Category Archives: Environment

Plastic Free July

The Challenge: attempt to purchase no single-use plastic for the whole month of July

PlasticFreeJuly logo

So it’s been a while since I wrote a post, but I decided to take on a challenge this month and it’s something that I just have to share. It’s called Plastic Free July.

Plastic Free July was started as a local community initiative by the Western Metropolitan Regional Council in Perth, Australia in 2011. Its popularity grew in 2012, so in 2013 PFJ expanded to include a website for the project and over 3,000 people around the world have already signed up.

So what’s the idea?

The challenge is simple: attempt to buy no single-use plastic for a month. ‘Single-use’ includes plastic shopping bags, plastic cups, straws, plastic packaging…basically anything that’s intended only to be used once and then sent to landfill. It’s not a competition, so you can keep a ‘dilemma bag’ for any unavoidable plastic that you purchase. There are lots of ways to share your stories and pics, ask for advice, or have a go at recipes and DIY’s for around the house that don’t use plastic. You can do it for a day, a week, or the whole month. You can also choose just to cut out the ‘Top Four’: straws, plastic bags, plastic bottles and coffee cup lids.

Why do this?

Basically, it’s a way to raise awareness about the amount of plastic that you use. That everybody uses. That could be avoidable.

Australians send 1 million tonnes of plastic waste to landfill every year. Every piece of plastic ever produced still remains somewhere in the earth today. Why use something for only a few seconds that will take longer than the rest of your life to break down?

Most of the commonly used disposable plastic items are a convenience and the numbers are staggering. In one week we go through 10 billion plastic bags worldwide, in the USA an average of 2.5 million plastic bottles are used every hour whilst over 500 million straws are used daily!

There’s also the problem of recycling: whilst important, recycling will never be the solution to rapidly expanding consumption. Plastic Free July focuses on refusing, reducing and reusing. Plus it’s not always possible to recycle everywhere you go.

Some people are also becoming concerned about the health impacts of wrapping food in plastic. The UN and the WHO have even released some reports about it.

Plus of course an issue close to my heart: marine debris. More than 270 of the world’s marine animal species are affected by marine debris; it has a major impact including entanglement and ingestion. CSIRO estimates that there are more than 115 million bits of rubbish on Australia’s coastline. This averages about 5.2 pieces for every person in the country! 74% of all waste we find is plastic. 50% of the top items of ocean debris are associated with beverages. But by using your own drink bottle, takeaway cup and reusable straw (or refusing one) we can all become involved in the solution to reduce plastic consumption and waste.

How to Get Involved

You can register for Plastic Free July here. The website is really informative with lots more information and links to the issue, tips, recipes, tools, and even events in your area. Also, check them out on facebook and twitter. Why not take up the challenge, and see how your planetary footprint can be reduced.

Good luck! And thanks for caring 😀

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Lobsters Turn to Cannabalism

An adult lobster eats a tethered juvenile lobster (as indicated by the arrows) in these handout pictures taken from an infrared camera on the ocean floor near Maine. Graduate student Noah Oppenheim, has been documenting the phenomenon using a special infrared camera that allows him to observe a juvenile lobster tethered with a rope to a spot on the ocean floor. During the daytime, it is fish that typically feed on the tethered juvenile lobsters, but at night the researchers were stunned to see that most of the attacks on the small lobsters were by their larger brethren. REUTERS/Gregory Oppenheim/Handout

An adult lobster eats a tethered juvenile lobster (as indicated by the arrows) in these handout pictures taken from an infrared camera on the ocean floor near Maine. Graduate student Noah Oppenheim, has been documenting the phenomenon using a special infrared camera that allows him to observe a juvenile lobster tethered with a rope to a spot on the ocean floor. During the daytime, it is fish that typically feed on the tethered juvenile lobsters, but at night the researchers were stunned to see that most of the attacks on the small lobsters were by their larger brethren. REUTERS/Gregory Oppenheim/Handout

Off the coast of the USA, big lobsters have started eating their little brethren in a move never before recorded in the wild.

This is a fascinating case study of population change in the face of climate change and overfishing. And this time it’s about a population that is not only surviving – it’s changing behaviour too.

Warming waters in the Gulf of Maine and decreased predators due to overfishing have led to a huge population increase in recent years. A record 104 million pounds (45 million kilograms) were caught in 2011, compared with 23 million pounds in 1981. 2012 is expected to be even higher.

Lobsters are no stranger to aggressive interaction: they will attack each other when confined in a small space. But now encounters with each other in the Gulf of Maine are becoming so frequent that a predator-prey interaction has come about.

In a study by researchers from the University of Maine, they found that fish were the main lobster predator during the day. But the populations of cod, halibut and other groundfish that feed on lobsters has declined due to overfishing, and in a surprising find, 90% of predation on juvenile lobsters at night was due to older, bigger lobsters feeding on their younger brethren.

The Maine researchers believe this is the first time such behaviour has been visually documented in the wild, although Canadian researchers have also recently found evidence of cannabilism by examining lobster stomach content.

In an interesting contrast, warming waters have led to more disease and lower populations in Long Island Sound and southern New England. The increased abundance (and thus lower cost) of Maine lobster has also led to tensions with Canadian fishermen.

To read the original article from Reuters, click here.

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The Largest Marine Park Network in the World

I’m back from the land of no internet, and boy do I have great news!

On November 16th 2012, the Federal Government officially declared our new network of protected marine reserves, the largest in the world! Australia is now officially among the world’s best marine protectors, something it needed with the world’s third largest ocean jurisdiction and diverse, fragile ecosystems. We also have some of the world’s most unique marine life, including in the Great Barrier Reef, the Coral Sea, and here in the South West where up to 90% of marine life is unique and half the world’s whale and dolphin species are known to occur.

Marine Parks Announcement. Save Our Marine Life

Thirty-three new Commonwealth Marine Parks will be added to the 27 marine parks already in place around Australia (which previously only protected about 4% of our waters). Now 36% of Australian waters will be protected.

The announcement is the culmination of 14 years of hard work and preparation, scientific research and consultation. Plus the actions of the community in showing the government how much they value our marine ecosystem, lifestyle and the benefits that come with a protected environment. More than half a million messages of support were sent to the government during the process, and a record 70% of the public approved of the plan. It really goes to show the importance of people power.

For more information and a summary of the great new marine reserves, head over to Save Our Marine Life.

These new marine reserves pave the way for future marine protection in our waters.

Of course, much work is still needed to address overfishing and oil and gas development threats around Australia.

In addition, there is still time to ask for a few last minute improvements to the marine reserves network in “four forgotten areas”:

  1. Endangered Australian Sea Lion colonies in the South West need protection from gillnet fishing.
  2. Seagrass meadows important for threatened Dugongs in the Limmen Bight, Northern Territory, need protection from seafloor dredge mining.
  3. Seismic testing for oil could put endangered blue whales and sea lions at risk off Kangaroo Island, South Australia.
  4. The Bremer Canyon off WA is an important marine life hotspot including orcas and sperm whales, which is also threatened by oil and gas development. The government put in place a ‘No Oil’ area off Margaret River, so there is precedent for protection of these important habitats.

Click here to send a message to the Environment Minister Tony Burke asking for him to include these important places in the marine sanctuaries network.

Thanks to everyone who helped make this historic achievement possible. Now let’s go out and enjoy our marine life for years to come!

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