When looking back to the start of 2012 there were many things that were to unfold in the coming year that I would have never predicted. Here’s a quick list of the things that made an impact my 2012.
1) Big Ass Marine Reserve!
After years of planning and consultation Australia created the world’s largest network of marine reserves. With the 3rd largest exclusive economic zone in the world Australia is responsible for a whole lot of ocean and this 2.3 million square kilometre plan aims to protect the most significant parts. Of high mention in the documentation was the need to expand the protection of particular species such as the blue whale, green turtle, grey nurse sharks and dugongs. There was an approximate 80,000 submissions received on the topic – the vast majority in support of the reserve. However, while good news to many, some fishermen did not welcome the reserve. A cost analysis executed by the Australian Marine Alliance claimed that “…60 regional communities would be affected, 36,000 jobs lost and 70-80 trawler operators displaced…” Obviously such an achievement is not without consequence; as such compensation of $100 million was made available to those affected. None the less, the reserve is not without flaws, oil and gas exploration, and particular unsustainable fisheries still operate within sections of these reserves. Things don’t happen over night but this sets a strong precedent and guides the way for a healthier ocean.
2) A New Age Hero.In just 2 hours and 36 minutes James Cameron became the coolest guy ever (in my books). That’s how long it took for his 2.5 story tall sub to plummet the 11km deep valley that is the Mariana Trench – Earths deepest, and perhaps most foreign realm. My now-hero spent hours hovering over the barren seafloor and gliding along huge cliff walls, and all the while collecting samples and video – like a true scientist.
3) The “Shark Cull”Since 2010 the unprecedented increase in the number of fatal shark attacks off WA resulted in the protected status of the Great White Shark being questioned by authorities. Which was a frightening concept. The surge of attacks also gave rise to a plan for shark culling in these waters.
However, numerous surveys showed that the vast majority of the public were opposed to a shark cull. Instead funds were put into a tagging program, which has since showed that sharks are lingering off the metropolitan coast for months at a time. Leading WA research scientist, Dr Rory McAuley says that ‘an increase in numbers was possible, but not yet proven’. He goes on to suggest that the higher number of attacks could simply be due to the expanding human population. Not only is there more of us, but we are becoming more dispersed and thus getting into the water over a greater area of the Great White Sharks range … this inevitably makes us more likely to encounter a shark. Wisely, the government decided against an old school “witch” cull, but claim that any shark considered a danger to humans would be put down. It’s a fine line and a very fuzzy definition. Whats worthwhile noting is the change in attitudes of the general public. Ten years ago I don’t doubt that the majority would have stood behind the government with their torches and pitchforks ready to seek revenge. Now, it was the outstanding public pressure that came in from all corners of the globe that shunned them for even mentioning the cull of a protected species. Whats more, is that the majority understand that zero-risk beach swimming does not exist, nor should it.
4) Headway in Shark FinningEuropean Parliament finally closed a loop-hole in their ‘finning ban’ by approving a rule that requires all Europeon Union-registered fishing boats to land only sharks that retain ALL of their fins! Furthermore, the largest supermarket chain in Singapore banned the sale of shark fin products from all of its outlets.
5) BP get slapped.BP got slammed for the tragic Deepwater Horizon oil spill to the amount of $4.5 BILLION. And rightly so. Its not often we see big companies pay a reasonable dose of restitution for their greedy ways. Well, serving BP with over 14 criminal charges the 2012 U.S. Justice Department sure showed them. Although no amount of money could possibly make up for the loss of life (both human and wildlife) it’s at least a little bit of ‘up yours’ from the environment. And from what I understand, there are remaining civil claims still to be served this coming year.
6) Great Barrier Reef goes virtualIt’s said that 99.95% of people can’t/wont scuba dive and, as many frustrated mediums will tell you, humans often fail to deem something a reality if they cant see it. The oceans suffer from the concept of ‘out of sight, out of mind’. Hence, why there are numerous videographers around the world trying to captivate images of their favourite places, in a bid to make others care. Well a couple of scientists from Monterey, California seem to have done just that. But much bigger. They created a specially designed underwater camera capable of capturing 360-degree images of the Great Barrier Reef. Scientists will be able to use the database to track changes in the reef over time, and therefore monitor the affects of things such as climate change. And it is all available to the public via Google Plus. Pretty cool. Oh and did I mention that in six days they discovered a new species of pygmy seahorse and found 4 types of coral never seen in Australia before.
I am sure there was a whole lot more that went on in 2012, but these were the ‘news-worthy’ things that first came to mind. And thus, the things that made the most impact on my year. Comment and tell me what impacted your 2012.
So with a multi-billion dollar environmental compensation fine, a man at earths deepest valley, new-age shark movements, virtual diving and the worlds biggest marine reserve I think 2012 has summed up to be a pretty cool year. I am looking forward to seeing what 2013 has to offer!