Welcome to Cairns!
The flight from Sydney to Cairns went smoothly. Once in Cairns, the group heard a presentation on the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority from their Regional Liaison Manager, Doon McColl while eating pizza at a local establishment. Doon started out by explaining her 20 years of experience with world heritage centers. Doon then discussed Australia’s tourism, which is worth over eight billion dollars with Australia’s biggest tourist attraction being the Great Barrier Reef making the reef economically sustainable. The Great Barrier Reef consists of 900 islands, which contribute to Australia’s unique biodiversity. Six of seven of the world’s marine turtles are found in Australia creating environmental sustainability. There are over 2,900 coral reefs in the Great Barrier Reef. The Great Barrier Reef is an amazing 2,300 km long.
Some of the struggles experienced by the Great Barrier Reef started in the 1970’s with reef mining. The federal government stepped up and implemented regulations that overruled the state level laws. One change made was that the Great Barrier Reef became an official Marine Park. This park starts at the lowest water mark. In 1981, a decision that fisheries are managed by the state of Queensland became part of the Marine Park Act. There are 12 sections of legislation in this act, including tourism being federally regulated. Today, Cairns experiences 140 commercial passenger vessels a day. Another new regulation is that touching marine life on the Great Barrier Reef is illegal, in order to protect the reef. Currently, the Eye on the Reef program is the largest program ran by the Marine Park Authority. This checks patches of the reef once a week for changes such as oil spills. There have been 5,000 sightings of oil spills in the past three years along the Great Barrier Reef. Another duty of the Eye on the Reef is to report when whales begin migrating north. They also, observe for changes in corals, and crown of thorns outbreaks. The Marine Park Authority also, partners with the state in order to preserve the reef. The effects of climate change and declining water quality are two of the main concerns. It has been discovered that poor water quality is due to pesticide and fertilizer runoff. Other issues along the reef involve natural weather impacts. Since 2009, there have been six severe cyclones which resulted in decreasing tourism and commercial fishing pressures. In Queensland, the mining boom has affected the Great Barrier Reef as well. It has caused plans for port expansions, doubling the number of ports and ships. In result, dredging will eventually increase as well. One of the greatest concerns is coral bleaching. Proposed plans to reduce bleaching effects include using shade cloths and implementing sprinklers to break the water’s surface. Both of these result in cooling. Another action taken to preserve the Great Barrier Reef is that it has been declared a world heritage center. The criteria to become a world heritage center includes possessing aesthetic value, geological evolution evidence, proof of ongoing evolution, and cultural significance. The Great Barrier Reef resulted from four previous ice ages, which is the geological proof. Ongoing evolution is seen through changed in bird migration patterns along the reef.
The last topic Doon discussed was the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s commitment to stewardship. Over the last ten years, community building has been a major goal. Reef Guardian schools for primary aged children have been developed. These schools teach children the importance of sustainability in everyday life. This includes taking shorter showers and turning the water off while brushing your teeth. Another socially sustainable action implemented has been creating a new council. Council members include local fishermen and farmers. Topics discussed include finding ways to avoid putting cleaning products and medications down the sink. As Doon stated, “if we look after the environment it will look after us.”
After enjoying pizza, we departed for Cairns Biodiesel where we met Steve. Steven explained Cairns Biodiesel’s use of secondhand vegetable oils from local restaurants and other businesses. This helps create economic sustainability. Their business focuses on recycling engine oils although; they have considered the use of coconut oils. Clean oil as Steve explained, has a free fatty acid content of four. Their oil is washed using water. If oil appears white, it is overcooked. When too much methanol and hydroxide are added to the biodiesel process overcooking becomes common.
Cairns Biodiesel also supplies Shell and various other companies with biodiesel to mix into their blends. Their company produces a total of 20 percent glycerol waste. Glycerol can be used to heat plants or it can be burned or refined to pure glycerol for pharmaceuticals. Other rubbish runoff produced is used as fertilizers. An advantage of vegetable oil over other fuel sources is that when it spills vegetable oil can decompose in about six weeks. This is more environmentally sustainable than other fuel sources.
Cairns Biodiesel has also experimented with other endeavors such as selling to ash fault manufactures. This became a social system sustainability issue, because the flashpoint of biodiesel is 160 degrees Celsius. This resulted in deaths of various employees in charge of cleaning machines because they were used to kerosene. As far as biodiesel use in cars goes, Steve explained, that for the most part no conversion in cars is necessary. If the car contains rubber, like older cars do, then conversion is required. The majority of cars can use 100 percent biodiesel. The only downfall is that the car filter will need to be changed more regularly due to microbials in the system. Biodiesel is great for unclogging these microbials from car tanks.
The following day we went snorkeling on the Passions of Paradise Reef Tour.
While snorkeling we were able to observe Australia’s unique biodiversity firsthand. We saw various schools of fish, a shark, and different types of sting rays. On the boat a marine biologist shared the Passions of Paradise’s sustainable practices. This includes a half hour to two hours of sailing a day. Sadly the sail was broken when we were aboard.
The ship cruises at 11 kilometers to 15 kilometers in order to save about 160 liters of fuel a day. On the trip home we were able to see humpback whales.
July 10, 2012
Can’t wait for Cairns!
It is hard to believe, but in 5 days I will be on my way to the land down under. I have to admit I am pretty excited. Traveling to Adelaide, Wagga Wagga and Sydney are once in a lifetime opportunities that I cannot wait to experience. Although, the best part of the trip will be in Cairns. Cairns is located in far north Queensland Australia. We will by flying from Sydney to Cairns July 31st and staying until August 1st. This will be day 18 of traveling. The average temperature at this time of year n Cairns is usually is a high of 63 degrees and a low of 46 degrees.
What comes to mind when people hear Cairns? Well the Great Barrier Reef of course. This will be our first stop in Cairns. We will hear a presentation on the Great Barrier Reef learning about how the reef is managed, the biodiversity of the reef, and likely the animals that inhabit it. The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef ecosystem and as a scuba diver I cannot wait to see it firsthand!
Our second stop will be Cairns Biodiesel. This company produces biodiesel and boiler fuels, recycles used engine oils, and collects used cooking oil. Biodiesel is an alternative fuel known for its clean burning. It is made commonly from renewable resources. Biodiesel is petroleum free, but can be combined with petroleum diesel to produce a biodiesel blend. Biodiesel is also, biodegradable, nontoxic, and does not increase atmospheric levels of CO2. The biodiesel from Cairns Biodiesel actually uses recycled vegetable oils for the production of fuels. Biodiesels can be used in any diesel engine such as cars, four-by-fours, boats, and generators. They are also a more sustainable source of fuel than regular diesel. This is because biodiesel is produced from renewable resources and has lower emissions. Biodiesel only has 5% of the carbon footprint of regular diesel. It is also, less toxic than table salt and degrades five times faster than fossil fuels.
The third stop of the day we will continue learning about the Great Barrier Reef though Reef Teach. Reef Teach gives presentations about the Great Barrier Reef, and even allows some hands-on-learning as well. Learning how to identify different marine life and types of coral will diffidently make snorkeling and scuba diving more exciting. They will also, teach us about the effects global warming has had on the Great Barrier Reef, such as coral bleaching.
The last stop of the day will be an optional trip to the Cairns Museum. The Cairns Museum will be a great way to learn about Aboriginal history and the heavy influence China has had on Australia throughout time.
At night we will be staying at the Cairns Queenslander. This hotel is close to the beach, shopping and nearby plenty of places to experiment with local food. We will be staying here for both day 18 and 19 of our stay in Cairns.
The second day in Cairns will be spent at Passions of Paradise reef trip. This will be our chance to put all our knowledge of the reef to good use when snorkeling or scuba diving. While snorkeling we might see Green turtles, manta rays, clown fish, and various corals. For those that choose to stay out of the water there is a glass bottom boat tour along the Great Barrier Reef.
I cannot wait to start exploring Cairns, but first I need to finish packing.
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