Watching the guinea pig; Papua New Guinea

The Nautilus Mineral is leading the world in the quest to develop, seafloor mineral deposits. It is developing the world’s first seafloor mining in the Bismarck Sea of Papua New Guinea (PNG). However, there are sensitive emerging issues that need attention before this major mining event could take its full course. The world is watching with curiosity as unfortunately, PNG is going to be the guinea pig.

The main hinted issue here is, “the interface between Seafloor Massive Sulfides (SMS) mining and environmental protection will be particularly challenging for developing countries such as PNG or Tonga and others in the Pacific, because of their limited capacities to undertake appropriate environmental laws to oversee seafloor mining activities effectively.”(Hoagland et al., 2010)

How much awareness on careful thoughts, considerations and communication had been delivered to the public? As far as environmental impacts and livelihood of the coastal PNG population is concerned this seabed mining project is going change everything.

We cannot see much under the sea, but there is sure living creatures whose peaceful habitat is likely to be disturbed by the slightest movement on the seafloor. How about this image?

How much do we know about the nature of this type of mining? Has the government of the day thought of its people and how this project is going to affect the daily lives of its people? Did the Nautilus company highlighted all the pros and cons of its operation? Has it done an honest plan for the next 20 years of its operation within the waters of PNG and in other parts of the Pacific? How much science (marine ecosystems disturbance) is there to be understood to appreciate or not appreciate this kind of development?

Here’s a video that should tell us how much has been said and understood as far as the development is concerned.

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Although Nautilus promises to encourage skills and technology transfer in terms of the following;

• Clean mining, low disturbance

• Little disruption of land holders

• Increased safety (compared with onshore operations)

• Royalties and taxes.

Can we safely rely and trust it? How far down the line would we tolerate before our lives are transformed by its influence, whether for good or bad?

Reference:

Video – http://youtu.be/tlnwguwO9Rc

Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pennstatelive/6011611812/sizes/m/in/photostream/

Hoagland, P., Beaulieu, S., Tivey, M. A., Eggert, R. G., German, C., Glowka, L., & Lin, J. (2010). Deep-sea mining of seafloor massive sulfides. Marine Policy, 34(3), 728-732. doi: 10.1016/j.marpol.2009.12.001

Highlighting the plight of marine animals to assist conservation

I have always loved the ocean and pretty much all marine life (bar a few creepy critters). Here in Australia the beach and ocean are very important for us culturally as well as economically. Unfortunately humans have been abusing and trying to ‘master’ the ocean for centuries. This results in a wide range of problems including pollution, loss of marine life and much more.

Luckily we have a secret weapon to use in our management and conservation efforts – marine animals! Marine animals attract significant attention in ocean conservation planning and therefore are often used politically to promote designation of marine protected areas (Hooker & Gerber 2004). Highlighting the effects our actions have on animals and their environments is a very effective way to raise money and awareness. Often the larger marine animals such as seals, sharks, whales, birds etc. are used to front campaigns, however a wide range of plants and animals benefit where protected marine areas are set up.

Case in point: Could you say no to protecting this little guys habitat?

Animals affecting by the Deep Horizon Oil Spill

Most of us would be familiar with BP’s recent oil spill or Deepwater Horizon spill, which devastated a range of marine life. This is just one example of how humans have damaged marine environments. If you recall the images from magazines and news stories, you would often see birds covered in the oil. Birds are particularly susceptible to oil spills as it prevents their feathers from insulating them and the often die of hypothermia. The media make a conscious decision to use these images of animals suffering at our hands as it makes a strong connection with the audience.

In the past there was a lack of knowledge surrounding the oceans and all their secrets, however now we know better. A major concern for our oceans at the moment is the effect that climate change will have on them. Issues include ocean acidification (see what our friends at Skeptical Science (SS) have to say), coral bleaching (SS), sea level rise (SS), changes to ocean circulation patterns (see my ‘The Day After Tomorrow’ post for an extreme case) and potentially many more!

The polar bear is a great example of animals being used to drive campaigns against environmental problems. There are countless images and documentaries that look at how global warming is threatening the existence of polar bears. The heating of our atmosphere due to human carbon dioxide emissions is resulting in the reduction of their Arctic Ice habitat, which has continually been a target for different media formats. David Attenborough’s ‘Climate Change‘ documentary is an example that states starving polar bears are the first victims of climate change.

The 'face' of climate change.

This video is a great example of how the World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) Coral Sea campaign was a raging success. They used imagery of beautiful corals and highlighted the decline of reef sharks in the area to gain public support and push the government to declare the area a marine protected zone (which means it is protected from destructive fishing and activities like mining exploration). Australian news picked up the campaign which featured on radio stations, in popular magazines and it made prime-time news around the country, as well as international news.

Please let me know if you think media harnessing this ‘guilt’ factor of animal plights is an effective way of getting results?

References

Hooker, SK and Gerber, LR 2004, ‘Marine Reserves as a Tool for Ecosystem-Based Management: The Potential Importance of Megafauna’, BioScience, vol. 54, no. 1, pp. 27 – 39. Retrieved from Academic Search Premier.

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