August 18, 2020

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GOLD COAST BAY, AUSTRALIA (2020)


The glowing beaches and glimmering waters of the Gold Coast Bay have drawn both Australians and globe-trotting tourists alike to its shores for decades. The bay’s most popular attraction is perhaps the populations of Humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) who congregate and migrate through. The huge mammal’s impact in the area stretches beyond the famous sight of their waving tails. Humpback whales carry with them microorganisms that connect several marine ecosystems on the coast, making them an important piece of the health of the country’s coastline.

 

Shark at Palm Beach reef (c) SEA The Gold Coast

 

The Gold Coast Bay has been declared a Mission Blue Hope Spot in support of the Hope Spot Champion, Olaf Meynecke of Humpbacks & High-rises Inc., and his partners’ goals of protecting the whales’ sensitive populations with unified conservation, boating and fishing regulations, and a strong ecotourism industry that prioritizes animal safety and public appreciation for the natural world.

 

Whale shark spotted off of a whale-watching boat (c) Humpbacks and High-rises, Inc.

 

Dr. Sylvia Earle, Founder of Mission Blue, says, “For thousands of years, nature’s intricate interrelationships have allowed migratory species to flourish while moving through the seas. It’s so important that people are aware of the creatures that they share the ocean with. If the whales aren’t healthy, humans won’t be healthy, either. I applaud the Hope Spot Champions and their partners for coming together and joining forces to protect the Gold Coast Bay for not only Australia but for the entire planet.”

 

Aerial view of the Gold Coast Bay (c) Humpbacks and High-rises, Inc.

 

“The ocean is a part of the city”, says Olaf Meynecke, Hope Spot Champion and Chief Scientist of Humpbacks & High-rises Inc. He elaborates, “It’s important to recognize that the bay’s economy is very dependent on having a healthy ocean. We believe that with the right measures in place and enforced there can be a coexistence.”

 

Wave Break Island (c) Reef Check Australia

 

The Gold Coast bay reaches from Tweed Head in the south up to Point Lookout on North Stradbroke Island. Beyond the skyscraper-lined shore, the bay provides shelter and nursery grounds for temperate, subtropical and tropical marine life and calm waters in particular in the southern part of the bay. More than 400 species of fish have been identified in one of the estuaries (Seaway), an entrance to the Gold Coast Bay waters. Other animals that can be found in the area include the Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins, common dolphins, Dugongs, Southern right whale, Dwarf minke whales, green, flatback, hawksbill and loggerhead sea turtles.

 

Kirra Reef (c) Blaze Parsons

 

Whale watching is a key part of the local economy and culture, but it brings threats to the animals and the rest of the bay’s marine ecosystem. “People come in, enjoy it, and leave”, says Meynecke. “They don’t think about their impact or the small things they engage in that negatively affect the whales and the environment.”

To invest in a healthy future for the Gold Coast Bay, the Hope Spot Champions and their partners are working on the following plans: to implement go-slow zones in marine mammal aggregation sites within the bay, establish mooring lines at Palm Beach Reef, create a no-anchor zone at Kirra Reef, replace shark nets with more effective non-lethal methods, executive an education and awareness campaign for safe navigation around marine life, to have the Gold Coast Bay officially recognized as a resting ground for Humpback whale mother-calf pairs, ban the use of balloons for recreational line fishing, organize beach and underwater clean-ups, and ensure that planned developments and activities in the ocean are adequately assessed and their impacts mitigated based on the latest available scientific knowledge. They are also looking to establish the Gold Coast Whale Festival as a permanent community event.

 

Watergum Seagrass Wallaby (c) Watergum Seagrass Surveys

 

The current marine park zone reaches from South and North Stradbroke to 3nm offshore (State waters), but there is no elevated protection status for any other parts of the bay. It’s currently mapped as an aggregation site for humpback whales with EPA, but is not officially recognized yet as a resting and calving area, which the Champions and their partners believe is an important distinction.

 

Dredging in the Bay (c) Dr. Olaf Meynecke

 

Damaging activities in the bay include increased development, modification of the coastline, dredging, boating, sewage water release, overfishing and pollution from plastic and fishing waste. Meynecke explains, “If the current direction of the Gold Coast continues, we will see more whales getting entangled in shark nets and more noise pollution that threatens iconic marine life.” The bay’s rugged reefs are rich aggregation sites for fish, turtles, sharks and marine mammals, but still remain unprotected – the reefs have sustained anchor damage and are under increasing pressure from recreational and commercial fishing. A proposed cruise ship terminal threatens the resting and calving areas for Humpback whales.

 

Green sea turtle (c) Blaze Parsons

 

Greg Howell, President of Surfrider Foundation Gold Coast says, “The Gold Coast is a fast-growing region with increasing anthropogenic pressure on the marine environment. Raising awareness of our precious marine environment will help with future planning, policy, and management.” Surfrider Foundation Gold Coast is a Gold Coast Bay Hope Spot partner whose work focuses on beach cleanups and combating the global plastic pollution problem.

 

SCUBA diving off Cook Island (c) Reef Check Australia

 

Adriana Del Bianco, Operations Manager of Spirit of Gold Coast, says, “Spirit of Gold Coast has been operating Whale Watching tours for 24 years, and has proudly called the Gold Coast home since 2005. We have excitedly watched the Humpback Whale population increase during this time, and have been thrilled to share this growth with our guests. The Gold Coast is now frequently visited by thousands of Whales every year, and Spirit is honored to take part in a variety of initiatives that help protect the Humpback Whales and their marine environment. We’re looking forward to being a part of Gold Coast Hope Alliance and playing an active role in positive change.”

 

Palm Beach Reef (c) SEA The Gold Coast

 

“What’s unique about the Gold Coast Bay is that we have a community that desires a sustainable balance with the ocean and has a plan on how to do it”, says Meynecke. “What if one of the fastest-growing coastal cities in the world would rise up, turn the tide and recognize the ocean as an integral part of its very existence? It’s possible.”

About Humpbacks & High-rises Inc.

HHR is a community based not for profit organization dedicated to the research and protection of marine mammals in south-east Queensland. They run the largest marine mammal monitoring program in south-east Queensland since 2010. Their work is based on dedicated volunteers, industry partners, and a huge amount of passion for the ocean.

Gold Coast Bay Hope Spot Partners:

Surfrider Gold Coast, Reef Check Australia, Australian Jet Ski Association, Humpbacks & Highrises, Friends of Federation Walk, Gecko, Ngarang-Wal Gold Coast Aboriginal Association, Sea World Cruises, Whales in Paradise, Devocean Dive, Seathegoldcoast, Spirit Whale Watching Gold Coast, OceanConnect, Griffith Climate Change Response Program, Watergum, Friends of Kirra Reef, Gold Coast Dive Adventures, Dolphin Research Australia, and Surfers Paradise Dive and Cruise.

 

 

 

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