The travelling marine biologist down under

By: Lauren Eyles
Date posted: 27 December 2016

For the past couple of weeks, I have been lucky enough to spend time working with the Australian Marine Conservation Society. During my time here, based on the beautiful Northern beaches in Sydney, I have been working with one of the charity’s marine campaigners to build support for a marine park in Sydney - the Hawkesbury Shelf Bioregion.

First up, I visited the office in Sydney and joined their weekly staff meeting via Skype. There are fewer than 20 staff members of AMCS and four members are based here. The rest are dotted around this huge country in Darwin on the north, Cairns on the north east, Melbourne in the south, Perth on the west and Brisbane (or Brissy or Briss-Vegas!) where the head office is situated and I will be visiting in 2017. My first thought was how do AMCS function with staff based over such a huge area? We have similar hurdles but over less geographical distance. The UK fits into one of Australia’s seven states and territory’s. This doesn’t seem to get in the way of communication and what really stood out was the friendly staff and atmosphere during the meeting.

The commute from Manly Wharf is spectacular and a lovely way to spend the early morning and evening.


The iconic Opera House and Harbour Bridge- seen on the commute

Life in Manly is very laid back and has a lovely community and outdoor feeling. Everywhere you look, there is someone surfing, playing volleyball, slack lining, exercising, walking their dog and enjoying some snacks. There is even an early morning swim everyday called ‘the bold and the beautiful’ (I aim to do this before leaving!) where you have to register for a fetching pink cap and make the return wild swim of about 1km across to one of the only fully protected areas in Sydney called Cabbage Tree Bay or Shelly Beach. A tranquil spot, and underwater aquarium packed full of amazing wildlife right on the doorstep.

I attended a volunteer thank you event in Manly for ‘friends of Cabbage Tree Bay’. Volunteers patrol the area to ensure that regulations are abided by- fishing and removing of marine life are not allowed in this aquatic reserve. There were so many dedicated people, who clearly appreciate and care for the area they live in a great deal- something which can be said of our own lovely volunteers.


Manly beach, looking across to Shelly across the water

NO to plastic bags, YES to Deposit Return Systems!

Later in the week, I visited Boomerang Alliance - an organisation giving power and influence to a collection of groups all concerned about pollution. It was interesting to talk with them and that conversations are the same, even thousands of miles across the big blue. Like MCS, they see the huge value in Deposit Return Systems and are finally starting to see the benefits with New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia all announcing they will be introduced. I asked their Executive Director what was the tipping point for making this happen? He replied ‘13 years worth of campaigning and not giving up!’ Most states have also banned plastic bags - Queensland has committed to ban the bag in 2018, just leaving NSW, Victoria and WA still to go. Their priorities will continue on these into 2017, along with microplastics which is fast becoming a worldwide plague.

It’s time for a marine park for Sydney!

Finally, on the weekend before Christmas, I helped with some community campaigning for a Sydney marine park at the south end of Manly beach. We arrived early- it seems that the beach is most active then. We were collecting signatures from the public and business owners which will be presented to members showing that constituients in the local area support the benefits a marine park would bring. We collected 54 public support postcards and 11 businesses pledged their support during the morning.


Support postcard

Check back in 2017, as I will be doing another of these events at the well known Bondi beach and visiting staff at the head office in Brisbane - It will be a great opportunity to share knowledge and experiences with everyone and campaigning staff. I will be working with one of their campaigners who leads on litter and plastic pollution to help them re-create materials and to shape messaging to launch a new year ‘reduce your waste’ campaign.