
“The report is a preliminary assessment of the challenges posed by climate change to Australia’s $2.1 billion commercial fishing and aquaculture industry,” Senator Wong said.
“The report finds climate change is likely to affect not only the fishing industry itself, but also the regional and coastal communities the industry supports.
“It finds climate change impacts will vary by region and that many impacts are expected to be negative, with some data suggesting that effects may have already occurred.
“But the report finds there may be new opportunities for some wild fisheries where tropical species shift southward.”
Senator Wong said the report was another reminder of the need to tackle climate change through reducing carbon pollution.
“The Australian Government is currently working on the final design of our Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, to be released in a White Paper by the end of the year.”
Report findings of the potential impact of climate change on Australian fisheries include:
- spread of the long-spined sea urchin south along the east coast of Tasmania, with serious implications for the Tasmanian rock lobster and abalone fisheries, which together were worth more than $150 million in 2004-05
- considerable impacts on northern Australian prawn fisheries (worth $73 million in 2004-05)
- impacts on coral reefs, such as an increased incidence of coral bleaching, which will have flow-on effects for fisheries based on reef-associated species, such as coral trout and red emperor, and
- adverse impacts on catches of barramundi, prawns and mud crabs in the northern fisheries through changes in rainfall patterns.
The report is available from: http://www.climatechange.gov.au/impacts
Ocean view. Image courtesy of Alicja Mosbauer, DEWHA.
Australia's tsunami detection capability has been further enhanced with the deployment of another two Deep-ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunami (DARTTM) buoys off the North-west coast of Australia, Environment Minister Peter Garrett said.
“With five buoys now deployed off the Australian coast the Bureau is able to monitor changes in the sea level for signs of potential tsunami threat from the Sunda Trench and Timor Trough,” Mr Garrett said.
“The additional deep-ocean tsunami detection buoys will provide vital sea level observations for the west coast of Australia and real-time tsunami detection.”
Mr Garrett said the deployment of the additional two buoys took place on schedule as part of the rollout of the $68.9 million Australian Tsunami Warning System, which would also include the installation of sea level monitoring stations positioned around Australia’s coastline by mid-2009.
Dr Ray Canterford, head of the Bureau’s tsunami warning project, said: “the acquisition of this information is critical to providing real time forecasts that allow warnings to be provided with enough lead time to potentially reduce the loss of life and property in coastal communities.”
The DARTTM buoys consist of a bottom pressure sensor that is anchored to the seafloor and a companion moored surface buoy.
An acoustic link transmits data from the bottom pressure sensor to the surface buoy, and then satellite links relay the data to warning centres for scientific analysis by the Bureau of Meteorology.