Australia’s new marine parks, and fish-friendly gold mining up north

I don’t know why it is but each week, it seems that a lot of ‘good news’ conservation stories show up in my inbox. So today, I wanted to share some of the bonanza from yesterday:

Red crabs on Ethel Beach on Christmas Island, Jan. 20, 2018. Photo by Raphael Bick on Unsplash.
Photo by Raphael Bick on Unsplash

Australia creates two marine parks

Mongabay reports that Australia is creating two new marine protected areas that cover 286,000 square miles of ocean – twice the size of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. The two parks will be created in the Indian Ocean northwest of Australia, around Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands and will raise the protected share of Australia’s ocean to 45% from 37%.

The two islands are uniquely Australian and globally significant, says Michelle Grady, director of the Pew Charitable Trusts. “Most famous for its annual red crab migration, Christmas Island was referred to as one of the 10 natural wonders of the world by David Attenborough himself,” she added. “Its thriving rainforests, deserted beaches and fringing reef provide a haven for unique and rare seabirds, land crabs and marine life.”

Christabel Mitchell, director of the Save Our Marine Life Alliance, noting that healthy oceans and sustainable fishing are central to the way of life of the two groups of islanders, hopes that the Australian government will work with them to “co-design” the protected areas.

Establishing marine parks to provide a safe haven for marine life is critical in stopping oceans from reaching a tipping point, says Darren Kindleysides, CEO of the Australian Marine Conservation Society. “Oceans across the globe are in deep trouble from pollution, overfishing, habitat loss and the very real and immediate impacts of climate change.”

A fish-friendly project cleans up old gold mines

Hakai Magazine has several lovely stories, including one about ‘Salmon Gold’. a fish-friendly way of cleaning up old Klondike-era placer gold mining areas in the northern Yukon that has brought together some unexpected groups – a nonprofit, an indigenous-owned mining company, major tech and jewelry companies.

Salmon Gold is an idea that had been incubating for more than a decade in the mind of Stephen D’Esposito, president and CEO of Resolve, a nonprofit based in Washington, DC. Flying over Dawson City, he saw how placer mining had affected the land as miners stripped topsoil and sluiced dirt and gravel with water to look for nuggets and flakes. He had a vision of a ‘win, win, win’ way to repair the legacy impacts of placer miniing – gold buyers would get more responsibly sourced gold; salmon habitat would be restored; and placer miners would feel better about their business.

In 2019, using money raised from charities and companies such as Tiffany & Co and the tech giant Apple, Resolve partnered with Dean Race, who had just finished mining a claim on a tributary of Alaska’s Fortymile River. Race restored the site into an award-winning park of diverse native species and recontoured the creek with pools and fast-running shallow waters for salmon. He found about 700 grams of gold, which he sold to Tiffany and Apple under the trademark Salmon Gold. Five projects now have been funded on three river systems – two in Alaska and one in Yukon – and 10 more projects are slated for 2021 in Yukon, Alaska, and British Columbia.

The other Hakai Magazine story I liked so much was about the invasive green crab, and the innovative ways in which people have come together to deal with its depredations – including the start of a new kind of fishery. I recommend it.

Sources:

New Australian marine parks protect area twice Great Barrier Reef’s size. Mongabay, May 13, 2021

Fish-friendly gold mines produce ‘Salmon Gold’. Hakai Magazine, May 10, 2021

The Bright Side of the Green Crab. Hakai Magazine, May 13, 2021