save our seas
Get involved in ocean conservation around the Illawarra
Words Matilda Jesiolowski Image Aristo Risi Illustration Paul McNeill
If there is one thing that makes our Coal Coast so special, it’s in the name – the vast stretching coastline from Helensburgh to Shellharbour is what makes so many of us lucky to call this part of the world home. But there are a number of things putting our pristine coast under threat, warranting increasing calls for ocean conservation and protection. Over the coming weeks, local initiatives have been organised around the Illawarra by passionate individuals, who are bringing to light issues affecting our oceans and encouraging the community to get involved.
BLUE the film
On Sunday, April 28, Anita’s Theatre in Thirroul will host a screening of a feature documentary, BLUE. Plastic pollution, overfishing, declining marine life, destruction of habitats, the changing climate of the ocean and rising sea levels are among the many issues the documentary addresses.
“By 2050 there will be more plastic in the sea than the fish.” This is the urgent call to action stated on the BLUE website.
Community members from the Ocean Plastic Patrol, an environmental conservation organisation from Austinmer, will host the event. Paul Hoskins and wife, Zeenath started the OPP to teach their children about the importance of marine plastic pollution.
“They’re learning about tackling problems together, they’re learning that no matter how big the problem is someone can take it on to make a difference. It’s about taking responsibility for their own backyard and giving them purpose beyond their own needs,” Paul says. “Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start and tackle these seemingly insurmountable issues – how can an individual make a difference? That’s why we started the Ocean Plastic Patrol. It’s our entry point into the problem.”
Through the screening of this film, the OPP hope to raise awareness of the plight of the ocean’s fragile ecosystem and give insight into the work of those individuals who are making changes to protect it.
“We live in such a pristine part of the world that it’s hard to imagine the ocean is under considerable threat. But it is,” says Paul.
Paddle out at North Wollongong to #fightforthebight
Another great community initiative and a way you can get involved is by paddling out in protest for the Fight for the Bight campaign, happening on North Wollongong Beach on Sunday, May 5, from 10am.
The event in Wollongong will be hosted by the Surfrider Foundation, who has teamed up with the like-minded Great Australian Bight Alliance to oppose Norwegian mining company Equinor’s granted licenses to drill for oil on the Great Australian Bight. The oil drilling will cover approximately 12,000 square kilometres of the sea floor and, shockingly, even include an area within a marine sanctuary.
Almost 30,000 people have already shown support to oppose the oil drilling. Paddle outs and peaceful protest rallies have been held at major coastal towns around Australia, including Sydney, Torquay, Burleigh Heads, St Kilda and Newcastle.
“Any offshore drilling will damage marine ecosystems and put coastal communities from Esperance in West Australia to the mid NSW coast at risk,” says Susie Crick, the Chair of Surfrider Foundation Australia and president of the South Coast branch. “Many consider this to be the roughest ocean in the world and the swells are unpredictable; the risk is just too great.”
While the proposed drilling is far from the NSW South Coast, Susie argues it is still something to care about, as it will affect communities all over the country. “Australians love the beach, and the ocean is our playground so it’s really important to get involved in this campaign and know what’s going on in our waters. It’s not good enough to think the rigs are far away and that oil disasters can’t happen,” Susie says. “We rely on the ocean for life and for the very air that we breathe, so anything that jeopardises that has to be worth fighting for.”
Surfrider is made up of volunteers, and is always looking for more to help grow their programs. To find out more about the organisation and how you can make a difference, head to the upcoming paddle out at North Wollongong Beach this May. The local community is invited to bring surfboards, bodyboards, kayaks, surf skis and any other personal watercraft to peacefully protest and fight for the protection of our oceans and be a part of the wave of change for the future.
Find more information about the event, head to the Facebook page.