Whale Shark Satellite Tagging Programme - Shark Bay 

Brad Norman & ECOCEAN Inc.

In conjunction with the University of Western Australia

2012, 2016, 2018 & 2019

 

Ecocean’s work has increased the current knowledge of whale sharks, contributed to their gaining greater protection under Commonwealth and International legislation and generally raised awareness for the conservation concerns facing this species at a global level.

 

In January 2016 four satellite tags deployed on whale sharks off Dirk Hartog Island, WA. The aim was to access the scientific evidence for a whale shark hotspot at the Shark Bay World Heritage Area (SBWHA) and investigate the movement and migration patterns of the whale sharks found there.  

In January 2018 a new survey saw 4 tags successfully deployed. In 2019 two satellite tags were deployed in January.

 

 

Whale shark South Passage Shark Bay 2008 Photo J Clough

Whale shark Josie South Passage 2010 Photo J Clough

Successful tag. Jan 2019 Shark Bay    Photo B. Norman

IImage: Jock Clough
UWA Marine Research Vessel

IImage: Darren Bailey

Shark Bite-Off at Shark Bay, WA

Whale shark 'Cliff' near Monkey Rock Shark Bay Jan 2019     Photo B. Norman
'Great Southern Seascapes' Program 

The Nature Conservancy

Support in 2014 and ongoing

Along the southern coast of Australia lie hundreds of bays and estuaries that contain vital temperate habitats. Many of these teem with unique marine and estuarine species but the health of many of these marine ecosystems is under threat and have led to more extinctions in estuaries than any other marine ecosystems. Great Southern Seascapes program is a wonderful initiative by The Nature Conservancy aimed at introducing and nurturing native oysters which should dramatically improve the quality of Australia’s Southern estuarine waters. Restoration programs are well underway in Port Phillip Bay, Victoria, Windara Reef, South Australia and Oyster Harbour and Peel Estuary, Western Australia.

More recently the Foundation has been driving and financially supporting the Nature Conservancy's plan to restore and improve Western Australia's iconic Swan River estuary. A combination of nutrient inflow from the tributaries of the Swan and Canning Rivers and an increasing human footprint and usage of this magnificent estuary has led to a sharply deteriorating water quality. Without a clean water column this estuarine ecosystem will remain in stress and vulnerable to negative events such as species loss (already occurring with the loss of swan river prawns and cobbler fish), massive fish kills, etc. This ambitious $4 - $5 million initiative is aimed at improving the Swan's declining water quality for all stakeholders.

 

 

Image: The Nature Conservancy

Monitoring Oysters - Albany, WA

Image: Becfishwest

Assessing Oysters - Albany, WA

COSMOS March 2019
Understanding shark bite-offs in north-west Western Australia 

Jonathan Mitchell PhD & The University of Western Australia

Support in 2015 and 2016

 

 

Angler reports suggest shark bite-offs are increasing in occurrence during recreational fishing across north-west Western Australia, reducing the enjoyment of fishing, costing fishers money through lost or damaged gear and causing substantial loss of target fish species and potential injury or death to sharks.

 

 

Jonathan Mitchell (UWA) worked with Recfishwest, the Department of Fisheries and the Department of Parks and Wildlife to investigate the patterns and processes behind shark  bite-offs.

Jonathon recently had his research published as 'Quantifying shark depredation in a recreational fishery in the Ningaloo Marine Park and Exmouth Gulf'  J.D.Mitchell et. al. Mar Ecol Prog Ser Vol. 587: 141-157, Jan 2018.

 

Shark bite-off
Climate-ready Corals for Conservation

Dr Luke Thomas

UWA Oceans Institute & Australian Institute of Marine Science

Support in 2019

This research project is seeking to develop a mechanistic and predictive understanding of thermal tolerance in corals. the research will be carried out at the Rowley Shoals which are and offshore coral reef system comprised of three atoll-like reefs. Coral populations within the lagoons experience more extreme temperature fluctuations than adjacent reef slope populations and show elevated levels of thermal tolerance. Through an innovative genomic approach, this project seeks take advantage of these extreme fine-scale environmental gradients in temperature to hone in on core regions of the genome under selection for thermal tolerance.

The project has two specific objectives:

1. identifying regions of the genome under selection for thermal tolerance using coral populations that span fine-scale environmental gradients in temperature &

2. attempt to develop a cost-effective protocol for identifying heat-adapted populations that can be used to inform management and restoration efforts

Coral Sea Foundation 

Dr Andy Lewis

Support in 2019

 

The aim of Dr Andy Lewis's Foundation is to raise awareness of the ecological and social value the Coral Sea and Eastern Coral Triangle, and to be proactive in its sustainable management. This region contains the last great reservoir of ultra-diverse coral reef in the world, yet most of it is remote and rarely visited, and is in urgent need of our assistance. 

Combining an ethos of science, gender equality and sustainability, the Coral Sea Foundation works with the traditional owners to develop marine reserves that enhance fisheries and ecotourism resources, while improving the basic quality of life of people in remote Melanesian villages. 

UWA Oceans Institute

University of Western Australia

2016 and ongoing

One of the things we wanted the Marine Foundation to do was to back young marine scientists during their studies and while commencing their careers. The Marine Foundation’s support of the Robson & Robinson Awards (in recognition of the establishment of the Oceans Institute by Professors Alan Robson and Alistar Robertson) has seen at the completion of the 2019 awards - 34 young, talented, marine students receive between $ 1,000 and $ 10,000 each to support their doctorate research.  In addition, the Foundation supports early career scientists. In November 2017 Dr Matthew Fraser became the inaugural 2017 Robson & Robertson research Fellow recipient. His five year Fellowship is aimed at continuing to develop innovative solutions to improve conservation and management of our coastal systems with a particular focus on seagrass ecology.

 

Parties seeking to access a Robson & Robertson Award need to be associated with the University of Western Australia and should direct their inquiries through:

 

The Director,

UWA Oceans Institute (M470)

The University of Western Australia

Crawley, Perth

Western Australia   6009

 

Image: UWA Oceans Institute

'Save Our Marine Life' Campaign

A collection of conservation groups termed the Save Our Marine Life Collaboration

2009 to 2012

 

Support was provided to the Campaign to establish a comprehensive and representative series of marine protected areas (‘MPA’s’) in federally-controlled marine locations in the South-West of Australia.  While the Campaign was very effective, for a variety of reasons the gazetting and promulgation of new MPA’s did not occur.  This was disappointing and the need remains – more than ever – to properly extend the MPA’s around our Australian coastline.

 

MPA’s are a significant conservation measure that can be utilized to preserve and improve our marine ecosystems.

 

With the future establishment of MPA’s comes the obligation to recognize all existing stakeholders in these areas and where appropriate provide fair compensation to such stakeholders.

 

The West Australian Newspaper

The Australian Newspaper

Patterson Report

Available upon request

FishBase

Prof. Daniel Pauly - University of British Columbia

University of Western Australia - Oceans Institute & Prof. Jessica Meeuwig & the Centre for Marine Futures

Mr James Taylor and Mr Kemper Shaw

2017 and ongoing

FishBase is one of the most important tools available to marine biologists, whether working in fisheries, aquaculture or conservation. It is the world's most comprehensive database on fish. At present FishBase covers more than 33,000 fish species compiled from more than 52,000 references in partnership with more than 2,000 collaborators. It identifies commonly-used names of all species (> 300,000) and has over 55,000 pictures. As an indication of its scientific usage and importance there are 2138 direction citations of FishBase.

The Foundation made a significant five-year cornerstone financial commitment in 2017 which together with additional financial support from Messrs Taylor & Shaw has enabled the University of Western Australia to become a leading collaborator in this globally significant database and one of the half a dozen members of the FishBase Consortium. The constitution of the Consortium was drafted by FAO lawyers as a non-commercial database available to all nations' governments, corporations and persons. 

Prof. Daniel Pauly commented that UWA's initiative and support at this time spearheaded and lead the way in garnering additional world-wide financial support for FishBase and '...made a heck of a difference'.

 

Prof. Daniel Pauly

Exmouth Gulf - Marine and Coastal Survey & Conservation Funding

Dr Ben Fitzpatrick et.al.

2018 and ongoing

 

The Foundation has supported an extensive marine and terrestial study of the south-west portion of Exmouth Gulf, Western Australia. This study was prompted by proposed new infrastructure developments at this unique location which has had very little scientific assessment of its ecological uniqueness and value. The completed Report (March 2019) shows Exmouth Gulf contains an exceptional diversity of marine and coastal habitats including coastal samphire wetlands, subterranean karst limestone waterways, modern coral reefs, seagrass beds, cyanobacterial mats, macroalgae dominated subtidal reef flats, intertidal sand flats, soft coral and sponge beds, oyster beds, undisturbed islands and sandy beaches. Moreover the Report demonstrates that Exmouth Gulf has many of the most globally threatened marine and coastal habitats. Such habitats of the Exmouth Gulf support a highly diverse, abundant, unique and productive ecosystem of >1800 species of invertebrate and vertebrate fauna.

The Trustees visited and camped at the location in late 2018 and it became clear that this special location faces increasing threats from anthropogenic activities. We agree with Dr Fitzpatrick that it is a unique location that should be listed in its entirety as a World Heritage property and zoned a marine park, with sanctuary zones over the east coast of the Gulf and the Bay of Rest region; and merged with the Ningaloo Coast World Heritage Area. This will help preserve this amazing marine wilderness into the future.

The Foundation is part of a group that is funding the Australian Marine Conservation Society and its endeavour to ensure greater conservation protection of the Gulf and undertaking more marine research to more fully understand this unique ecosystem.

A full copy of the Report is available through contacting the Foundation:

 

'Exmouth Gulf, north Western Australia: A review of environmental values and baseline scientific survey of the south western region.' Fitzpatrick, B., Davenport, A., Penrose, H., Gardner, S., Hart, C., Morgan, A., Twiggs, E., Gillis, R., Fennell, B., D’Anastasi, B., Willems, A., Dickie, J., Taylor, M., and Langlois, T. (March 2019)

 

Mangroves on south-east corner of Exmouth Gulf

North-west mangrove sea snake, Ephalapholis greyi, Giralia Bay, Exmouth Gulf Photo: Dr Helen Penrose

Mangrove lobster, Thalassina squamifera, recorded during 2018 survey Photo: Andrew Davenport
Other Projects

1. Supporting Dr Ben Fitzpatrick of Oceanwise Australia in early 2018 with his involvement with the IUCN Pacific Mangrove Initiative.

2. Supporting Prof. Jessica Meeuwig and the University of Western Australia's Centre for Marine Futures with 'The Great West Ozzie Transect'. The Foundation is supporting this exciting project with its scientific surveys off Shark Bay, Western Australia.

3. Dr Harriet Paterson and the Marine Plastics Research group within the Centre of Excellence in Natural Resource Management at The University of Western Australia – Albany Centre 

4. In conjunction with the Metal Group and the Australian Children’s Trust for the Environment an important trial program was undertaken in 2013 - and encouraging results obtained - to evaluate how un-manned aerial drones could undertake effective fisheries surveillance and monitoring in Palau. Palau has a vast area encompassed within its economic exclusion zone and historically many issues related to illegal fishing within this area.

5. Funding two eminent speakers to University of Western Australia:

    a. Prof. Michael Crawford, Director of the Institute of Brain Chemistry & Human Nutrition at the             Imperial College, London.  Discussion focussed on the value and necessity of fish to the health           of the human brain.

    b. Dr Larry Madin, Vice President Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Discussion on                       technological advances in marine science.

6. Supporting Ben Ford of the University of Western Australia with his program of monitoring the artificial reefs in Geographe Bay, Western Australia.

 

Sea Woman of Melanesia

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