Pacific Islanders Sail 11,000km to Deliver Message of Ocean Protection

November 19th, 2014 · News

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To a master traditional navigator like Tua Pittman from Raratonga in the Cook Islands, a canoe is much more than just a means of transport.

“The canoe is our island, the crew members are the community and the navigator is the leader,” Pittman says.

He continues, explaining that the converse is also true. “An island is our canoe, the community are the crew members and the politicians and leaders are the navigators.”

“On a canoe you are not just going from one destination to another using the stars, the moon, the sun and the birds. Navigation is using the philosophies of being a leader to show your crew members the light of life.”

It has been a whirlwind week for the crews of the flotilla of four vaka (sailing canoes built with fibreglass hulls but styled on traditional designs) since arriving in Sydney for the start of the World Parks Congress.

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What Lies Beneath: Google Goes Below Surface to Show Sydney Marine Sites

November 13th, 2014 · News

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By James Woodford

At lunchtime on Friday, with the click of a mouse on Google Street View, the entire world will be able to see what lies beneath the surface of 10 of Sydney’s most iconic marine locations.

The Catlin Seaview Survey, a collaboration between an array of global partners including the University of Queensland, Google, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the insurance giant, Catlin, will officially launch public access to the underwater version of Street View in Sydney.

The announcement of this new program will be made at the World Parks Congress, currently taking place in Sydney.

The Sydney locations include Bondi Beach, Manly, Chowder Bay inside Sydney Harbour, Shark Point at Maroubra and North and South Head at the entrance to the Harbour.

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Wealth Blinds Us to Our Natural Treasures

November 13th, 2014 · Blog

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By James Woodford

Earlier this year a friend of mine, Stuart Cohen, was invited as a volunteer for the International Union for Conservation of Nature to travel to Africa and then make his way, with rangers from the Uganda Wildlife Authority, to Mount Elgon National Park.

For the armed team that accompanied Stuart, the presence of a lone foreign filmmaker in their national park was a hugely important event and a source of great pride.

Making it even more significant they knew that Stuart was much more than a filmmaker. He was an emissary, to a gathering of park managers from around the world that will meet this week in Sydney, for their story – a daily struggle to protect an astonishing place.On Friday, the film Reaching the Peak will be launched at the World Parks Congress and we should all be chastened by the message that it conveys. It is a critical time for both land and marine parks in Australia.

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10 Steps to Save the Reef

October 28th, 2014 · Blog

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Great Barrier Reef: ‘a massive chemistry experiment gone wrong’

October 10th, 2014 · News


Scientists warn that pollution may be dramatically increasing the rate of ocean acidification in inshore areas, threatening coral:

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Searching For Life on Earth

October 2nd, 2014 · News

I remember once being at the Tollgate Islands, offshore from Batemans Bay with Royal Botanic Gardens seaweed expert, Dr Alan Millar, as he emerged from a scuba dive holding a grab bag of specimens that he wanted to investigate. Once he had taken out his regulator and emerged from the waters of the Batemans Marine Park, he said: “Forget about searching for life on Mars, I’m looking for life on Earth!”

Today there is another story reminding us how much is yet to be discovered in our marine environments:

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The Great Prawn Dilemma

September 26th, 2014 · Blog

At the recent Australian Coral Reef Society annual conference in Brisbane I met a young scientist called Renata Ferrari. We were chatting at the end of day one when canapés were being passed around. On the first plate being offered were some prawns. Without any embarrassment Renata asked the waiter whether they were sustainably harvested prawns. He looked confused but scurried off to the kitchen to ask the chef, while I held the invertebrate in my fingers with bated breath…He returned unsure and Dr Ferrari declined. I ate mine guiltily…She told me I needed a sustainable seafood app on my phone…Later I chased up a piece she wrote on the issue:

“Prawns are an Aussie favourite. They’re also a great example of how confusing shopping for sustainable seafood can be. Prawns can be a bad choice; for example, if they’re black tiger prawns farmed and imported. They can be a “think” choice, if they’re king prawns that have been trawl caught. Or they can be a “better” choice, particularly if they’re greentail prawns that have been haul caught in NSW.

“Given this complexity, it is important that the origin and fishing/farming method be labelled at any seafood vendor. If prawns are just labelled “prawns”, how can a consumer know what they’re getting?

“Australia needs laws that require more stringent labels on seafood sold at any vender. Together with consistent sustainable seafood guidelines, labelling laws could help make the consumption of sustainable seafood commonplace. [Read more →]

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Trash Safari: Cleaning Up the Coast

September 25th, 2014 · News


Fighting cigarettes, on the beaches and in the dunes…This week two young surfers, Nat Woods and Daniel Smith, set off on the Trash Safari – a journey that started at Sunshine Beach in Queensland. They are the founders of the Clean Coast Collective and believe passionately that no-one should walk past litter on the coast…Over coming months they will be organising events around the Australian continent…

In their own words: [

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Tropical Sydney: Corals in the Harbour?

September 15th, 2014 · Updates


Montage image presented at the recent 88th Australian Coral Reef Society conference in Brisbane.

By James Woodford

Welcome to Tropical Sydney, where a Manly Ferry ride could one day be a coral reef cruise.

Towards the end of her keynote address, at the 88th Australian Coral Reef Society conference in Brisbane, Dr Adriana Vergés, a marine ecologist at the University of New South Wales, flashed a slide onto the screen behind her.

It was a manipulated image of Sydney Harbour, half above and half below the water. The photo looked stereotypically glorious until the audience’s eyes wandered to what lay beneath the surface – a magnificent coral seascape in crystal clear water. There were plate and staghorn corals along with a cloud of tropical fish.

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June 9th, 2014 · Updates

So after a long break…I am planning to start publishing some Realdirt stories again…Here is what I have been working on recently – a land-sharing website, called

Right now it is in the middle of a national social media competition being run by PayPal…Have look and if you like the idea, please vote at:

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