Male Sea LionThe M/Y Steve Irwin travelling up the east coast of Australia on
Operation Reef Defence during July & August (Photo Credit: Tara Lambourne / Sea Shepherd).

Just over a month ago now, the M/Y Steve Irwin departed our ship's Operation Base in Seaworks, Williamstown, as part of the Stop Adani Alliance, in opposition of one of the word's largest proposed coal mines - the Adani Carmichael mine - in defence of the Great Barrier Reef, and any chance in a liveable climate for our children. The foundations, extensive and intensive planning, logistics and passion for a campaign were all in place; however, would the campaign live up to the expectations?

We sailed up the east coast of Australia on a wave of community support; our first stop was the iconic Sydney Harbour. The Irwin docked between two Australian icons, the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge, in essence, we were sitting by two Aussie icons in defence of a world-renowned icon in our Great Barrier Reef. With the likes of Bob Brown, Geoffrey Cousins, actors David Field and Kerry Armstrong coming out in defence of the Reef, the campaign had already received national and global media to launch the Irwin northwards towards Abbot Point. Many other VIPs also threw their hat in the ring for the Reef with Jo Beth Taylor, Xavier Rudd, Tay Oskee and the Veronicas also getting onboard the campaign in Brisbane, as proud Australians standing up for what is right.

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1) Onshore Sea Shepherd volunteer Rachel Clemens 2) M/Y Steve Irwin Captain Mal Holland 
3) Operation Reef Defence Campaign Coordinator Scott Wallace 
4) Sea Shepherd Australia Managing Director Jeff Hansen 5) Musician Xavier Rudd 6) Muscian Nick Humblet
7) Onhore Sea Shepherd volunteer Rennae Miers 8) Lisa Origliasso of The Veronicas 9) Entertainer & MC Jo Beth Taylor 10) Jessica Origliasso of The Veronicas (Image Credit: Tara Lambourne / Sea Shepherd.)

With each of the dozen towns, communities or cities the M/Y Steve Irwin visited, the crew received a heroes welcome; be that out to sea via Humpback whale escort, or the public coming out in canoes, yachts, paddle-boards or whatever they could find, or the welcoming on the beach/dock/community hall to the sound of loud cheers and drums. These receptions lifted the crews spirits, to keep them changing forward in defence of the reef. Australians in their thousands were coming out swinging in defence of the Reef, showing that the majority of Australians are in opposition of Adani, however it was the notes from the Aussie kids that really hit home, with lovely hand made cards telling stories of what the reef means to them, with drawings of Nemo, whales and the reef, and that they want it protected. 

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Hundreds of supporters turn out for our Line In the Sand event at Broadbeach to #StopAdani in the Gold Coast
(Image Credit: Tara Lambourne / Sea Shepherd).

Many of the towns we visited had been standing up against Adani for several years, and it was clear that the Steve Irwin’s visit had given the community a huge lift. One of Operation Reef Defence's (ORD) main goals was to acknowledge the great work being done by all these towns, and to re-enforce that we are with them in their fight, however what effectively the Steve Irwin’s trip did was to connect all these communities together, as we stand strong for the Great Barrier Reef.

As we sailed further north to Reef country we also saw the dependance more so on the health of the reef from an economic tourism perspective as many towns would simply not survive if we lost the Reef, especially as the reef directly and indirectly supports 64,000 jobs, not to mention the thousands of farming jobs being put at risk, with Adani promised unlimited free access to precious groundwater from the Galilee Basin.

As the Irwin headed north, so too did our Brisbane chapter via road led by our tireless and passionate volunteers, Rennae Miers and Rachael Clemens, to provide critical ground support to the Irwin at each location, and liaise with the local community and other conservation groups.

A Githabul man, who served as Quartermaster, by the name of Jarmbi was another stroke of magic for the campaign with Jarmbi connecting us deeper to the natural world and linking us with Indigenous elders and groups along the way, ensuring that protocol was followed with some powerful, heartfelt and passionate welcoming ceremonies all the way to Abbot Point. In essence this was part of the campaign was a real privilege to be a part of, cementing the crews passion for Mother Nature and our resolve to continue to work with Indigenous Australians whose ancestors go back 50,000 plus years, living in peace and harmony with the natural world, a way of life we must all learn from if we are to have a real future on this planet. 

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Githabul man Jarmbi, who served as Quartermaster on the M/Y Steve Irwin during the campaign retrieves
a plastic Coles Better Bag from the ocean off Mackay in Queensland (Image Credit: Tara Lambourne / Sea Shepherd). 

In solidarity and with respect, we sailed to Abbot Point with Ngaro elder Ken Dodds and tireless "Frontline Action on Coal” activists, in showing support that our commitment to opposing the Adani coal mine in defence of the Reef does not end with the conclusion of the at sea component of Operation Reef Defence. Arriving at Abbott Point, it was very clear to see that this is such a beautiful and pristine part of Australia, with stunning coastlines, sacred and ceremonial Aboriginal land with fragile wetlands and no place for a massive coal port, which is built right on top of the wetlands, with Adani already causing toxic spill damage to these beautiful wetlands. Not the mention the massive coal ships, that load up their climate catastrophe coal and head right through our Great Barrier Reef, further putting our reef and all reefs globally at severe risk.

As we sailed further into coal country, the campaign received many attacks from the coal industry, which was a good sign for the campaign, as they say, "first they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you and then you win". Sea Shepherd is not anti mining, however when a project by an untrustworthy company with a terrible environmental and humanitarian track record, “promising" only 1,400 jobs, wants to build one of the worlds biggest coal mines that threatens our Great Barrier Reef and any chance in a liveable climate for our children, and puts at risk 64,000 tourism related jobs and thousands of farming jobs, then we have to come together, shoulder to shoulder, and say no.  

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The crew of the M/Y Steve Irwin in front of Cape Byron Lighthouse on Operation Reef Defence (Image Credit: Tara Lambourne / Sea Shepherd).

Our Great Barrier Reef is an Australian icon. She is the largest living thing on the planet, however, she is hurting. She is half-dead and when us Aussies are down, we rally and support one another, and it would be un-Australian to not defend her with everything that we have, and it would be un-Australian to support, in anyway shape of form, this insane Adani Carmichael coal mine.

As we sailed up the coast and visited the various communities, towns, and cities, one thing was made clear: Australians do not want to trade their Great Barrier Reef for one of the world's biggest ecologically, destructive coal mines. Australians are unanimously choosing coral over coal.

Simply put, if the Adani coal mine were to proceed, say goodbye to our Great Barrier Reef, which is simply not acceptable. Losing this fight for the Reef is not an option.

Many people don’t realise that most of the air that we humans breathe actually comes from our oceans, however, the scary reality is that we are missing 40 percent of the phytoplankton that give us the air that we breathe, which is caused by climate change and the burning of fossil fuels. In essence, our planet's ability to support life hangs by a thread. This is more than just the opposition of a coal mine; it's more than just a battle to save the Great Barrier Reef. It's a fight for our very existence on this planet, and if there is one thing worth fighting for on this planet earth, we call home, it's life.

Sea Shepherd’s ultimate goal and vision is to one day not need to exist, that we live in peace and harmony with the natural world, what a world that would be, lets go forward and make that dream a reality, together starting with defending our Great Barrier Reef and any chance in a liveable climate for our kids in opposing the insanity of the Adani coal mine.

Sea Shepherd would like to acknowledge all the groups that have been fighting for several years in opposition of the Adani coal mine. Sea Shepherd would also like to thank all the wonderful people that made this campaign a massive success, be that the Indigenous groups, communities, politicians, musicians, actors, organisations and of course Sea Shepherd staff, advisors, directors, crew, volunteers, donors and supporters.

With great respect and appreciation,
Yours in defence of the Great Barrier Reef, 
For the Oceans and future generations, 

Jeff Hansen
Managing Director,
Sea Shepherd Australia

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