Sunday, February 6, 2011

No more talk – We need action now!!

With recent flooding across Queensland having a dramatic impact on our wildlife it is easy to blame Mother Nature for the damage she has caused.  There is no doubt these floods have impacted on our marine wildlife as habitat and food sources suffer damage from pollution in flood plumes sent hurtling into some of our most precious marine environments, including the Great Barrier Reef.

However, it is important to remember that there is a much more insidious threat to our precious marine life which is being left largely unchecked along the Queensland coastline.  Coastal development is listed as a threatening process in nearly all of the critically endangered marine species, including dugong, marine turtles and coastal dolphins such as the Indo Pacific humpback.  We know it is impacting and yet we keep approving developments and our wildlife is paying the ultimate price.

Seagrass beds are likely to suffer the most damage from flooding.   Seagrass is a food source for the critically endangered dugong and green turtles as well as providing shelter and habitat for many other marine species.   

Flooding is a natural phenomenon and one which our marine ecosystems are designed to recover from.   For example, the dugong population in the Great Sandy Strait was able to recover from the 1992 Mary River flood thanks to the sanctuary provided by the southern Great Sandy Strait where seagrass meadows were far enough away from the impacts to provide an alternate food source for the northern population.  Whilst many dugong died in this flood the southern region was able to sustain sufficient dugong to enable the population in the entire Great Sandy Strait / Hervey Bay area to recover to now be the largest population in SE Queensland.

However, the resilience of the marine environment to recover from these natural events is being eroded by the impacts of coastal development.  Development directly removes or damages mangroves and seagrass meadows as well as increasing the pollution and debris flowing into the marine environment.

The negative impacts of coastal development on our marine environment are permanent.  Habitat destroyed by coastal development never comes back and marine species die.  It is as simple as that.

But the good news is we have direct control over these impacts.  We can make a choice to reject developments in areas recognised for their high biodiversity value and provide genuine long term protection for some of our most productive and diverse marine ecosystems and the wildlife that live there.

The southern Great Sandy Strait, Cooloola Coast area is the sand passage estuary lying between World Heritage listed Fraser Island and the mainland.  It is home to the largest dugong population in SE Queensland with seagrass meadows in the area able to support dugong herds that are amongst the highest densities in the world.  This diverse marine ecosystem also supports the endangered loggerhead, green and hawksbill turtles, a wide diversity of birds, reptiles and fish species.  It is a nursery for the marine life in the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. 

However, with two marina developments proposed for the southern Great Sandy Strait waterways we are in real danger of losing one of the last remaining pristine and diverse marine ecosystems on the Queensland coast.  

Once the developments take place the slow erosion of the values continues.  Pollution, vessel interaction with marine species, marine debris and further habitat destruction from the increased use of the waterways are the ongoing impacts that our wildlife will face.  We have seen this in Moreton Bay and will continue to see it in highly developed areas.

There are now many Government reports and policy documents which recognise that Australia’s biodiversity is declining.  Unfortunately these policies are only slowly taking hold, with the Queensland biodiversity strategy, coastal plan and other reviews all remaining in draft form.   Our wildlife can no longer wait for policy to catch up.

The business as usual approach while these critical environmental policy documents are worked through is unacceptable.  At the very least an embargo on developments in areas recognised for their high biodiversity is required immediately to allow the new policy direction to take hold.   Protection at the ecosystem level is now widely recognised as the only way forward.  An embargo will give short term protection while proper assessment at the ecosystem level can take place.

This is a matter of life and death for our wildlife.  We cannot stop flooding, but we can stop development and mitigate other human related threats.  Coastal development in the southern Great Sandy Strait and Cooloola region really is the greatest threat the dugong, marine turtles and many other species that live there face.  We must speak up on their behalf to save their home. 

The time for action for our threatened marine species is right now and I need your help to get this message through to our politicians.    Talking is no longer an option.

I am calling on all Australians to make a real difference to endangered marine wildlife by getting behind the ‘Click and Save Tin Can Bay’ campaign.  This is your chance to send a direct message to Minister Tony Burke that we want real action now.  No more talking while our wildlife disappears.

Australians want a future that includes and cherishes the natural beauty and diversity of wildlife that we are known for worldwide.  We are now asking our politicians to recognise this and take immediate action.

To send a clear message to Minister Burke and have your say head to .  It will only take a few seconds out of your busy life but will make a lifetime of difference to our endangered marine wildlife.

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