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Great Barrier Reef protection plan report card fails to make the grade

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Great Barrier Reef

The Queensland government’s Reef Water Quality Protection Plan released its Report Card 2014 on September 21. It states, “Results show the need to accelerate the rate of change and drive innovation to meet the ambitious targets.”

Queensland Environment Minister Steven Miles, who released the report, said there was more bad news than good in the report.

“If one of my kids came home with a report card like this, I’d be a bit disappointed,” he said.

“What is most disturbing is these results are far from our targets, and progress to these targets flatlined in the period 2013-2014. The report does show that progress on meeting our targets had stalled, and that UNESCO’s interest was the right thing; that they were right to be concerned that progress had stalled, because now we know it had,” he said.

The reef report card found despite it avoiding an ‘in danger’ listing from Unesco’s world heritage committee in July, inshore areas are undeniably in a bad shape throughout the 2,300km-long ecosystem..

The report card said that both sea grass beds and inshore coral reefs “remained in poor condition overall”.

While there had been reductions in the amount of chemicals flowing onto the reef from agriculture, the report found only 13% of Queensland sugar cane producers had adopted ‘best management practice’ in terms of nutrients, with only 30% using best practice with pesticides. Only 28% of graziers were managing their pastures properly to protect the reef, the report found.

The report card said 330 hectares of reef wetlands and 30,980 hectares of riverbank vegetation was lost between 2009 and 2013.

“There are some trends that are improving but more needs to be done,” said Roger Shaw, chairperson of the scientific panel responsible for the report card.

“We know the pollutant levels exceed the guidelines so we need to bring them back down. The inshore area is still recovering from major floods we had in 2010 and 2011. Climate change is still the number one threat but I’d add climate variability too — if we have extreme events in a short period of time, there is less capacity for coral to deal with other stressors.”

“The figures in the reef report card represent a clear fail for current programs,” said WWF spokesperson Sean Hoobin.

“Governments have promised to give the reef the clean water it needs to recover by 2025 — to meet this commitment they will need to overhaul current programs, and provide significant additional resources.

“Key first steps are to enforce existing regulations to stop overuse of fertilisers. Leading farmers are showing that it is possible to achieve big reductions in fertiliser pollution while still being profitable.”

The Water Quality Protection Plan needs to be seen within the context of Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan (which incorporates water quality).

In a formal response to the Reef 2050 plan in 2014, the Australian Academy of Science stated that the strategy is “inadequate to achieve the goal of restoring or even maintaining the diminished outstanding universal value of the reef”, noting there was “no adequate recognition” of the importance of curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

Professor Terry Hughes, director of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and an academy fellow, said: “There’s nothing in the plan on addressing climate change. The science is quite clear that you can’t keep the Great Barrier Reef in good condition if you’re going to develop huge coal reserves. We are already on our way to 2°C warming and unless Australia cuts back on carbon dioxide emissions we won’t have much of a Great Barrier Reef left.”

The day after the release of report card 2014 the federal government announced in Cairns the $32 million research hub, which will be led by the Reef and Rainforest Research Centre and James Cook University researcher Dr Damien Burrows, to connect scientists, policymakers and communities to deliver a research program that provides practical solutions to maintaining and improving water quality.

One of the research projects highlighted was the development of a tradable permit scheme for cost-effective reduction of nitrogen run-off in sugarcane reef catchments. Market mechanisms are unlikely to lead to improved water quality. Enforcement of existing penalties against polluters are preferable responses.

The Australian Marine Conservation Society welcomed the federal government’s announcement of the Tropical Water Quality Hub in a September 22 media release, but warned of other dangers, including global warming and “unbridled industrialisation of the Reef”.

AMCS Great Barrier Reef campaigner Gemma Plesman said: “While the Reef Trust will help address water quality, other significant challenges remain.

“The unbridled industrialisation of the Reef presents further risks that will not be addressed with this announcement.

“More needs to be done, including rejecting the coal port proposal for Abbot Point which includes massive amounts of dredging that could put nesting turtles under even greater risk.

“Despite all of the evidence of risk to the Reef, the state and federal Governments are still pushing ahead with their plans for the Abbot Point coal port expansion.

“Water quality is only one piece of the puzzle. Abbot Point presents further risks to this natural wonder.

“The expansion would see 1.1 million cubic metres of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area dredged and then dumped on land adjacent to the internationally significant Caley Valley Wetlands which support 40,000 birds in a good wet season.

“This project would also mean an extra 390 coal ships crossing the Reef each year, increasing the potential for devastating oil spills.

“The Abbot Point expansion would also enable a dramatic increase in the mining and burning of coal which contributes to global warming and places even greater pressure on this fragile ecosystem,” Plesman said.

Source: www.greenleft.org.au

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Introducing two new Colours of OBLU resorts in the Maldives

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COLOURS OF OBLU, a brand by Atmosphere Hotels & Resorts, has opened two exciting new resorts in Male Atoll in the Maldives this year.

OBLU XPERIENCE Ailafushi opened in June. Translating from the Maldivian dialect of Dhivehi, ‘Aila’ means family and ‘Fushi’ means island, in essence, the Family Island. A 15-minute speedboat ride from Velana International Airport brings guests to this beautiful tropical island.

The four-star resort’s 268 villas and rooms are designed to experience nature at its best. A striking fleet of water villas shaped like dhonis are lined up along the jetty – a perfect spot for snapping some selfies. From the moment of arrival, a carefree and relaxed holiday unfolds with the generous Fushi Plan™. Dining, activities, a multi-level kids club with a pool and food corner, overwater gym, and live entertainment are all blended within the stay for a hassle-free holiday.

Sumptuous all-day dining options are available at the Element X Restaurant which serves modern Western, Central Asian, and Far Eastern cuisines. X360 Bar features a 1000 sqm infinity pool – one of the largest in the Maldives. Guests can enjoy unlimited orders of refreshing spirits, wines, and beer from the grab and go bar counter. Evenings come alive with enthralling music and party vibes at the bar’s dance floor. The Copper Pot Food Truck parked on the beach is perfect for an open-air dinner of choicest fresh seafood and meat grills that can be relished on the soft sandy beach beneath the starry sky.

Walk up to La Promenade located beside a channel that meanders across Ailafushi island. This picturesque walkway has cosy seating corners along with a wine boutique, souvenir shop, and café. There is so much to do here — lounge at the scenic overwater deck, sip a cup of coffee, and socialise with like-minded travellers. Experiential highlights also include The Dome, a futuristic 15-meter theatre and entertainment centre.

Sister resort OBLU SELECT Lobigili is an adults only property that opened in March. In the Maldivian language of Dhivehi, ‘Lobi’ means love and ‘Gili’ means island. Lobigili is, in essence, the island of love.

Blessed with verdant foliage, this five-star resort features 68 contemporary beach and water villas – all assuring gorgeous views of the turquoise-blue lagoon. With the resort’s exclusive Lobi PlanTM guests can immerse in a blissfully carefree stay. This generous plan includes specialty fine-dining, unlimited beverages, spa services, Indian Ocean excursions, a selection of non-motorised watersports as well as a fully stocked minibar replenished daily.

OBLU SELECT Lobigili continues with the brand’s tradition of exceptional fine dining, elevating the mealtime experience with playful and fun touches. At Ylang-Ylang, the All-Day Dining Restaurant, delectable world cuisine with intimate nooks for couples and a unique book corner are unmissable. The Swing Bar with itschilled out beachside vibe features chic hammocks, swings and a stunning infinity pool that is one of the largest in the Maldives. Evenings come alive with handcrafted, aromatised cocktails and hypnotic DJ and Live Band performances.

That is not all. There is Gaadiya 17 Food Truck serving grab-and-go game meat grills to be relished in a fun, open-air setting on the beach under starry skies. And an exotic ONLY BLU Underwater Restaurant, one of the largest underwater restaurants in the country, where guests can experience impeccable modern gourmet cuisine.

A standout experience is ELE | NA The Spa – designed exclusively for couples and adults – featuring locally inspired spa treatments including  Lobi Dhooni (Love Bird) Hithun Hithath (Heart To Heart) and Dhekanbalun (You & Me).

Scuba Diving from both resorts is with OBLU’s partner dive centre, TGI Maldives, one of the best-known in the country. The dive centre teaches a variety of PADI and SSI courses. The island’s house reef is perfect for relaxed dives, snorkeling and training, whilst many of North Male Atoll’s best dive sites are just a short boat ride away. In particular, the atoll is well-known for its manta ray sightings from May to October.

Discover more at www.coloursofoblu.com

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SSI releases new Explorers program for kids

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SSI has announced the release of the SSI Explorers Program, where kids aged 6-11 years old can get a taste of the many ways to explore the aquatic world around them. This exciting program makes diving for kids stress-free, guiding them in engaging underwater adventures where they can scuba dive, act like a real mermaid, and go underwater on a single breath with freediving. SSI has invested much time and energy into re-vamping this child-centered experience program.

Formerly known as Scuba Rangers, the new SSI Explorers Program is today’s most extensive aquatic experience program for kids in the dive industry. Children who have not yet reached the minimum age for scuba diving will not only gain a solid foundation in ocean conservation, but they will have the opportunity to experience four main aquatic adventures and many specialties.

Your young aquatic explorer will join Emma and Nico on exciting underwater adventures with their marine friends, Star the starfish, Shelly the sea turtle, and Spike the shark. The comprehensive children’s manual is very engaging, with colourful cartoon drawings and authentic ocean images for this young audience. Emma and Nico guide children throughout the manual’s educational content in a fun and engaging way, using Spike as their equipment expert and Shelly as the ocean environment advocate.

The SSI Explorers materials start by introducing children to the importance of protecting and preserving our oceans by becoming a Blue Oceans Explorer. After learning why our oceans are important, about the world’s five oceans, and what they can do to help protect our oceans, students earn the SSI Blue Oceans Explorer recognition rating. They can then move on to learn all there is to know about snorkel equipment and snorkelling in a confined water environment to earn their Snorkel Explorer rating.

After completing these two initial experiences, SSI Explorers can choose from one of three aquatic adventures and either become a Scuba Explorer, Mermaid Explorer, or Freediving Explorer. Better yet, they can continue on to earn all three ratings!

SSI Mermaid Explorers get to swim around like real mermaids while improving their swimming skills. SSI Freediving Explorers will go underwater and dive deeper by holding their breath longer in an encouraging, relaxed environment.  Explorers who have not met the minimum age for scuba diving can try it out within the safety of a pool or confined water and become an SSI Scuba Explorer.

The fun doesn’t stop there, however! SSI Explorers can go on even more underwater adventures to earn 22 different Specialty Explorer ratings. They can improve their explorer skills with exciting specialties like Underwater Model Explorer, Rescue Explorer, Shark Ecology Explorer, and Search & Rescue Explorer, just to name a few. Your child can earn the Specialty Explorer recognition rating by completing two Explorer specialties. When they complete four specialties, they will become Advanced Explorers, and after completing the Rescue Explorer specialty, they can become a Master Explorer. SSI Explorers will even be able to earn real C-Cards just like their parents to show off their hard-earned recognition ratings.

To look back on their explorer fun, SSI has included a logbook section toward the back of the colourfully engaging SSI Explorers manual. The Explorer Logbook is where students can record details of their underwater adventures as they work through these exciting experiences. Near the logbook, SSI has also included an area for the Explorer Instructor to place an SSI recognition sticker specific to each completed explorer activity. Children will be excited to work toward earning them all!

The SSI Explorers program is now available as a book or digitally in four languages: German, English, Spanish, and Italian, with more languages hopefully coming soon.

Training the next generation of ocean lovers and aquatic enthusiasts is very important to SSI and all SSI Training Centres and Pros. The SSI Explorers Program is an excellent way to promote ocean conservation and aquatic safety in our younger population and prepare them for future open water certification opportunities once they reach the minimum age for scuba diving.

Look for an SSI Explorers Program at an SSI Training Centre near you. To find your nearest SSI Training Centre, check out the SSI Centre Locator here.

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