Pearson Isles - Mother Nature's MasterpieceThe beautiful Pearson Isles Wilderness Protection Area & Marine Sanctuary. Photo Credit: Eliza Muirhead / Sea Shepherd. 

Commentary/Update from Jeff Hansen, Campaign Leader, Operation Jeedara 2018

Pearson Isles Pearson Isles lies approximately 70 kilometres (43 miles) south-west of Elliston, off the west coast of Eyre Peninsula in South Australia. The Isles are part of the Investigator Group Wilderness Protection Area, in recognition for the immense ecological value these Isles contain. The waters adjoining Pearson Isles are part of a sanctuary zone in the Investigator Marine Park.

A Blue Throat Wrasse and Fucoid Algae were spotted in the Pearson Island Sanctuary Zone after our very first marine survey dive during Operation Jeedara 2018!.Nature on a grand scale: Pearson Isles Wilderness Protection Area and Marine Park. Photo Credit: Eliza Muirhead / Sea Shepherd.

When Sea Shepherd’s Steve Irwin crew visited Pearson back in 2016, many of us felt that upon leaving, a piece of us was left behind. Pearson Isles is a very special place that gets in your blood very easily. 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 New Zealand (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.

Extremely rare and endangered Black-footed Rock Wallabies spotted at Pearson Isles during Operation Jeedara 2018.Extremely rare and endangered Black-footed Rock Wallabies spotted at Pearson Isles during Operation Jeedara 2018. Photo Credit: Eliza Muirhead / Sea Shepherd. 

Upon approaching Pearson, one thing that strikes you is the amazing contrasting colours, that constantly change throughout the day, the vegetation, the sheer cliffs and hollows and shapes carved out by thousands of years of the harsh weather in the Bight. Truly a visual feast in every direction, then there are the residents, as you come ashore the welcoming party are Australian endangered sea lions, that leave their sun bathing to rush out with excitement to say hello. 

Pearson Isles: Contrasting colours change by the hour. Photo Credit: Eliza Muirhead / Sea Shepherd.Pearson Isles: Contrasting colours change by the hour. Photo Credit: Eliza Muirhead / Sea Shepherd. 

Some even over the course of our stay, coming up and yelping to get you in the water to play, as experienced by one of the marine scientist one morning, like a dog wanting you to throw a ball. Once your ashore, as you make your way towards some of the vegetation and rocky outcrops, stunning peninsula dragons scurry about, hiding under rock, a bush or stopping for a hand wave as many dragon species do, meaning submission, in that a larger dragon or in this case a larger species (human) has approached.

A rare Peninsula Dragon was found on a rock at Pearson Isles during Operation Jeedara. Photo Credit: Eliza Muirhead / Sea Shepherd.A rare Peninsula Dragon was found on a rock at Pearson Isles during Operation Jeedara. Photo Credit: Eliza Muirhead / Sea Shepherd.

As you admire the colours and patterns of these magnificent dragons, you can’t help but feel that your being watched, and upon looking up, there they are, a family group (mob) of resident black footed rock wallabies stand perfectly still in a game of stare that you stand no chance in winning. Eventually they kick off, bounding effortlessly up the step rocky slopes into crevices and caves made by thousands of years of weathering. As you continue your walk to one of the many summits, the wind picking up, you hear an unfamiliar sound as a pair of Cape Barren geese honk a warning as they strode through the undergrowth. As the wind gust increase as you near the summit, you look up to see a white bellied sea eagle, scanning the Pearson landscape for a meal.

are and beautiful Cape Barron Geese spotted at Pearson Isles Wildnerness Protection Area & Marine Park. Photo Credit: Eliza Muirhead / Sea Shepherd .Beautiful Cape Barren Geese spotted at Pearson Isles Wildnerness Protection Area & Marine Park.
Photo Credit: Eliza Muirhead / Sea Shepherd. 

Standing at the top, you efforts are easily rewarded as you look across the Pearson Isles Group, a place that was formed some 10,500 years ago, a range of thoughts sweep over you, however in reality, words can never do this place justice and pictures and video can try, but there is nothing like being at Pearson, a place that gets into your blood, a place that is alive, a place that is a real privilege to just be a part of, even if it is just a mere glimpse into the lives of the residents here as they go about their daily lives, living in peace and harmony with the natural world, in what really is the greatest show on earth.

Mother Nature really didn’t hold back when she created Pearson, truly a masterpiece that is of global significance and on par with the world-renowned Galapagos Islands, in my humble opinion.

Juvenile Australian Sea Lions are eager for some play time at Pearson Isles in the Great Australian Bight. There are only 13,000 left in the wild and it's up to us to make sure they remain protected. Photo Credit: Eliza Muirhead / Sea Shepherd.Juvenile Australian Sea Lions are eager for some play time at Pearson Isles in the Great Australian Bight. There are only 13,000 left in the wild and it's up to us to make sure they remain protected. Photo Credit: Eliza Muirhead / Sea Shepherd. 

Sea Shepherd would like to acknowledge the inspiring vision and relentless work that went in to getting Pearson Isles declared a wilderness protection area and sanctuary zone, the South Australian Government, Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources (DEWNR) with over 10 years of community consultation, highlighting the ecological and value to society, and conservation leaders like Peter Owen, Director of The Wilderness Society - South Australia, and the international science community and South Australian public.

Although BP and Chevron have pulled out of drilling for oil in the Bight, we still have big players in Statoil and Santos wanting to put places like Pearson at risk and the realities are that if NOPSEMA (National Offshore Petroleum, Safety, Environmental and Management Authority) approves drilling in the Bight and there is a blowout, Pearson will be covered in oil, these animal’s homes lost forever. An oil spill in the Bight would be impossible to clean-up and would reach most of Southern Australia, from WA to NSW.

If we can’t defend, conserve, protect and save places like save Pearson, what can we save? Sea Shepherd is committed to defending our oceans, especially globally unique, rich and biodiverse places like Pearson Isles.

An endangered Australian Sea Lion pup resting on a rock at Pearson Isles Marine Sanctuary Zone. Photo Credit: Eliza Muirhead / Sea Shepherd.An endangered Australian Sea Lion pup resting on a rock at Pearson Isles Marine Sanctuary Zone. Photo Credit: Eliza Muirhead / Sea Shepherd. 

Although Pearson has only been a sanctuary zone since October 2014 (3.5 years) we are already seeing improvements as our oceans can recover, if they are given a chance, if they are given sanctuary. Sea Shepherd’s vision is that one day a visit to Pearson will truly be like what it once was, before us. 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 of Islands.

Jeff Hansen
Campaign Leader, Operation Jeedara 2018

Watch Jeedara – The Film on iTunes - our remarkable true story of 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

 

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