Tuesday, 19 September 2017

A new species of spider has been found in Australia

A new species of spider has been found in Australia. Just what the world needs.

The discovery was made by Helen Ranson during a spider spotting nature expedition on the New South Wales South Coast last year.

Canberra's spider man Stuart Harris led the BioBlitz expedition in the Murrah Flora Reserve for a group who were interested in finding spiders.

Stuart Harris, Julie Morgan, Helen Ransom and Diane Deans on the BioBlitz expedition.
Ranson was looking through a leaf litter when she spotted a spider.

"She said to me 'oh Stuart, what's this?' and I looked at it and was like 'oh no, that's a new species', I just knew straight away," Harris said.

"We were all over the moon jumping around, you can imagine how they felt.

"They just went out for a day in the bush to maybe find some pretty spiders and then they found a new species."

The spider, which on Wednesday was named Maratus sapphirus, was sent to Dr Jurgen Otto, a peacock spider expert who confirmed Harris' suspicions.

Harris said the name Maratus sapphirus came from his suggestion of sapphire.

"Maratus which means peacock spider is the name that's given to any spider in that genus [type]," he said.

"Because it was found on the Sapphire coast - the South Coast of NSW, I suggested the name be something to do with sapphire, also because of its colour."

Harris said the chances of finding a new species as a citizen scientist was slim, saying the find was "significant" not only for the finders but to experts.


Friday, 15 September 2017

Western Australia to ban plastic bags from July 2018

Up to 6 billion bags a year go into landfill in Western Australia, after being used for 12 minutes.
From July 1, 2018, single-use plastic bags will be banned in Western Australia, Environment Minister Stephen Dawson announced on Tuesday.

 Dawson told Radio 6PR the state-wide ban would end any uncertainty caused to retailers in some local councils that had already decided to ban plastic bag use within their districts.

"Over the past few months we've seen a range of local governments act to ban plastic bags in their locality, we've also seen Coles and Woolworths indicate they're going to ban plastic bags," he said.

"Given there's been a bit of concern amongst retailers - they have shops in one local government where they're going to be banned but they're not going to be banned in the next suburb - we've decided the best thing to do is actually ban them across the state.

"We wanted to give communities certainty now that the ban will happen, local government don't need to act, they can wait for the state to implement the ban next year."

The ban will apply to light-weight single use bags, but not sturdier bags typically used at retail outlets.

"The evidence shows that [light-weight] bags last an average of 12 minutes, those stronger bags you get in Myers and other places, they last a lot longer and people can and tend to reuse those," Dawson said.  \
"[We also won't be banning] barrier bags that you get your hams and your meats in," Dawson said.

The state-wide ban will bring Western Australia into line with South Australia, Tasmania, the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory which already have plastic bag bans in place.

Queensland has also vowed to ban the bag from July 1, 2018.


Monday, 11 September 2017

Holding back the rising tide, naturally

Thousands of homes and billions of dollars of public assets are at risk from rising sea levels and we should be strengthening our natural defences now, experts say.

A leaked government draft report on Coastal Hazards and Climate Change concluded that $19 billion worth of buildings, 43,000 homes, and 2000 kilometres could be inundated by rising sea levels.

The greater Wellington region faces a double-whammy of rising seas and sinking land, meaning it will have the highest relative rise in New Zealand, but planners said they were "ahead of the game" compared with other areas. 

Greater Wellington Regional Council natural hazards analyst Dr Iain Dawe said  not enough was being done nationally to prepare for the coastal impacts of climate change, but Wellington was the first to have a natural hazards plan in place.


Thursday, 7 September 2017

Funding for underwater vehicle helps unlock the secrets of sponges

Sponges so deep not even divers can reach them may soon have a name, thanks to the use of an underwater drone.

A team from Victoria University of Wellington will be using a state-of-the-art underwater vehicle to study the sponge gardens off the coast of North Taranaki in the Parininihi Marine Reserve.

With most sponges yet to be identified and named, the study will give scientists a chance to get closer to the small animals than they have in the past.

The study is the work of Ben Harris, a student from the United Kingdom who is investigating how the reefs function compared with shallow water sponge groups elsewhere and deeper water sponge groups in the Taranaki region.


Monday, 4 September 2017

Raglan leading the way to ban plastic bags

Co-chair of Raglan Chamber of Commerce Morgan Morris, left, project manager of Plastic Bag Free Raglan June Penn, and Rakaipaka Puriri, 18 months, celebrating Four Square Raglan going plastic-bag free.

The little town of Raglan is leading the fight against plastic bags.

On Friday, the Waikato beach town's Four Square banned plastic bags, encouraging people to provide their own reusable bags or use the store's compostable​ bags.

The compostable​ bags are made from vegetable starch that will fully break down in the natural environment.
Green MP Denise Roche said New Zealand is far behind other countries in banning single-use plastic bags, and it's up to the Government to put legislation in place.

"If they land on the streets, oceans, they break down to plant [matter], causing no harm to wildlife or the food chain," Plastic Bag Free Raglan project manager June Penn said.

The initiative is a joint project with the community board, businesses, kerbside recycler Xtreme Zero Waste and Raglan Chamber of Commerce.

Plastic is a multigenerational issue with huge implications, Penn said.

A plastic bag is a lightweight toxic material made from fossil fuels that is unable to fully break down.
We use in excess of 1.6 billion plastic bags nationally in New Zealand, Penn said.

"It is the number one consumable item in the world and has an average life of 12 minutes."


Friday, 1 September 2017

West Coast conservation groups share ideas in effort to restore birds' dawn chorus

A plan to create a predator-free zone along a stretch of the West Coast may ensure people can hear birds sing at dawn again.

Forest and Bird and local West Coast conservation and animal protection groups are trying to restore the habitat of the great spotted kiwi, kea, South Island kaka, Westland petrel and other native species along the Coast Rd (State Highway 6) from Fox River to Rapahoe, north of Greymouth, and along the Paparoa Range.

West Coast Forest and Bird chairwoman Kathy Gilbert said the groups wanted to experience a full "dawn chorus" again.

The Westland petrels' breeding location was confined to an 8-kilometre stretch of coastal forest in the foothills of the Paparoa Range near Punakaiki. The Department of Conservation estimated there were about 4000 breeding pairs at the site each year.

About 15,000 great spotted kiwi were left in New Zealand, with about 30 per cent living in the Paparoa Range. Dogs and stoats were a major threat to their population.


Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Sea Shepherd permanently abandons Antarctic whaling face-off over Japanese military fears

Activist group Sea Shepherd is abandoning its annual face-off with Japanese whaling ships in Antarctic waters, saying it has little chance of success against Japan's economic and military might.

The end of the 12-year campaign means Japan will continue its so-called "scientific" whaling programme without the group trying to physically prevent the annual slaughter, which takes place despite loud international protest.

Japan reportedly intends to take about 4000 whales over the next 12 years in the name of "research", and ultimately plans to resume commercial whaling.

A minke whale is loaded on to the Japanese whaling factory ship the Nisshin Maru.

In a statement, Sea Shepherd founder Captain Paul Watson said Japan had doubled its hunting grounds in the Southern Ocean and reduced its annual whale-kill quota to 333, giving its fleet "more time and more area to kill".

He said Japan was also using "military" tactics in the form of real-time satellite surveillance to track Sea Shepherd ship movements, "and if they know where our ships are at any given moment, they can easily avoid us … we cannot compete with their military grade technology".

"The decision we have had to face is: do we spend our limited resources on another campaign to the Southern Ocean that will have little chance of a successful intervention or do we regroup with different strategies and tactics?

"If something is not working the only recourse is to look for a better plan," he wrote.

Watson said Japanese whalers were backed by resources and subsidies from their government, while Sea Shepherd was "limited in resources and we have hostile governments against us in Australia, New Zealand and the United States."

Watson pointed to Australia's refusal to allow the group charitable tax-deduction status, hampering its ability to raise funds.

He said the group was "not abandoning the Southern Ocean whale sanctuary ... we need to cultivate the resources, the tactics and the ability to significantly shut down the illegal whaling operations of the Japanese whaling fleet".

Watson said Sea Shepherd was "in the Southern Ocean doing what the Australian government has the responsibility to do but has refused to do". He called on the Turnbull government to uphold international and Australian law in relation to whaling.