Commentary by Jeff Hansen, Campaign Leader, Operation Jeedara 2018:
Sea Shepherd’s Steve Irwin crew is currently facilitating a two-week ecological marine survey, with marine scientists of remote offshore island marine park sanctuary zones in the Investigator Group.
The Investigator Group Wilderness Protection Area is a protected area located in the Investigator Group of islands off the west coast of Eyre Peninsula in South Australia between 25 kilometres (16 miles) to 70 kilometres (43 miles) south-west of Elliston. The wilderness protection area was proclaimed in August 2011 under the Wilderness Protection Act 1992 in order to protect "important haul-out areas for endangered Australian sea lion and long nosed fur seal" and habitat for species such as White-faced storm petrels, Cape Barren geese and mutton birds and the Pearson Island black-footed rock-wallaby. The Wilderness Protection Area is classified as an IUCN Category Ib protected area.
There are 19 marine parks and 83 sanctuary zones in South Australia. Marine park boundaries were proclaimed in 2009, with management plans proclaimed in 2012 and full implementation from 1st October 2014 when fishing restrictions began inside sanctuary zones. About 85 per cent of southern Australia’s marine life is not found anywhere else in the world. In 2012, the South Australian Marine Parks network was dedicated in order to conserve this significant biodiversity for the long term.
Marine surveys will take place off Top Gallant, Ward, Flinders and Pearson Isles, which are all part of the Investigator Group Wilderness Protection Area. These islands were formed between 8750 and 10,500 years ago following the rise of sea levels at the start of the Holocene period.
The scientists will conduct up to four dives a day per Island location conducting marine surveys to compare with previous data (measuring size, abundance, biodiversity etc.) to check if the sanctuaries are working.
The jewel in the South Australia’s Marine Park network is Pearson Isles, which on land is a wilderness protection area and the surrounds are a marine Sanctuary Zone, in recognition for the rich biodiversity that reside.
Pearson Isles has outstanding conservation significance. The spectacular Pearson Island rises sharply to 200m above sea level. The waters have an abundance of large fish, such as white and gummy sharks, western blue groper, harlequin fish and southern blue devils and invertebrates such as soft corals and sponges, whilst the islands provide habitat for migratory birds and SA’s largest breeding colony of little penguins. In addition to being home to endangered, yet charismatic Australian sea lions, long nosed fur seals and weedy seadragons.
Sanctuary zones in places like off Kangaroo Island, have seen species such as the southern rock lobster, as much as three to four times larger than those outside the sanctuary zones (where fishing activity is allowed), and this is only after just over two years of the sanctuary being in effect. Whether fish or crustacean, the larger the species can reach, the more eggs they produce, highlighting once again the critical importance of marine sanctuaries. This is why many people that fish, support marine sanctuaries as they see the benefits of spill over affects from sanctuaries zones.
Our oceans provide humanity with two out of every three breaths we draw, in essence they are our primary life support system. However, our oceans globally are in deep trouble, and a healthy ocean is one that is rich in biodiversity. Putting aside sanctuaries for marine life, is critical for our oceans survival, especially for species such as the playful, yet endangered Australian sea lion.
Our marine life, that maintain our primary life support systems of our oceans, need safe haven. They need places where they can rest, recover, grow to full maturity, reproduce and in essence thrive. Putting aside sanctuary areas for marine life, benefits all humanity, be that from the eco tourism sector, fisheries, or a planets ability to support life.
Our oceans can recover, if they are given a chance. Marine sanctuaries give our oceans and precious marine life that chance.
It is Sea Shepherd’s hope that marine sanctuaries, that are protected, will one day give us a glimpse of what our oceans were like, before us.
Sea Shepherd thanks all our supporters for being a part of our vision, to defend, conserve and protect our oceans globally for the love of the natural world, and in defence of our primary life support.
Thank you for making Operation Jeedara 2018, our ongoing Great Australian Bight defence campaign, possible.
Operation Jeedara 2018
1. Report done by South Australian Research and Development Institute SARDI to the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources (DEWNR).
Make sure you watch Jeedara – The Film on iTunes - our remarkable true story of Sea Shepherd’s Operation Jeedara in 2016 to take on Big Oil in the Great Australian Bight: https://apple.co/2otwl5j
Jeedara - The Book is a tribute to the Bight’s rich marine ecosystem and our crucial 2016 campaign to help protect them: https://bit.ly/2pfQ5ur