Just a couple of weeks ago I was told by my friends ‘let’s go an attend an evening event at the beach all about the local dunes - there is also a moonlight walk planned’.
Okay, who wouldn’t fall for that? Let’s forget an evening of Netflix and chill and out we embark on an exploration about the local dunes...
What is the most important aspect of travelling?
If you do a quick survey of your friends you will see that a popular answer is ‘food’.
Food can tell you a lot about a culture, and the further away you go the most weird stuff you are going to find. Which might end up in you eating insects, or interiors.. but if you feel adventurous…
With this post I don’t intend to put you off trying anything by any means, trying new things and having a full immersion in a new culture is indeed one of the reasons why we travel, so go on and take the plunge.
As a marine biologist working on animal-environment interactions,and focused on environmental changes driven by human activities that modify conditions for economic or societal benefit, I was surprised and intrigued to find out about bivalve gardening.
First things first:
What is bivalve gardening?
If you split the words you have your explanation. It refers to the gardening (= growing for personal use) of bivalve species, which are those marine animals with two (=bi) shell halves (=valves). Mussels, oysters, scallops, cockles..all form part of the big bivalve class.
Today we have a special guest post
Last week my friend working in conservation in Fiji asked me if I ever heard of seagrass removal projects.. I said "no, I normally hear about seagrass restoration..but removal..never!". Turned out this particular resort was doing some quite illegal actions, which might be easier in some countries compared to other. So I decided that the least I could do was to give some space on my blog for her and her colleagues to explain. So here we go:
My name is Anastasha Savura and I am publicly releasing my CV to ensure the public knows that I am a Marine Scientist and I need assistance to ensure the Warwick Answers and Apologies for this Incident!
I am the Founder of the page Ocean Guardians Fiji on FB and would like to use social media bring people together to bridge this massive gap between science and policy in the biggest Economical Industries in Fiji. The goal is to develop an umbrella of frame works and guidelines to present to Fiji Tourism and Hospitality Association and other associated bodies so that this never happens again!
Although young and still an ocean of knowledge still to swim through, I clearly understand through education, working experience and volunteer efforts. THE ACTIONS OF WARWICK RESORT and THE ASSOSIATED DIVE SHOP on 25th October, 2018 was an Injustice to the Environment. How much Injustice? I am unsure about as they have not bothered to contact us to correct us otherwise.
In the link below you will find the incident report of that particular day and the events that follow!
On 25th October
On 26th October till date
And we slept on the matter and realized that we had to do something about this because it was wrong. One of the reasons given by the Dive shop owners for firing us was that “we should have handled the situation in a more diplomatic manner instead of sitting in the water to make the digger stop”,
…So on 29th October we both wrote letters:
Other Parties Letter here
We included a presentation I prepared to the Regional Director, a Mr. Sahaan who was on property and asked him to contact us so we could sit and discuss the matter.
We also included a copy of the Regulation of Surfing Areas Decree (which states that Warwick authorized a possibly Illegal activity)
We asked him to contact us so we could sit and discuss the matter.
It is 11:58pm, 1st November, 2018 now as I type this, we have not heard anything from the Warwick however the Associated Dive Shop has contacted us with a SHOCKING EMAIL
(We are now seeking Legal Advice… ) We now have an issue of job security in the diving industry for expats and local marine scientists and Dive Professionals. (How will this be addressed in the future?- Anyone?) Who do we count on to report such PADI dive shops?)
The Only people who care to engage and raise this issue are members of the public and ocean advocates from all around the world therefore your opinion and support will decide our next PLAN of ACTION.
We already are working on a way to ensure that the tourism industry is not affected by the emotion and detrimental social media posts already online by concerned guests by ensuring them that we will work on a way to ensure that this will never happen in any other resort but WE NEED YOUR SUPPORT!
I am only 1 person and now have the support of WWF, Baby Pandas South Pacific and passionate advocates around the world. If you would like to support this cause, please support Ocean Guardians Fiji on FB https://www.facebook.com/oceanguardiansfiji/ and oceanguardiansfiji on instagram https://www.instagram.com/oceanguardiansfiji/ to help with the cause. Every bit of "talanoa" around this matter would help.
Vinaka with high hopes and crossed fingers, Anastasha Savura
As Italy welcomes in 2018, it prepares to see a ban on plastic bags for loose fruit and vegetables (abundant in shops and supermarkets as less of them come pre packaged) - sounds great, in theory, however bags will not entirely disappear but will be replaced by bioplastic bags.
Firstly some explanation: What is bioplastic?
Bioplastics are plastics derived from renewable biomass sources, such as vegetable fats and oils, corn starch, or microbiota. Bioplastics are usually derived from sugar derivatives, including starch, cellulose, lactic acid... Be careful though, as not all 'biodegradable plastic' is actually bioplastic. Some biodegradable plastics are contain additives that cause them to decay more rapidly in the presence of light and oxygen (moisture and heat help too). Unlike bioplastics, biodegradable plastics are made of normal (petrochemical) plastics and don't always break down into harmless substances. So make sure to understand what type are you using before composting etc..
And guess who is one of the biggest producers of bioplastic bags?
If you thought Italy well you thought right! Novamont is one of the biggest bioplastic bags producers and they are an Italian company.. now you may see that the Italian ban may not simply have come out of environmental concerns but out of more intricate hidden interests. Italy already banned plastic shopping bags in favour of biodegradable bags back in 2011, perhaps out of the same hidden interests?
But, you say, motive doesn't matter if it reduces plastic pollution and the plastic ocean problem... and I would agree, if it actually solved it.
But is bioplastic as environmentally friendly as it claims to be?
Now, the problem is that this so called biodegrable plastic might not necessarily biodegrade fast enough in water and may be a threat particularly for seabed habitats such as important sea grass meadows which are not only biodiversity hotspots but also important carbon sinks to help us deal with climate change....More detailed info on bioplastics can be found here
In conclusion, I believe that a deeper understanding of degradation and chemical decomposition is needed to fully understand the effects of bioplastic, and choosing the right materials with the minimal impacts on the long term.
So while a step away from plastic is welcome, we should be careful about its replacement - perhaps is time to think of reusables rather than simply replacing. Let's replace our single uses approaches instead...
And another post inspired by the amazing blue planet 2..
Apart from the amazing footage of the octopus using shells to hide from the shark (pretty impressive, uh?) , this week episode was mostly about the green forests..
Kelp and large seaweeds are very important habitat components, but being 'living habitats' are exposed and at risk the same threats which affect all the rest of marine life: climate change, pollution... you name it! Which means in some cases active protection measures and sometimes restoration are needed to retain these very important features...
Moreover, the presence of these living habitats can change species assemblages, and those changes can reflect back on the forest via feedback loops. Let me explain: if we lose some kelp, we may lose some some species of fish and they may be the same fish species that keep other algae from over-growing and occupy the space so that the kelp cannot come back the following year. Just an example. As David Attenborough showed us, the loss of one species can affect the whole of the system. He used the otter-urchin-kelp trophic cascade, a classic example of how losing the top player can change the game. When otters were hunted, and numbers dropped dramatically, then urchin proliferated and kelp was lost due to urchin overgrazing. This is just an example and similar things happen in other systems.
Did you see how those big spider crabs were afraid of the single ray? Do you know that fear in itself can also change trophic cascades?
When we think of top predators we often think about sharks, however their close relatives, skate and rays, are also at the top of the food chain - well before humans come into play, as we fished out skates from many of our oceans..but recent work , which I was lucky enough to be part of, showed that the presence of skate in itself could help maintainance of bivalve reefs by changing crabs behaviour! This means that if we want to restore bivalve reefs, we have to think more widely about the surrounding ecosystem and take a 'holistic' approach. Restoring reefs, or other systems in general, should include all the components,from top predators to microbes, thus a unification of the many disciplines, and collaborations between ecologists, microbiologists, modellers etc should be encouraged in order to see the full picture!
Spoilers alert: if you have not seen the latest episode of blue planet and you are waiting for it then you may want to skip this. If, on the other hand, you have been touched by the ending then this is for you!
Plastic, it's everywhere. Anything we buy in stores has plastic one way or another, whether the product itself contains it (hey it's found in anything from your toothpaste to your clothes!) or is at least packaged with it. Moreover, it has multiple ways of ending into the environment: from the classic 'thrown on the ground', to more hidden 'windswept'. From transport (apparently 4 containers are lost every day at sea) to its end, plastic creates a problem.
Yes, we can do beach cleans, and yes we can pick up rubbish everytime we are out walking the dog but the problem is a lot bigger than that.
First of all, plastic and ocean plastic in particular is not just what we see washed out on beaches (which can already be a lot depending on where you are!) but it also is a great presence in the higher seas, being trapped in the conveyor belt of currents, and, as we have seen with the bath-ducks in yesterday's episode, can be transported in many directions as well as just remaining trapped in ocean gyres...
more than that, we have the visible plastic, but also invisible (unless you have a good microscope) one known as microplastic which can be as detrimental. And lastly all plastic degrades and leaves pollutants behind. These are persistent organic pollutants, which can act alone or in combination with other pollutants already present in the environment, with disastrous consequences..
These are in fact known to be endocrine disruptors, affecting reproduction and they are also fat soluble, which means they get passed up the food chain and can end up in mammalian milk thus affecting future generations of the ocean giants as we have seen in blue planet. And can you think of another fish-eating mammalian? One that inhabits land? Yes you are right: us! Our plastic will end up back to us...
This has the potential to affect our reproduction, not just causing infertility (in men as well as women!) but also affecting fetal development, and impacting their hormones which will have negative consequences for generations to come...
Surely, we shouldn't stop our good small everyday actions , including trying to go as zero waste as possible and reduce packaging. But we should ask for more from our governments and higher institutions, we should make demands, if not only to keep our planet healthy for the future generations, but to keep them healthy too!
I have been to this festival twice while I was living in Northern Ireland, where they came to Newtownabbey as part of their UK tour - however, the tour this year was in September and I already moved out of the country. I must say I was a bit upset about missing it... although after a quick search online, finding out that there definitely wasn't a Dutch version of it, I found the Belgian equivalent...and... I live right on the border!!!
Quickly I booked a ticket for their Antwerp show, with the intention of making a little weekend out of it... and here is where the story starts!
So what is this 'film festival'?
The festival is a tour of some of the films from the 'Ocean film festival Australia', which shows in March.
According to their 'about' website:
'At the Ocean Film Festival World Tour our vision is to inspire you to explore, respect, enjoy, and protect our oceans. Film is at the heart of the Ocean Film Festival World Tour and we aim to share the best films from around the globe with our audiences'.
How does it work?
An abstract from the site:
'Our vision is to inspire more people to explore, respect, enjoy, and protect our oceans. We are looking for a broad selection of films to fill a 2+ hour program that will tour Australia, Belgium, New Zealand, Italy, China the UK and more in 2018. We are searching for one long film (45mins to 60mins) and a number of short films (40 minutes and shorter) to make up our program.'
You can submit your own film
(... maybe for next year as the deadline for this year is approaching very soon)
At the Ocean Film Festival World Tour we are actively searching for films covering topics including ocean exploration, ocean related adventures, marine creatures, ocean related sports, ocean racing, coastal cultures, sailing, diving, rowing, free diving, surfing, oceanic environment, and ocean lovers.
The 2018 Ocean Film Festival tour will kick off in Australia in March 2018. The deadline for submissions is November 2017.'
Okay, so what did I watch and what did I enjoy most?
Firstly I have to say that I think that while most films seemed to be the same between the UK and Belgian tour, some are different. For example, I am a bit upset that the film 'Fishpeople' by Patagonia was not there! And I cannot seem to find it on the European ITunes (not yet anyway...) :(
This was replaced by '4 mums on a boat' , which I have already seen as part of the Banff film festival (a close relative...). Anyway, despite having already seen it, was not bad to watch again as it is a very interesting, motivating film where four 'mums' win the record for being the older team completing the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge , the toughest rowing event. Inspiring, showing you can do anything if you put your mind to it...
My favourites, however, in order were:
'Sea Gypsies' : as a sailing-loving girl, this film about sailing from New Zealand through to Patagonia via Antarctica was great! Not just adventure-filled but also about community of people that can form on board a vessel, and importance of being human and getting through some tough and scary times. Some funny parts, and they even attempt to help Sea Shepard! Recommend it 100%!
'Ocean rubbish' : in this film, David Day, an artist from Queensland picks up rubbish they found washed up on the shore and makes colourful yet surprisingly life-like models of all sorts of marine life, turning worthless junk into objects of beauty, and raising awareness of the ever-growing problem of plastic in our oceans. 3 Minutes of pure cool art made out of plastic - i'd be happy to have some of his models as art in my house :D
Haven : of course, a free-diving video could not miss Guillame Néry. Great shots of the largest wreck in the mediterranean down at 40-50 meters, all filmed by free divers.. pretty cool if you ask me! I wish I could free-dive to those depths, but I am content with my 8-10 m
Other films shown included 'the Legacy', with which I have some issues. A film about conservation of the oceans, which is great, and as a marine biologist I agree we should push for conservation. But, why only the conservation of the giant charismatic megafauna? Manta ray, sharks, turtle, dolphins, whales. Yes they have to be protected, but there is more to the ocean than them, and we should start pushing for conservation of the whole ecosystem...
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