Hi everyone, this marine conservation post should be particularly pertinent to all of you.
One of our beloved cephalopods is in trouble! Some of you will already be familiar with the mass breeding aggregation of Giant Australian Cuttlefish which occurs each winter in the chilly waters of Upper Spencer Gulf, South Australia. It's a remarkable thing to see- hundreds of thousands of animals up to 1 metre in length courting, fighting, displaying, disguising themselves, laying and tending their eggs... it truly is a natural wonder.
This year however, the population arriving at the breeding ground numbered just 25,000 animals. Despite being another bumper year for tourists, the number of animals was down from 250,000 the previous season. You're probably all familiar with the short-lived nature of these animals, so needless to say, there is immediate cause for concern. Other unusual observations were also made, with many of the animals' eggs failing to adhere to the undersides of the rocks where they were placed.
Unfortunately, the story gets worse. The Lowly Peninsula to which these animals migrate annually is marked for potential industrial development, several of which will further disturb their habitat and pollute their water. The most imminent proposed threat is a desalination plant to provide water to BHP Billiton's Olympic Dam mine. BHP have proposed to pump the waste-water brine back into the gulf, adjacent to the cuttlefish breeding grounds. They argue that the current and tidal flow at the position of the outflow are sufficient to disperse the brine and not impact on the cuttlefish breeding grounds. Other scientists including oceanographer Jochen Kaempf have different opinions, and have shown the risks are likely to be much greater than published in BHP Billiton's Environmental Impact Statement.
Scientists from the University of Adelaide have shown that raising salinity above 20% of the already naturally high salinity of the area results in total mortality of cuttlefish eggs, with similar results recorded in squid (who also breed in the area). The Upper Spencer Gulf is home to rocky reef, sandy bottom, mangrove, seagrass and sponge bed habitats, and it's health is critical to a wide range of marine organisms. The area is also currently marked for future Marine Park classification in 2012.
My wife and I are currently making a documentary film, online video series and are spearheading a campaign to protect these animals and their home. You can help us by signing and sharing our petition, downloading campaign posters and distributing them. There are a few other ways to help too.. we have some bumper stickers for cars and tshirts to wear to promote the cause... and we're soon to start collecting donations for our film's ongoing production.
Thanks for your support everyone... we've been recommended to raise 5000 signatures before we send out a press release nationally in Australia, and we need to reach that number as soon as possible. Thanks in advance for your compassion and support!