02 October 2008

Manly Ocean Care Day - Of Albatrosses and Red Tides

As another 'ocean care day festival' is approaching in Manly it is time to focus on the 'care' bit. In the holiday season the beach is specially subjected to a tidal wave of of unwanted 'convenience' packaging and 'recreational' plastic.

Out of the ordinary was a large Shy Albatross (image) (Diomedea cauta cauta, pdf, measuring some 95-100 cm, wingspan 240-260 ) found at the North Steyne end of the beach on 300908. 10 puffer fish were also rolling on the sand. This giant bird is still hunted for 'sports' and chokes on human plastics. As there is no habitat left for it in the Manly region, the next possible place could be just north of Sydney. Five albatrosses and pelicans have been found poisoned at Tuggerah Lakes. "It was believed the sudden outbreak of botulism was caused by rain washing chemicals and fertilisers into the stagnant water of the lake."
If it isn't run-off from human settlements that has killed the birds and polluted the water, then it is also possible, that it is the mix of high temperatures, due to human-caused emissions, as well as the flushing of unwanted wastes into the water bodies. The result is a warm brew encouraging the growth of toxic micro-organisms. Even if no red tide is visible, the toxins (brevetoxins) still lingering, damage the nervous system, just like the botulism bug. Maybe the shy giant made it out to sea and was overcome by the HABs, to finally get washed up at Manly. Does anyone care?

A red tide is at the moment hovering around the corner in Clontarf's Sandy Bay, (Manly Daily, 021008, image). Red tides love warmth + plenty of human caused run off. They then breed toxins which have the ability to kill life in the ocean/bay and on land. Although there is a fine of $ 1 million for dumping baddies into the water-ways, there seems to be none for doing it with a trickle (eutrophication) over time.

Clontarf / Bantry Bay Estuary Management Planning Process - Data preparation in 0807, (pdf) reveals a lot about the the Sydney Harbour Foreshores and Waterways Area, such as Castle Rock and Bantry Bay and includes parts of the Balgowlah Heights, Clontarf and Seaforth suburbs.
65.5% of the space is for human habitat, 22.0% for their sealed roads and 10.2% for parks and public spaces. The 'storm water drainage network' is visualised in this document. The appropriation of freshwater is also accounted for. Giant lawns and pools spill into the 'bush', which is often cleared to see the marina (image). The foreshore appears transformed into a space for fossil fuel vessel parking. The estuary/bay is slowly looking like a large boat-parking area. Private dinghies clutter up the 'public' reserve. As in Manly, unleashed dogs are emptied of their untreated feces into the bay.

The environment- human interface is summed up as being in conflict:

  • "Seawalls for protection of properties versus its damaging impact on natural ecosystem
  • Groundwater abstraction and possible saline water intrusion in aquifer
  • Beach raking for safety versus its impact on invertebrates
  • Dog walking off leash and impact on shore birds
  • Powered and sailing boats and their wake impacting on seawalls and beach erosion
  • Access to mooring versus their impact on sea grass beds, ability to spread caulerpa taxifolia
  • Powered boats and the safety aspects for swimmers and kayakers
  • Ad hoc boat storage and its impact on amenity and habitat:
  • Ad hoc access ways to foreshore for convenience versus destruction of habitat." (pdf)
The degradation of the environment does not only rob species of a habitat, but it also diminishes life quality for all living and to come. Running out of space and resources in an ever shrinking world is no fun. The diy cocktail of heat, plus draining liquid wastes equals red tides, or dead zones, that are void of life and toxic to ALL. Just breathing the mist is a hazard, eating the contaminated fish/seafood can be deadly. Jelly invasions ( the only creature thriving on this human-made environment ruin the beach- Beach closures, due to toxic blooms or jelly blooms are costly. 'Business as usual' in a risk-society could play it all away in just a generation.

The oceans are getting so hot, acid and degraded by us. Species are either fished out by us or their habitat is ruined. Lobsters, seals, whales, dolphins and crabs etc etc are affected by the red tide toxins and are wishing to leave their habitat, they thereby die.

It would be a sad world which leaves a
red ocean behind
no fish and life in it
no ocean and foreshore birds on the horizon
no beach or bay without a noisy smelly and dangerous motor
no beach or bay without human infrastructure cluttering up the landscape

Let's care!

1 & 2 Dead Shy Albatross on Manly Beach, 300908
3 Sandy Bay, Clontarf, Google Maps
4 Clontarf/Spit Bridge, Google Maps

Animation: Ocean care day animation, Manly Beach

Toxic Blooms: Understanding Red Tides, FATHOM
HABs, Harmful Algae and Red Tides, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Sea Birds affected by red tide toxins, Florida conservation 2006
Entanglement in or ingestion of anthropogenic debris in marine and estuarine environments - key threatening process listing, DECC
Rock Snot, a hazardous algae in Tasmania, has had devastating effects on inland river catchments in New Zealand abc 270808

Update 101008
- The red tide at Clontarf mentioned above has been identified as Noctiluca scintillans (Manly Daily p3, 101008). The same type of algae bloom has also been found at Seaforth, west of the Spit Bridge and Woollloomooloo Bay. NSW Health recommends that people avoid contact with all blooms. This dinoflagellate is also linked to " anthropogenic eutrophication...along the southeast coast of Australia". In India, it has been implicated with "the decline of fisheries". At night Noctiluca glows in a bright blue bioluminescence, as viewed on Manly Beach before.
Suspected blooms should be reported to the Regional Algal Committee during business hours (02 4729 8138), or the Department of Environment and Climate Change’s Environment Line (131 555) after hours. Toll-Free Algal Information Line - 1800 999 457 according the the NSW Department of Water and Energy

Update 231008
- Brush et al. Historical Land Use, Nitrogen, and Coastal Eutrophication: A Paleoecological Perspective. Estuaries and Coasts, 2008; DOI: 10.1007/s12237-008-9106-z "During the past 300 years, many of the wetlands have been drained, and the landscape was converted to agricultural fields and urban and suburban development. Since precolonial time, the mesohaline estuary has become increasingly eutrophic and anoxic."

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