Sea turtle’s view of the Great Barrier Reef, video


This video says about itself:

9 July 2015

The Great Barrier Reef is home to almost 6000 species. Thanks to GoPro, here’s what the journey through it looks like for one of them: a turtle’s eye view of the Reef

In order to find out more about the level of pollution affecting turtles within the Great Barrier Reef, WWF Australia are working on an innovative project in Queensland with the support of partners Banrock Station Wines Environmental Trust, James Cook University, University of Queensland, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, State and Commonwealth government agencies, Indigenous rangers and local community groups. As part of that project, the opportunity arose to very carefully fit a small GoPro camera to a turtle, to better understand the post-release behavior of tagged green turtles. The result is this amazing video.

A full ban on dumping in the Great Barrier Reef should happen in a matter of months. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Committee voted to maintain pressure on Australia to deliver on its promise to restore the health of the reef. Thank you to our 500,000 WWF supporters who spoke up to defend the reef!

Credit: Dr Ian Bell / Christine Hof

Refugees then and now, by Robert Fisk


This video says about itself:

The Truth About Refugees

19 June 2014

For World Refugee Day, Mary Tran, an Amnesty activist and young film-maker, has created a moving and thought-provoking video to highlight the plight of refugees in Australia’s offshore detention centres.

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Robert Fisk

Monday 13 July 2015

First rule of refugees – don’t be a Muslim if you want help

We now treat each refugee on the grounds of their race, religion or purpose of flight. We do not treat them as human beings

Nineteenth-century Americans were on safe ground when they inscribed the words of Emma Lazarus on the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

A comparatively new country, the United States needed the destitute of Europe – the Irish, the Jews of Russia – to expand their nation. There was no question of referring to the Irish “poor” as “economic migrants” or to those Jews “yearning to breathe free” as “asylum seekers” or “political refugees” from the Tsar’s pogroms.

In the decades to come, however, the world assumed that the “huddled masses” could be returned in safety to their land of origin. Thus US and other “Christian” nations decided that survivors of the 1915 Armenian genocide should go back to what had been their homes in “Western Armenia” (Ottoman Anatolia). And many hundreds of thousands of Armenians lingered on the edge of Turkey in the hope that the victors of the First World War would return them to lands no longer controlled by their Ottoman Turkish killers.

America’s Near East Relief was the first great humanitarian organisation of its kind, and the millions of dollars which it raised in the US saved the lives of countless Armenian refugees – especially orphans – scattered around the Arab world.

Now comes a deeply moving book by University of California human rights professor Keith Watenpaugh who has studied the history of humanitarianism in the Middle East from the files of the League of Nations, the UN’s poor old predecessor.

In the years after the 1914-18 war, the international community abandoned the Armenian “right of return”. Watenpaugh’s research takes in the work of the Aleppo Rescue Home, whose Danish director Karen Jeppe wrote in 1922 that “the Armenian is possessed of a wonderful gift ‘to create bread from stones’.” The quotation is based on Matthew 4: 3-4 and suggests that the Armenians have such resilience that they can perform miracles – and survive as a people.

Watenpaugh’s book, the author acknowledges, “was written at a time when the contemporary ‘Middle East’ descended into a humanitarian disaster that, in its degree of suffering and international indifference, resembles the one that occurred during and following the First World War.”

How right he is. Only of course, the world changed. The humanitarian Americans of the 19th century who welcomed the pogromed Jews of Russia were far less keen to give sanctuary to the Jewish victims of Hitler. Before the Second World War, like European nations, they turned them away. And after the Holocaust, they preferred that Jewish survivors should go to their “true” home in Palestine rather than settle in the US.

British power in Palestine collapsed and 750,000 Arab Palestinian refugees were created. Their existence today and that of their descendants remains a humanitarian scandal. But somewhere, the history of that “today” ended and another scandal began. In the break-up of the present-day Middle East to which Watenpaugh refers, Christian refugees from Iraq and Syria and Egypt – like those Armenians who headed for America and Europe in the 1920s – have generally been received by “Christian” countries. But most of the refugees today are Muslims fleeing Muslims and they are not receiving the same generosity.

I’ve walked around their refugee camps in Lebanon, amid squalor and disease, and talked to mothers who have already lost their children. Last week, I watched them by the hundred streaming towards the Macedonian border with Greece, sweltering in the heat, beaten by border guards in their attempts to enter central Europe. They are tough, resilient, not unlike those Armenians who could “create bread from stones”.

The Americans provided “safe haven” for the Kurds of Iraq in 1991 – after the Kurds had risen against Saddam at America’s bidding. But there are no more safe havens; the 20th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre this weekend is proof enough. And while we now save these people from the waters of the Mediterranean, we do not want them.

Why? Because they are Muslims and not Christians – or “Westerners” as we prefer to call ourselves today? I fear so.

The UN relief organisations, MSF, the Red Cross, Oxfam and the rest cannot hope to protect or resettle the new exodus from the crumbling Middle East. International humanitarianism cannot overcome national sovereignties. If Greece eventually collapses, what will we do with millions of Greek refugees on the edge of our shrunken “Europe”? Treat them with contempt as EU ministers were doing this weekend? Or allow them to dribble north into “our” lands because they are Christian and not Arab Muslims?

Alas, we now treat each refugee on the grounds of their race, religion or purpose of flight (“migration”). We do not treat them as human beings. And thus we betray all our religions and all our cultures.

I have met no one with an answer to this great moral dilemma of our times. But here is the joint statement of a US-sponsored conference in 1927 which acknowledged that international aid was administered with a pro-Christian and anti-Muslim bias after the earlier Middle East catastrophe: “People [in] the field would rather have less money and a statesman-like programme than large sums for objects that are not carefully thought out…”

The key word is statesman-like. The Middle East refugees possessed such a man after the Great War, an individual who cared for the poor and the huddled masses yearning to breathe free. He inspired the creation of an international travel document for refugees recognised by 54 states in the case of former Russian citizens (Russians, Poles, Latvian Ukrainians, Turkic Muslims), and 38 in the case of Armenians. He was a polar explorer whose name is now almost forgotten: Fridtjof Nansen. He even won the Nobel Peace Prize. And that, too, has been forgotten.

Western Australian fish threatened by climate change


This video is called Wildlife of Western Australia.

From the Australian Broadcasting Corporation:

Tropical fish in WA Kimberley facing extinction from climate change, researchers say

By Erin Parke

12 July 2015

Entire species of tropical fish could be wiped out by climate change, according to a research team that has spent months carrying out a study in Western Australia’s north.

The team from the University of Melbourne is looking at how sensitive freshwater species are to small increases in water temperatures.

PhD student Matthew Le Feuvre said the results were cause for concern.

“We’re finding a lot of species are living potentially very close to their maximum thermal limit, so these species will be very sensitive should the climate change in the Kimberley,” Mr Le Feuvre said.

“If water temperatures and air temperatures increase by just a degree or two, you could potentially see a lot of species fail to adapt and go extinct as a result, or at least become far more vulnerable.”

The team focussed on 18 species that are found only in the river systems of the Kimberley.

Until now, little research has been done on the river systems, partly because they are located in remote areas accessible only by helicopter or boat.

The University of Melbourne study involved eight months of trekking and camping in some of the most rugged terrain in Australia, to allow researchers to collect specimens.

“We’ll arrive at a beautiful spot in the Kimberley with a ute and a trailer fully loaded with sampling gear and a tinny, and then we basically throw the whole kitchen sink at it,” Le Feuvre said.

“We use a variety of nets, a baited underwater video camera, and we use an electro-fisher, which basically stuns the fish in the water and then you can scoop them out, which is a really useful tool for sampling fish.

“We also use traditional hook and line fishing techniques and also snorkelling, so we use a whole lot of methods at each site for a couple of days.”

The fish were packed into customised eskies for the 4,000 kilometre flight to laboratories at the University of Melbourne.

Testing Begins

In Melbourne, they were put into a flow-rest barometer, to measure the amount of oxygen they consumed as the water temperature was increased in tiny increments.

That is when the sensitivity of the fish was discovered, Mr Le Feuvre said.

“We’ve found that these species basically fail to function above 34 degrees, which is roughly the temp of the water you find in the Drysdale river in the wet season,” he said.

The Kimberley species were also considered to be highly vulnerable because of their unusually limited range.

“The Mitchell Falls Gudgeon [for example] is only found around the Mitchell Falls, so it’s only known for a couple of kilometres upstream from the falls, and a couple of kilometres downstream from the falls,” Mr Le Feuvre said.

“There’s one species from the Drysdale River that’s only been caught once… so it’s a really rare species and we failed to find it in more than eight months of fieldwork.”

It is hoped the work results in some of the species being added to a national register of threatened species.

While 20 per cent of Australian freshwater fish species are currently included on the register, none of the endemic Kimberley species are listed.

Conservation group Environs Kimberley said the research work was groundbreaking.

“So little research has been done in the remote areas of the Kimberley, and there’s so much more work to be done up there,” said Marine Projects Officer Jason Fowler.

“It’s certainly going to help build a case to protect these river systems.”

Save Australian Great Barrier Reef coral


This 29 June 2015 video from Australia says about itself:

Great Barrier Reef table coral provides vital shade for passing fish

Read more here.

Australian fur seals, new research


This video is called The Life of Australian Fur Seals, Arctocephalus pusillus doriferus, Montague Island, 2011.

From Deakin University in Australia:

July 2, 2015

Humans once hunted them, but may now hold key to fur seal survival

Oil rigs and artificial reefs are often given a bad rap for their environmental impact but they may be playing a vital role in feeding one of Australia’s largest sea creatures, still recovering from centuries of hunting by humans, new research led by Deakin scientists has found.

Researchers from Deakin’s Centre for Integrative Ecology within the School of Life and Environmental Sciences teamed up with National Geographic, the University of Tasmania and University of California Santa Cruz to investigate the feeding behaviour of the Australian fur seals in Bass Strait.

Associate Professor John Arnould said some seals carrying the National Geographic “crittercams” revealed they and other individuals congregated around human-made structures which act as artificial reefs attracting fish.

“These findings mean that man-made structures such as pipelines, cable routes, wells and shipwrecks could play a vital role in helping to improve the recovery rates of our fur seals,” he said.

“The Australian fur seal population is increasing at just two per cent a year and still sit at population levels below 60 per cent of what it was before the commercial sealing era in the 18th and 19th centuries.”

The researchers tracked the foraging patterns of 36 Australian fur seals from Kanowna Island in Bass Strait, using GPS loggers and dive recorders.

The research is published today in the latest edition of science journal PLOS One.

“While we know fish congregate around these structures, scientists don’t know a lot about their use by marine mammals and we were surprised at first to find the Australian fur seals were going to these area[s],” Associate Professor Arnould said.

“We found that 72% of the 36 seals we tracked spent time around the man-made structures, with pipelines and cable routes being the most frequented. More than a third of animals foraged near more than one type of structure.”

Associate Professor Arnould said man-made changes to natural habitats could often have negative effects on animals which lived in the regions surrounding them, including a reduction in foraging habitat, breeding sites and refuge from predators.

“Some species, however, can adapt to, and even benefit from, changes to their habitats,” he said.

“Indeed, man-made structures can provide a range of benefits for some species, from predator avoidance, thermoregulation, and breeding sites, to acting as important foraging areas.”

Associate Professor Arnould said seals and sea lions around the world had experienced variable rates of population recovery since the end of the sealing era.

“We have seen species that feed close to the surface have experienced rapid growth in numbers, populations of species that feed on the ocean floor, such as the Australian fur seal, have increased very slowly, are stable or in decline,” he said.

“It has been suggested that the low population recovery rates of these species could be due to them hunting in environments which for decades have been the focus of commercial fisheries using bottom trawlers that disrupt the habitat and remove the larger size-classes of species that the seals depend on for food.

“The Australian fur seal (Arctocephalus pusillus doriferus) feeds exclusively on the sea floor of the continental shelf on a wide variety of fish, octopus and squid species.”

Associate Professor Arnould said all but one of the Australian fur seal’s breeding colonies occurred on islands within Bass Strait, between the Australian mainland and Tasmania, which has an average depth of 60 metres and is considered to be a region of low food availability for marine predators.

“Therefore, structures like oil and gas rigs and pipelines that occur on the relatively featureless sea floor could provide a valuable prey habitat and promote foraging success for the species,” he said.

Explore further: Fur seal population bounces back while sea lions struggle

Australian bittern in Victoria


This video is called Australasian Bittern.

From Birdline Victoria in Australia:

Tuesday 30 June

Australian Bittern

Western Treatment Plant (Werribee)–Western Lagoons

Thanks to Paul Newman who spotted the bird, the bird spent most of the time in the drain on the left hand side as you enter Western Lagoons via Gate 2. It did, however, move around the centre ponds as well. Time was about 4pm.

Bernie OKeefe