Caretakers needed for east coast island

The Parks and Wildlife Service is looking for pairs of volunteers to play host on Schouten Island between December and May.

Participants in the annual Schouten Island Volunteer Campground host program care for the island for 14 days.

Part of the Freycinet National Park, the island is approximately 6 kilometres by 7 kilometres and is accessed by a half hour boat trip from Coles Bay.

The PWS describes Schouten Island as “bounded by a picturesque coastline of small sandy beaches and rocky granite bays. It is a popular stopover for fishermen and sea kayakers and many others who wish to explore its unique natural and historical features.”

Volunteers greet the island’s visitors, promote “leave no trace” principles and answer questions.

They also record visitor statistics and locations of weeds and do basic maintenance work on the island’s historic huts and walking tracks.

There are also campground host programs at Melaleuca in the far south-west and at Cockle Creek in the south.

People interested  in finding out more about the Schouten Island program should contact Fiona Everts, ranger at Freycinet on 6256 7011 or 0457 758 232 or email Fiona.Everts@parks.tas.gov.au.

For information about the Melaleuca or Cockle Creek program contact Pip Gowen, PWS volunteer facilitator (South) on 0427 648 463 or email Phillippa.Gowen@parks.tas.gov.au.

See also: Parks and Wildlife Service

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Bag ban one step closer

Tasmania is likely to become only the second Australian state to ban plastic shopping bags.

A Greens motion to ban non-biodegradable plastic bags has received tri-partisan support, passing the Lower House.

The Tasmanian ban will be stronger than the ban in South Australia which only bans thin supermarket-style bags and not the thicker department store bags.

The thicker plastic bags will also be banned under the proposed Tasmanian law.

Both the Liberals and the Greens campaigned on banning plastic bags in the lead up to the state election in March.

See also: Mercury, Examiner and ABC.

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Fishermen say seismic testing killed scallops

Tasmanian scallop fishermen are accusing the Victorian Government of killing $70 million worth of scallops in Bass Strait.

In February and March Geoscience Victoria carried out seismic testing in the Bass Strait Central Zone Scallop Fishery, northeast of Flinders Island.

The testing used sound to search below the ocean floor and was designed to find carbon sinks, while a private company, Drillsearch, searched for oil and gas.

Fisherman believe the testing caused the death of an estimated 24 tonnes of scallops.

The accusations come after the scallop fisheries were closed for about four years so stocks could recover from overfishing.

Harvesting began again last year but fishermen say the scallops have been deteriorating and most are now dead.

Victoria’s Department of Primary Industries says an environmental report showed seismic testing had no proven impact on scallops.

Fishermen want compensation for the losses and the Australian Fisheries Management Authority is investigating the impact of seismic testing on scallop beds.

See also: ABC News, the Advocate and the Mercury.

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Project billed as Australia’s biggest conservation deal

Jan Cameron and Tasmanian Land Conservancy chief executive Nathan Males - photo from TLC

Chickenfeed owner Jan Cameron is leading a group of philanthropists to buy and conserve $23 million worth of Tasmanian land.

The Kathmandu founder has teamed up with conservationists Rob and Sandy Purves and Wotif co-founder Graeme Wood to buy 27,290 hectares of private freehold land around Tasmania as part of the project labelled New Leaf.

Ms Cameron and the Tasmanian Land Conservancy bought the land at auction in June from the Tasmanian timber company Gunns. Under the agreement, the land will be given to the TLC for conservation.

Photo from TLC

The TLC is billing it as the biggest conservation deal in Australia’s history, with the purchase totalling one per cent of Tasmania’s private freehold land. It describes the 98 titles of native forest as nationally significant, comprising heaths, grasslands, wetlands and old-growth swamp peppermint forests.

The land provides habitat for endangered plants and animals, including the wedge-tailed eagle, the Tasmanian devil and the stag beetle.

The gift doubles the amount of land the TLC has conserved in the past 10 years. But Ms Cameron says it has not all been given for free. The terms of the agreement mean the TLC must repay $13 million over five years. It is hoping to raise $3 million from the public.

See also: Tasmanian Land Conservancy, ABC News, The Australian and The Mercury. ABC recently featured the usually media shy Jan Cameron on Australian Story. You can watch it here.

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Tasmanian lizard helping climate scientists

Photo from Geoff White, UTas

The skink is well-known in Tasmania’s backyards and now it is helping the state’s scientists understand climate change’s impacts on evolution.

A report published in Nature this week shows snow skinks choose the sex of their offspring depending on the weather.

While genetics determine the lizard’s sex in cold mountain regions, at lower altitudes the lizards produce more females in warm weather and more males when the temperature is colder.

Two evolutionary ecologists from the University of Tasmania,  Dr Erik Wapstra and Dr Geoff While, were part of an international collaboration that studied the snow skink.

“What is so interesting about these skinks is that the populations have different sex-determining mechanisms at different altitudes, and therefore different climates,” Dr Wapstra says.

“The results suggest that the systems that determine the sex of reptile offspring are adaptable and responsive to climate.”

The report says that in populations in low-lying areas, daughters benefit more than sons from being born early in the season because it allows them to reach the minimum size at maturity earlier than females that are born late. For the males, being large is less important.

“One of the implications of our findings is that the results suggest that a warming climate will have different effects on population demographics,” Dr Wapstra says.

“At lowland warm areas, a series of warm years, as predicted under directional climate change, may result in the over-production of daughters, resulting in a female-biased population. In the cold alpine areas, climate will not affect sex ratios.”

See also: UTas and ABC News.

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Sustainable Living Expo

The Sustainable Living Expo will be held next weekend on Hobart’s waterfront. The two-day event runs between 10am and 4pm on Saturday 7 and Sunday 8 November at the Princes Wharf Shed No. 1.

The Sustainable Living Tasmania website describes the free expo as the “pinnacle sustainability event in Tasmania”. In its 12th year, it will include demonstrations, new technology and workshops. The Hobart Bike Kitchen will be auctioning recycled bikes, including the snazzy red number that was brought back to life with help from the Greens’ Nick McKim and Cassy O’Connor.

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Southern Ocean krill fishery closed

The annual conference of the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) in Hobart this week has attracted 200 delegates from 34 countries.

One of the main issues they’re discussing is the industry’s sustainability. On October 10th CCAMLR closed one area of a fishery it manages on the Antarctic Peninsula, due to a massive increase in the catch.

Last year, the total catch was 125,00 tonnes, this year the figure rose to 210,000.

There is increasing commercial demand for krill which is used in dietary supplements and aquaculture feed. In the ocean, krill feeds whales, seals and other large Antarctic animals.

A spokesman for CCAMLR says the governing body takes a precautionary approach to krill fishing in Antarctic waters, and the area was closed once it had reached its catch limit.

The average krill catch since 1992 has been between 100,000 and 125,000 tonnes.

See also: ABC News

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