Anzac Day Not in the Bay


A few more snaps from Anzac Day on the South Coast.

News, General | Apr 30

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Anzac day in the Bay


The 2014 Anzac Day public holiday delivered a pretty solid South swell and perfect offshores to the South Coast, lighting up spots from Goolwa to Cape Jervis. Middleton Bay had some good head high waves and not much of a crowd mid arvo, here’s a few dark grainy ones - the light was not at all good!

News, General | Apr 26

Mid Coast surfing reserve


A meeting will be held at 7pm on Thursday, Jan 30th at the Port Noarlunga Arts Center to discuss a proposal to dedicate the Mid Coast as a Regional Surfing Reserve.

If you have any questions or comments email:

Dick Olesinski (Olly ): ecomarketing@senet.com.au, or

Bill Jamieson: wjamieson@onkaparinga.sa.gov.au

Mid Coast surfing reserve

General | Jan 9

World Record set at Port Noarlunga


Dec 14 2013, Port Noarlunga, Mid Coast, South Australia

Perfect weather blessed organizers for the Guinness World Record attempt at the longest line of surfboards placed end to end, held at Port Noarlunga 50 minutes South of Adelaide today. The event was part of the Surf Art Festival held at the Port Noarlunga institute, which in its 20th year.

Around 1pm the line of boards was already well underway, extending South from the official’s tent set up on the beach in front of the Port Noarlunga Surf Lifesaving Clubhouse. The 100 mark was quickly exceeded, and the record looked assured as a second flag was placed in the sand to mark the 200th board. As MC Grant Cameron counted down toward the official cut-off time of 2pm, crowds could be seen almost up to the end of Port Noarlunga reef, the line having reached well into the patrolled area of South Port beach. Just after 2pm the Channel 7 chopper had the first of three passes, the third being a slow float with the sea breeze, the cameraman hanging out of the open door. Soon after the official count got underway, documented by Guinness officials and a video production team for posterity.

At just after 2pm the first whispers of the official count began to pass back down the line – just short of 400 at 398… but a convincing premium to the unofficial world record. The existing record stood at just under 200 boards, but the 2012 event held at La Jolla in California was never officially ratified by The Guinness Book of Records. Another attempt in October 2013 planned in Cape Town, South Africa, was called off due to unfavorable conditions for the main record attempt – number of surfers riding a single wave.

Organisers declared the event a resounding success, with entry in the official Guinness Book of Records register little more than a formality. The festive mood continues this evening with several surf movie screenings in the East car park.

 

What’s killing our fish? - the sequel


The algae did it!

That’s the findings of a 4 week old investigation into the mass fish deaths that occurred along Adelaide’s Southern Metro beaches in late March, according to the state’s highest rated officials in the field of Biosecurity and Marine Biology.

The crowd gathers for a meeting at Port Noarlunga jetty over recent mass fish deaths

As the crowd at this evening’s meeting at the Port Noarlunga jetty nudged 300, PhD Marine Biology Student and organiser Nigel Black took to the mic and outlined the reason the gathering had been called – in short, to get answers. Nigel was quickly followed up by Dan Monceaux, activist turned filmmaker turned activist, who discussed his concerns, and also his soon to be released movie about Giant Cuttlefish in the Spencer Gulf ( as opposed to marching out of the sea to wreak revenge on mankind for polluting their habitat, which would make for an awesome film in my humble opinion ).

The defence then took the stand.

First off the rank was member for Kaurna, The Honorable Mr John Hill - who was able to call on his wealth of experience as former Environment Minister to quickly deflect blame from anything that could be even remotely blamed on or associated with the Rann Government. Quickly dismissed were The Adelaide Desal Plant, Stormwater Run-off, waste water treatment plant discharge, and intensive aquaculture in the Spencer Gulf. He then went on to explain that “above average temperatures” in the Gulf, had spawned an algal bloom that killed the fish. Not including the 26 Dolphins. And not including the 25 degree C water recorded over summers of 2009 and 2010.

John Hill addresses the crowd

Will Zacharin, head of PIRSA ( Primary Industries and Resources SA ) Fisheries then took over, rallying strongly after somewhat shaky start and surviving a PA malfunction to reveal that indeed, the algae did it. He started to get into detail about what sort of algae was involved, and how it was all new and unknown to science, and how it had little hooks on the side ( at which point he proceeded to make slightly threatening, hook like gestures with his fingers ). But his diminutive stance, slightly nervous shuffling and quiet voice were losing the restless crowd. It was time to call in the big guns.

Vic Neverauskas, a tall man who spoke clearly and with authority, stepped onto the blue LED emblazoned soap box. At some point it was mentioned that he too worked for PIRSA, but in the completely unrelated field of Biosecurity - a fact largely lost on the audience. He also quickly discounted the cries of “FISH FARMING!” from a heavily tattooed, possibly toothless heckler at the front of the increasingly murmuring, vocal crowd. For me, this was a highlight made all the more amusing by having a Government official addressing a crowd with a name that sounds just like “Never Ask Us”. Whatever you do. Don’t. Ever. A small, vocal group of dissenters repeatedly interrupted Vic, and before long it was clear things were starting to come unglued.

Sensing weakness in the defence’s case, Dan Monceaux seized the opportunity to jump into the ring for round two, and before long had the crowd eating calamari out of his hands. There were broad rumbles of consensus as he flicked the inquisitory spotlight back toward Aquaculture, and cheers when the Adelaide Desal plant was brought back into the frame – this time not for the lack of data on saline discharge, but oxygen levels. Vic tried to counter by insisting this data was available – on the Adelaide Desal Plant AND the EPA website, dating back 18 months – but it was no use. The conspiracy theorists in the crowd were immediately given license to take their Aluminium Foil hats out of their pockets, and wear them with pride. Accusations of self interest, political lobbying, and kickbacks ensued.

 Dan Monceaux speaks

The Q and A session that followed continued on with the theme.

YouTube identity Dwane Mullet jumped in early, winning the crowd with cheap laughs and faux Rex Hunt-esque delivery. But his material quickly became tedious, and once his berley schtick lost its heady aroma, smaller fish clamored to take his place. Many a finger was pointed at the Desal Plant ( de derpity derp ) and many an utterly unsubstantiated claim about lies , hidden agendas and cover ups made. I must admit for a while I sorta tuned out, distracted by the needlessly attractive Seven News Reporter and casting myself in an episode of the Simpsons where some town meeting was taking place. I found myself wishing I’d bought a torch and a pitchfork. My fantasy was short lived.

Nigel Black interviewed by reporter with huge mic

Like some political Ninja, or the drunk cousin that arrives late at the wedding with grass stains down the front of his shirt bellowing “Happy New Year!”, I suddenly found myself staring at someone that looked like they could have been a representative of the Australian Greens. Rubbing my eyes in disbelief I quickly established from the sensible footwear, clear lack of background knowledge and political indecision this was most certainly the case. She went on to say that “pollution is bad” ( m’kay? ) and then, furnishing her loyal assistant Madge with pamphlets, proceeded to recruit the dwindling, evasive crowd to their vague cause.

 Nigel Black wraps up the meeting at Port Noarlunga

Nigel Black then returned to wrap things up, thanking everyone from the Department of Primary Industries ( and Resources… but mining was ruled out as a cause for the fish deaths too, quelle surprise ) for their unbiased scientistic opinions, as well as everyone from the Australian Labour Party who’d popped down for a Schnitty at Porties pub and become distracted by a malleable looking crowd gathered across the road in an election year.

Perhaps not quite as many answers as many of the people attending were expecting, but a very good turn out, and some excellent media coverage. The overall tone was one of concern, and the vibe was one of community. Two commodities not found together very often these days.

 *Corrections 28 April 2013:
I incorrectly stated Nigel Black was studying a PhD in Marine Biology. Nigel is in fact studying a degree in a Design related field.

 

What’s killing our fish?


Unless you’ve spent the last two weeks in a soundproof booth with no phone or wireless internet, you would have heard quite a bit about dead fish. They began washing up on Adelaide’s southern metro beaches around March 28, but for another 2 - 3 days recently dead fish continued to appear. Unlike the great Pilchard kill of 1999, caused by a Herpes virus, all manner of different species were found washed up dead in 2013. Some are calling it the worst they have ever seen. But the discovery of several dead dolphins, penguins and sealions washed up soon after the fish raised concerns to a new level. Speculation of its cause has been rife, with many a finger pointed at the Adelaide Desalination Plant – which ramped up with some testing during March. Meanwhile, Biosecurity SA are discounting the Desal Plant as a suspect – instead offering evidence algal blooms starved the sea of oxygen nearing the end of the month. There are at least a dozen other theories doing the rounds at the moment, and everyone who has any interest in St. Vincent Gulf has an opinion.

Let’s take a look at the cases for and against each of the claims, and hopefully dispel a few myths. In saying so, I don’t believe for a second it’ll end speculation on the issue…

Desalination Plant

Claim:

The Adelaide Desal Plant coming online during March caused the fish kill.

Adelaide DesalThe Case For:

In 2008, Oceanographer Dr Jochen Kaempf and marine biologist Dr Kirsten Benkendorff said the Adelaide Desal Plant “could have a dire impact on the environment and the fishing industry”. Their analysis of the Environmental Impact Statement was uncomplimentary, but stopped short of suggesting it had been “massaged” to ensure the project went ahead. Earlier research work (involving Craig Brokensha of Swellnet fame ) indicated the hazards of discharging highly concentrated salt water ( brine ) into a closed gulf system. Modeling showed narrow bands of discharged water traveling parallel to the coast, instead of diffusing evenly throughout the gulf. Scale that builds up inside the plant as a side effect of processing seawater is removed with chemical agents – which is also discharged into the sea as waste. There is also a rumor circulating of a “foam up” occurring inside the plant in March, which caused strong chemical dispersants to be discharged into the ocean off Port Stanvac. Fish deaths and marine habitat destruction related to desal plants has been noted in Melbourne, and the UAE where there are more desal plants than anywhere else in the world.

The Case Against:

While it’s possible the “foam up” may have happened, it’s unlikely the dispersants used would have been any worse than those used in the two major Pt. Stanvac oil spills in 1999 and 1982. Neither accident resulted in fish kills of the scale seen this March. Desalination plants have operated in other parts of the world for many years, in some cases decades, without causing fish kills. Most of these discharge into the ocean. To blame the Desalination Plant outright would require conclusive proof, e.g. if high concentrations of chemicals discharged from the plant were found in dead fish. Until such evidence is presented though, there remains little basis for claims it was the sole cause of the fish die off.

Algal Bloom

Claim:

One or more large marine harmful algal blooms either depleted a large habitat of oxygen causing fish to suffocate, or killed multiple fish species through toxins or gill damage ( or some combined effect ).

Algal Bloom The Case For:

The Red Tides seen in Sydney during November last year are just one example of a Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB). Red Tides are caused by a phytoplankton and kill many fish, they also release dangerous toxins into living fish that swim through concentrated algae. These toxins are dangerous to humans. There are other lesser known algae that can rapidly multiply in the ocean and cause large fish kills when they starve habitats of oxygen. The causes of these blooms is not well understood, and they are often the confluence of several environmental factors. Biosecurity SA has released satellite images showing elevated levels of Chlorophyll on the western sides of St. Vincent and Spencer Gulfs around March 6th – a strong indicator of an algal bloom.

The Case Against:

So far only circumstantial evidence has been presented that implicates an algal bloom caused the mass die-off of fish. No species have been put forward as likely culprits ( results of ongoing testing may change this ). Apart from Cyanobacteria ( blue-green algae ) and Karenia Brevis ( red tide causing algae ), no species of algae has ever been linked to mass fish deaths in South Australian gulf waters. Air breathing animals such as dolphins and penguins were found washed up at the same time as gilled fish, making death exclusively from algal oxygen depletion highly unlikely. Biosecurity SA have not presented any comparison satellite images from previous summers, and not clearly explained how or when the data was collected. In addition, Flinders University’s Professor Jochen Kaempf said the images did not disprove the desalination plant theory.

Port Stanvac

Claim:

Ongoing bio-remediation of the former Mobil Refinery site somehow released buried or stored toxins which contaminated nearby seawater.

Pt. StanvacThe Case For:

The old Mobil site has a long history of contaminated soil and storage of highly toxic material, dating back long before the refinery was built. It’s right next to the beach and skirted by cliffs which funnel rainfall run-off into the ocean, there are also numerous old drains and outlets that discharge into the sea off Port Stanvac. Heavy metals and PCB’s known to be in the site’s soil are lethal to marine creatures, and can travel up the food chain to poison bigger fish and seabirds. The multi-million dollar site clean-up will take years, and some insiders believe the area is impossible to completely decontaminate.

The Case Against:

The Mobile site cleanup would be one of the most heavily monitored decontamination projects in the country. The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) sets strict guidelines and enforces them with regular testing. Reporting accidents resulting in pollution, and early action to contain them, can circumvent heavy fines. A major contamination event would be very hard to hide, and unlikely to escape the EPA’s attention. There are also independent scientists monitoring gulf waters who would immediately notice any discharge likely to produce such a large fish die off.

Elevated water temperature

Claim:

Unusually elevated water temperatures in St. Vincent Gulf caused several species of fish to die due to heat stress.

SSTThe Case For:

Water temperature anomalies are definitely associated with fish kills. An event in WA over summer 2011 caused a large die off, when water temperatures increased by as much as 5°C in some locations.

The Case against:

There’s no doubt sea water became very warm in both St. Vincent and Spencer Gulfs in early March 2013. But set against the La Nina years prior, there is not any significant difference between the maximum water temperature over the hottest days in February of 2009 and 2011. In both cases the water reached around 24°C, and this was in both the gulfs – yet the large die off only occurred in St. Vincent’s Gulf.

Stormwater run-off

Claim:

Dead fish began washing up on Southern Suburbs beaches after heavy rain fell, and stormwater washed toxins into the sea off Adelaide’s metro beaches.

StormwaterThe Case For:

Heavy metal contaminated, nutrient rich stormwater runoff is not something that should be flowing into the ocean, let alone into a marine gulf ecosystem. Toxins like mercury, lead and cadmium can kill sea life and accumulate in larger animals like sharks and dolphins. Fertilizer and fecal contaminants can carry bacteria like e-coli and assist other strains to multiply. E-coli has been found around the blowholes of dead dolphins washed up in other parts of the world where large fish kills have also occurred.

The Case Against:

Stormwater is bad, but it’s makeup probably hasn’t changed a great deal over the last 40 years or so. Given how long it’s been dumped into St. Vincent’s gulf without huge numbers of dead fish washing up on metro beaches, it’s unlikely to be the culprit on this occasion. In addition, the first dead fish were noted around March 29 after a long spell of very little rain. The heavy rain, 14mm in an afternoon, fell two days later.

Fukushima

Claim:

Leaked cooling water from the Tsunami damaged Fukushima Nuclear Reactor contained radioactive material that once carried by ocean currents, threatens marine creatures worldwide.

FukushimaThe Case For:

In the wake of the Fukushima Nuclear accident, massive doses of radioactive Caeseium 134/7 and Iodine 131 were dumped into the sea in expelled cooling water. Traces of these isotopes have been found in elevated quantities all over the world. Millions of fish died inside the 20km exclusion zone surrounding the reactor, and very high concentrations of Caeseium 134/7 and Iodine 131 have been detected in vegetables 350km from the reactor. A previously secret 1955 US Government report concluded that “ocean may not adequately dilute radiation from nuclear accidents”.

The Case Against:

Modeling by the University of Hawaii suggests contaminants carried by ocean currents probably wouldn’t reach the US West Coast until 2014-15 at the earliest. Their movement would then be heavily influenced by the North Pacific Gyre, which would tent to “trap” them in the Pacific ocean North of the equator. It would take many more years for this contaminated sea water to reach Australia, longer to still to penetrate our heavily tide effected gulf systems.

Undersea volcano

Claim:

An undersea volcano erupted, killing large numbers of fish by poisoning them or through explosive force.

VolcanoThe Case For:

Submarine volcanic eruptions and other seismic activity have killed large numbers of fish before. In October 2011 and underwater volcano erupted off the Canary Islands, turning the water acidic and starving it of oxygen while filling it with Carbon Dioxide. Many species of plankton and fish were found dead, or disappeared from the area completely. A large underwater volcano was found 100 nautical miles off SA’s west coast in 2010.

The Case Against:

Seismographs placed all around the state can detect the smallest of tremors – even those created by construction work and blasting. They would most certainly have registered a near-shore volcanic eruption. The only known volcano is extinct, and closer to Spencer Gulf than it is to Adelaide.

Tipping point

Claim:

Several environmental factors have changed sufficiently under human influence to coincide and cause a dramatic mass extinction. We are on the verge of global eco collapse.

Tipping pointThe Case For:

Some species and habitats seem resilient to gradual environmental changes, but many others seem able to be pushed to a point where mass die-off occurs. Changing one single factor like oxygen levels, water temperature, or food availability, can change the game from “uncomfortable” to “uninhabitable”.This “tipping point” is impossible to determine until it’s tested… and then, of course, it’s too late. Habitat depletion in rainforests or river flow rates are examples.

The Case Against:

It would be highly unlikely for changes to one single factor, e.g. oxygen levels, to effect multiple marine species to the same degree, simultaneously. It would take a more cataclysmic, and therefore more easily detectable event ( like an asteroid impact or massive oil spill ) to cause simultaneous deaths of many species.

Fracking on Yorke Peninsula

Claim:

Coal Seam Gas exploration on Yorke Peninsula released CO2 or some other trapped toxin into St. Vincent Gulf.

CSGThe Case For:

A mining tenement denoted PEL120 takes in the top of Yorke Peninsula, and is designated for Exploratory Coal Seam drilling.

The Case Against:

“Fracking”, the process of extracting Coal Seam Gas, has not occurred yet – and may never occur. Exploration drilling has been carried out all over the central York Peninsula and Eyre Peninsula for decades without killing huge numbers of fish.

Seaford, Dec 9 2012


Some fun waves on Sunday, in spite of a pretty stiff SSE wind trying to blow the snot out of it. Seaford was the hot spot but given how fun the waves looked, surprisingly uncrowded. It was even good enough to motivate SA’s pro-in-residence Dion Atkinson over the road and away from the Triple Crown live webcast. Not quite Pipe… not quite…

Spring on the Flerurieu, 2012


A few random shots from Spring on the Flerurieu, 2012.

Dribs Bay / Point- Jun 17 2012


I didn’t have high expectations heading South today, and recent workload plus a shocking head cold did little to help my fitness propects. But there were some fun looking waves off Dribs point, but even more remarkably, no sign of the dreaded brown scum.  My keen-ness to get out there lifted watching a handful of rippers in the bay picking off the occasional racy right breaking in toward the point, or more regular bowly lefts.  The first few duckdives were OK… the third slightly less pleasant… but by about the tenth the sinuses were fit to explode. It soon became a battle against tunnel vision as the full effects of the ice cream headache kicked in, but mercifully a brief lull in the sets allowed enough recovery to get out there and into it.  The pain was well and truly worth it, with long walling rights and lefts reeling off a couple of well defined peaks, helped by a relatively easy return paddle.  While there weren’t heaving barrels and bath-like water temperatures, there were loads of fun waves, occasional glorious sunshine, and even a trippy rainbow overhead.

You probably can’t ask for a whole lot more at once on the South Coast in June.

South Coast, 24 March 2012


A few snaps from the South Coast over the weekend, mainly Bullies but a couple of other random locations thrown in to get you guessing.  The forecast was for a “9ft swell”, and while it was big, I’d say it was not as big as the big swell in October 2011, or the one macking swell on the June long weekend in 2010. On both of those days The Dump was virtually impossible, and certainly didn’t have the 50+ crowd it drew over the weekend. The Pines was also a lot smaller and fatter, but that didn’t stop a few desperados afraid of wet hair from taking on all that raw power.

Quality of many pics is pretty grainy because they were either shot in really poor light, or poor light plus drizzle. I’ve posted them anyway, as some of them captured some of the bigger / better waves. The standard out at Bullies was high on Saturday, and that made it pretty fun to watch. It was great to see some of the older crew absolutely charging the meanest looking slabs, but also great to see a lone chick fearlessly taking off on some beasts.

I shot some video as well, but this will take me a bit longer to get around to editing. Maybe next weekend. :)