Inbox and environment News Issue 192 

 December 7- 13, 2014: Issue 192

 “How To” lodge and track your complying development application using the EHC- NSWPlanning - Published on 2 Dec 2014

A short video to demonstrate how to lodge and track a complying development application using the Electronic Housing Code system.

 Clue to why females live longer than males

December 1, 2014 – A study from the University of Exeter has found that male flies die earlier than their female counterparts when forced to evolve with the pressures of mate competition and juvenile survival. The results could help researchers understand the mechanisms involved in aging.

The research, published in the journal Functional Ecology, used populations of the fly Drosophila simulans that had evolved under different selection regimes. The study shows that mate competition (sexual selection), along with survival (natural selection), is tougher on male aging than it is on females reducing their lifespan by about a third.

Some species, like the flies in this study, age quickly over a number of days while others - including some trees and whales - age slowly across centuries.

Professor David Hosken from Biosciences at the University of Exeter said: "We found dramatic differences in the effects of sexual and natural selection on male and female flies. These results could help explain the sex differences in lifespan seen in many species, including humans, and the diverse patterns of aging we observe in nature."

The flies were subjected to elevated or relaxed sexual and natural selection and left to evolve in these conditions. To elevate sexual selection groups of males were housed with single females. A stressful temperature was used to elevate natural selection.

Males court females by singing, dancing and smelling good but their efforts come at considerable cost and this cost is amplified when they also have to cope with stressful temperatures.

The results of the study showed that under relaxed sexual and natural selection, male and female flies had very similar lifespans -- around 35 days. However males that evolved under elevated sexual selection and elevated natural selection had a much shorter lifespan -- just 24 days -- and died seven days earlier than females under the same conditions.

Both sexual selection and natural selection were found to affect lifespan but their effects were greatest on males. The findings show that the sexes can respond differently to the same selection regimes.

1. C. Ruth Archer, Eoin Duffy, David J. Hosken, Mikael Mokkonen, Kensuke Okada, Keiko Oku, Manmohan D. Sharma, John Hunt. Sex-specific effects of natural and sexual selection on the evolution of life span and ageing inDrosophila simulans. Functional Ecology, 2014; DOI: 10.1111/1365-2435.12369

 Mapping human disease: 'Not all pathogens are everywhere'

December 3, 2014 - Researchers at North Carolina State University have for the first time mapped human disease-causing pathogens, dividing the world into a number of regions where similar diseases occur. The findings show that the world can be separated into seven regions for vectored human diseases -- diseases that are spread by pests, like mosquito-borne malaria -- and five regions for non-vectored diseases, like cholera.

Interestingly, not all of the regions are contiguous. The British Isles and many of its former colonies, such as the United States and Australia, have similar diseases and are classified in the same vectored and non-vectored regions. But Britain's former colonies in Africa and Asia contain different diseases and therefore are located in differing regions, suggesting that colonization is just one of a variety of factors, like climate and socio-political status, affecting the prevalence of disease in a specific area.

"This is about more than just the movement of people -- climate, history and geography all seem to be important factors in how diseases survive and thrive across the globe," said Michael Just, an NC State Ph.D. student in plant and microbial biology and lead author of a paper describing the research. "Understanding that not all pathogens are everywhere could have consequences for public health and the global society as a whole."

The researchers examined the world's 229 countries for the presence or absence of 301 diseases - 93 vectored and 208 non-vectored. It found two more vectored-disease regions than non-vectored disease regions, which is likely due to the fact that the vectors - the pests that carry disease - sometimes have limited mobility. Think of a warm-weather pest that can't handle the cold, like the mosquito.

"Researchers have mapped humans, animals and plants and their movement and evolution across the globe, but the things that live on or with us - pests and pathogens, for example - have been largely ignored," Just said. "This study is a good first step in examining the relationship between people and their pathogens, which could have important human health implications."

1. Michael G. Just, Jacob F. Norton, Amanda L. Traud, Tim Antonelli, Aaron S. Poteate, Gregory A. Backus, Andrew Snyder-Beattie, R. Wyatt Sanders, Robert R. Dunn. Global biogeographic regions in a human-dominated world: the case of human diseases. Ecosphere, 2014; 5 (11): art143 DOI: 10.1890/ES14-00201.1

Maps reflect vectored human diseases (top) and non-vectored human diseases. Click for larger image. Credit: Image courtesy of Michael Just

 Australian project vies for top design prize

Published on 1 Dec 2014

For its role in turning a psychiatric hospital's heating and laundry room, to a creative space for students, a university in Sydney is on the shortlist for 'Urban Design Project of the Year.' The award looks at completed world-class urban designs that transform old structures into useful modern buildings like the project in the University of Western Sydney. The World Architecture News will announce the winner this week. Al Jazeera's Andrew Thomas reports from Sydney.

 Lobster theft lands Central Coast fisher in court

03 Dec 2014 - Lobster fishers are reminded to follow the rules when fishing or be prepared to face the consequences, after a man was apprehended by fisheries officers on the NSW Central Coast with six times the legal bag limit.

Department of Primary Industries (DPI) Acting Director Fisheries Compliance, Patrick Tully, said fisheries officers inspected the man's catch at Terrigal during a patrol of the area.

"The 47 year old Holgate man was allegedly in possession of 12 Eastern Rock Lobsters at Terrigal Haven," Mr Tully said.

"This is six times the legal bag limit of two per person.

"Fisheries officers apprehended the man and seized the man's diving equipment, catch bag and the lobsters.

"The man is expected to be issued with an attendance notice to face local court on charges of exceeding daily bag limit in circumstances of aggravation.

"Such charges carry a maximum penalty of $44,000 or 12 months imprisonment (or both) for a first offence and double these penalties for any second or subsequent offence."

Mr Tully reminded lobster fishers to take the time to get to know the rules before heading out fishing.

"There is a daily bag limit of two lobsters per person in NSW, with a minimum size limit of Eastern Rock Lobster's carapace length being 10.4 centimetres and a maximum size limit of 18 centimetres," Mr Tully said.

"Lobsters are a prized species in NSW and fisheries officers conduct compliance operations targeting those involved in illegally taking and possessing lobsters.

"We will bring people found stealing these valuable species before the courts to face tough penalties including gaol sentences and large fines."

Anyone with any information concerning the illegal take, possession or sale of lobsters in NSW should contact the Fishers Watch line on 1800 043 536 or your nearest fisheries office.

Illegal fishing activity can also be reported online


The Hon Katrina Hodgkinson MP, Minister for Primary Industries - MEDIA RELEASE - Thursday 4 December 2014

Minister for Primary Industries, Katrina Hodgkinson, and Member for Port Macquarie, Leslie Williams, have launched three new Fisheries Patrol Vessels to target illegal fishing activity along the NSW coast.

Ms Hodgkinson said the three high-speed vessels – to be based at Port Macquarie, Tuncurry and Batemans Bay – will enable Department of Primary Industries’ fisheries officers to conduct patrols in offshore, coastal and estuarine waterways.

“Here on the North Coast, the purpose-build 6.1 metre vessel will be stationed in the Hastings fisheries district,” said Ms Hodgkinson, who visited Port Macquarie to make the announcement.

“This new vessel will patrol the waters of the north coast covering Port Macquarie, Laurieton and South West Rocks to detect and deter anyone engaged in illegal fishing activity.

“These vessels have been fitted with the latest state-of-the-art navigation technology for accurate recording of offence locations at sea and have many enhanced safety features.

“Each of the three vessels feature a twin Suzuki 90 horse power engine that is fuel efficient and provides high speed capacity for ocean patrols.

“Fisheries Officers will utilise the vessel in ocean trawl, ocean trap and line, rock lobster, ocean haul and recreational fisheries to conduct compliance checks and surveillance operations. “

Ms Williams said the Port Macquarie-based vessel will also patrol the Grey Nurse Shark critical habitat of Fish Rock and Green Island at South West Rocks, as well as the Commonwealth Marine Reserve Cod Grounds off Laurieton.

“This vessel is capable of being launched from ocean beaches and can safely cross bars at river mouths,” Ms Williams said.

“The vessel located at Port Macquarie is to be named FPV Watonga, after an historical coastal steamship which serviced the local and North Coast region in the late 19th century.”

Illegal fishing activity can be reported to the Fishers Watch hotline on 1800 043 536, which is a 24/7 automated service, or online

Photo: Minister for Primary Industries Katrina Hodgkinson, NSW Fisheries Rob Peever and Member for Port Macquarie Leslie Williams launch the new patrol vessel.

 Angus's Plants for Aussie Birds - Banksia ericifolia

 Moolarben Coal Mine proposal referred to the PAC

Media Release: Department of Planning and Environment - 27 Nov 2014

An application for the Moolarben Coal Mine Stage 2 project has been referred to the Planning Assessment Commission (PAC).

The proposal for a second stage includes:

establishing two new underground and one new open cut mining area further east of the existing operation

extracting an extra 16 million tonnes of coal per year for 24 years, bringing the total for the entire mine to 28 million tonnes per year until the end of 2038

constructing supporting facilities and utilities

an associated application to modify the existing first stage of the mine so both stages can operate as one.

The application for the proposal says it would create 120 ongoing, full-time jobs and another 220 during construction as well as contributing more than $150 million in taxes and royalties to the NSW and Australian governments during construction and operation.

“A public hearing was held by the PAC during its initial merit review, where 51 presentations were made by the community and government agencies,” a spokesperson for the Department of Planning and Environment said.

“The proposal will now be returned to the PAC for a final decision.”

To view the Department’s assessment,visit the Major Projects website at


Moolarben Mine - Stage 1 - Modification 3

Moolarben Mine - Stage 2 Project

 Koalas selective about eucalyptus leaves at mealtime: Koalas selected leaves with more nitrogen, fewer toxins

December 3, 2014 - Koala population distribution may be influenced by eucalyptus leaf toxin and nutrient content, especially in areas with low-quality food options, according to a study published December 3, 2014 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Eleanor Stalenberg from The Australian National University and colleagues.

Scientists suspect that access to nutritious food plays a role in herbivore distribution and abundance, but there is still some debate over how variation in plant nutritional qualities may influence population distribution. Koalas predominantly eat eucalyptus leaves and their population density varies widely in different Australian eucalyptus forests, possibly due to variation in the nutritional quality of the eucalyptus leaves. The authors of this study sampled leaves from eight species of eucalyptus trees in forests on the far south coast of New South Wales, Australia, to investigate how leaf chemistry might influence wild koala distribution. They also measured koala tree visitation using koala faecal pellets at the base of the tree as a proxy.

They found that koalas visited trees with leaves containing higher available nitrogen--used by the body to make proteins--and avoided trees with higher leaf concentrations of a toxic chemical found exclusively in eucalypts when compared with a neighboring tree of the same species. The authors posit that plant diversity is likely important when koalas are foraging in habitats of low nutritional quality, providing a range of nutritional quality and minimizing the need to move to forests with higher quality leaves. The researchers' findings suggest that nutritional limitations play an important role in constraining leaf-eating koala populations.

Eleanor Stalenberg, Ian R. Wallis, Ross B. Cunningham, Chris Allen, William J. Foley. Nutritional Correlates of Koala Persistence in a Low-Density Population. PLoS ONE, 2014; 9 (12): e113930 DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.011393

This is a photo of a koala in a eucalyptus tree. Credit: Chris Allen; CC-BY

 Environmental assessment for Western Sydney airport 

Media Release- 04 December 2014

A new environmental assessment process for the proposed Western Sydney airport at Badgerys Creek kicks off today with a Referral formally submitted to Environment Minister Greg Hunt.

“This Referral for an airport for Western Sydney is a precursor in meeting our environmental obligations and, importantly, in allowing for community consultation,” Mr Truss said.

“A Western Sydney airport would be a catalyst for growth for Western Sydney, as well as a major employer well into the future.

“Development of the proposed airport would be staged in response to demand, with the first stage operating from one runway. The longer-term vision for the ultimate airport layout would operate with two parallel runways of up to 4,000 metres in length.

“The airport would be small scale when it becomes operational from the mid-2020s and would expand as the population of Western Sydney grows to meet the emerging needs of the local community.

“The Referral has been informed by previous environmental studies, including the comprehensive 1999 environmental assessment. No major impediments to developing an airport were found, which, at the time, was considered one of the most comprehensive environmental assessments in Australia.

“A recent site survey of Badgerys Creek, conducted by SMEC Australia in September 2014, has provided updated information for the referral.

“Even so, the Australian Government recognises the importance of conducting another environmental assessment and engaging in public consultation process for the Badgerys Creek site.

“The community will have opportunities for input at key points throughout the environmental assessment process. We are committed to meeting all requirements under relevant environment legislation and the guidelines issued by the Minister for the Environment.

“The assessment will consider the environmental, social and economic impacts of both the initial stage development and the ultimate airport development.

“Guidelines issued by the Minister for the Environment will outline factors to be examined and will ensure compliance with Australia's national environmental law, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.”

The Department of the Environment will publish the referral for the proposed Western Sydney airport development online

 Private Certifiers to Fast-Track Port Upgrades

Media Release: Department of Planning and Environment

25 Nov 2014 - The Department of Planning and Environment today released draft criteria for private certifiers who will speed up the delivery of vital port infrastructure at the State’s three major ports.

The proposed criteria requires specialist engineers to certify infrastructure at Port Botany, Port Kembla and the Port of Newcastle.

Under the criteria, port certifiers will be able to issue complying development certificates and construction certificates for port infrastructure such as:

 fixed cranes, rail-mounted cranes and crane rails to move freight containers

 ship loaders, unloaders and associated facilities to manage cargo container movements; and

 bulk liquid storage tanks.

“Currently only a number of councils are able to approve port infrastructure, which will affect the ramp up of new infrastructure at our ports,” a Department spokesperson said.

“Without help from private certifiers, these works could be delayed, reducing the productivity of our ports – and that’s bad news for the NSW economy.

“Accrediting private certifiers is a simple, common-sense solution to speed up the delivery of vital infrastructure around our ports and keep the State’s economy moving.”

Major port projects such as large-scale dredging work and new berths will continue to be assessed by the Department of Planning and Environment.

The spokesperson said it was critical that port operators continued to upgrade and expand infrastructure to respond to growing demand for goods across the state.

“Our three key ports in Sydney, Newcastle and the Illawarra receive about 99 per cent of more than 180 million tonnes of freight goods which is imported to NSW each year,” The spokesperson said.

“By making sure there is no backlog of work that needs to be certified, we are keeping the State’s economy moving.”

The Building Professionals Board is seeking feedback on proposed criteria for the accreditation of certifiers in the A5 category until 19 December 2014.

For more information, go to


Rob Stokes MP, Minister for the Environment, Minister for Heritage, Minister for the Central Coast, Assistant Minister for Planning

MEDIA RELEASE - Friday 28 November 2014

Environment Minister Rob Stokes today announced 122 grants worth nearly $2.4 million to build environmental knowledge in our schools and communities, and for environmental research across NSW.

Mr Stokes said the NSW Government awarded 50 Food Gardens in Schools grants worth $3,500 each to assist in students’ environmental education.

“These projects provide a practical way for young people to learn about land management, waste re-use, water conservation and other environmental lessons,” Mr Stokes said.

“The NSW Government has also allocated a further 46 grants of $2,500 each for Eco Schools projects such as rainwater harvesting and planting native flora to mitigate traffic pollution.

“A total of $1,048,218 was awarded in 18 in Environmental Education Projects grants, funding government initiatives and community organisation projects.

“And finally, eight Research Program grants totalling more than $1 million have also been awarded to provide knowledge about native species, their habitat, the management of pest animals, forecasting air quality, reef health and coastal management.

“These grants help our young people and others across our community to learn about our natural environment, and support scientists in their quest for knowledge to benefit us all.

“I encourage educators, members of the community and researchers to apply for future rounds of Environmental Trust grants.”

The next round of Research Program grants will open in January, followed by Education and Eco Schools Program grants in March.

The NSW Government has awarded 134 grants totalling $35.2 million through the Environmental Trust’s contestable grants programs so far this financial year.

View this round’s recipients and read more about these programs:

 Mount Fuji Lenticular Clouds

 Help us protect Australia's Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas

Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs) are sites of global bird conservation importance.

Unfortunately, five of these sites in Australia risk being lost forever due to the effects of fires, unsustainable farming practices, increased industrial development and introduced species.

This places the threatened bird species that rely on these places at high risk of extinction.

Sign on to BirdLife Australia’s campaign to help protect these areas of global conservation importance before it’s too late. 

At the recent World Parks Congress, which focused International attention on conservation in Australia, BirdLife Australia  launched a report  outlining straight forward actions that can be taken to recover the value of these IBAs. Now we just need our governments to commit to these actions!

Please join us in urging our state and federal governments to take action to protect and restore these sites of global bird conservation importance.

Sign on to BirdLife Australia’s campaign to help protect our IBAs in danger

You can also join the conversation on Twitter at #IBAsinDanger

Thank you for supporting our efforts to help protect Australia’s birds.

Yours sincerely,

Paul Sullivan 

BirdLife Australia CEO

 Threatened species mapping now available

4 December 2014 Roads and Maritime Services is releasing a series of tools to enable the community to better understand the level of environmental investigation being carried as part of the Woolgoolga and Ballina Pacific Highway upgrade.

The project was approved by NSW Planning Minister Pru Goward and Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt, and included strict conditions about managing the project’s impact on the environment.

Pacific Highway General Manager Bob Higgins said Roads and Maritime places great importance on transparency and as such is releasing environmental information gathered in preparation for the project to the public.

“From today an interactive mapping tool is available online, showing vegetation, habitat and species data we have collected during development of the project,” Mr Higgins said.

“As the mapping tool is live, the content will change as data collection and surveys are completed and uploaded.

“The innovative tool has been developed by the project team to help in the delivery of the Woolgoolga to Ballina project.”

Detail in the mapping tool includes location data on threatened species such as koalas and potoroo. In order to protect sensitive ecological communities, data is shown as indicative locations only.

Mr Higgins said Roads and Maritime had been aware of a potoroo population west of Wardell for a decade.

“Roads and Maritime has been aware of the potoroo population at Wardell since 2004/5 when the now approved route for the Woolgoolga to Ballina Pacific Highway upgrade was being investigated,” Mr Higgins said.

“Furthermore, to meet approval conditions Roads and Maritime engaged Lewis Ecological to carry out a detailed study of the potoroo. The ‘Long-nosed Potoroo Site Survey and Selection Study’ is now available on the Roads and Maritime website.

“Field surveys were carried out at 38 sites along the Woolgoolga to Ballina upgrade to inform the report. Historical data and local knowledge from the community was also used.

“Potoroo were recorded at 15 sites including Wardell, Tabbimobile and New Italy.

“The field surveys resulted in the discovery of new populations Roads and Maritime will now be able to manage.

“Seven recommendations were made by the report to improve potoroo management which will form part of the overall Threatened Mammal Management Plan and biodiversity mitigation framework for the project.”

Mr Higgins said Roads and Maritime has also released video of the potoroo recorded during the site surveys.

“The footage shows three potoroo at a location where the existing Pacific Highway doesn’t have any structures to help the potoroo safely cross the highway,” Mr Higgins said.

“As part of the Pacific Highway upgrade, a land bridge is proposed in that location that will not only maintain but actually improve potoroo habitat connectivity.”

Mr Higgins said Roads and Maritime would be releasing more data on threatened species as study results became available.

“We are committed to keeping the community informed about the Woolgoolga to Ballina Pacific Highway upgrade. Every effort will be made to ensure management of threatened species is transparent.”

For more information visit

 Agricultural Green Paper released: it’s time to have your say

The Australian Government has released the Agricultural Competitiveness Green Paper today and is asking everyone in agriculture to have their say on a range of new proposals and policy suggestions.

Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce, said that the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper that the Coalition Government has carriage of is seminal to who we are, where we came from, and is a vital part of the puzzle of how we get out of our current financial bind.

"The Green Paper outlines fresh ideas on a range of vitally important issues for the future of our nation including infrastructure, drought support, trade and finance.

"The Green Paper is a reflection of the Coalition Government's commitment to maintaining family farming as the cornerstone of Australian agriculture and to support those on the land who engage in food and fibre production, an inherently noble and good occupation.

"People on the land feed and clothe people. You are on the land if you farm, if you work in an abattoir, if you transport produce in logistics, if you are a vet or a farm worker and if you are the family that owns the farm.

"I said I wanted to hear the big ideas, to shake things up—I was looking for new policies to truly support our farmers and our strong agricultural sector into the future. The Green Paper certainly delivers with options to consider 25 diverse policy themes," Minister Joyce said.

"Now it's about whittling these ideas down and deciding what’s really important to take into the future, particularly given the tight fiscal environment we are working in.

"As a nation, we need a competitive and innovative agricultural sector—a sector that increases farmgate profitability, has expanded export and trade opportunities, and strengthens our rural and regional communities.

"Some of the suggestions stakeholders had for drought support included increasing support for commercial multi-peril crop insurance, more accurate weather and climatic information and increased mental health support.

"In infrastructure, we want the views of producers on the costs and benefits of major investments ranging from road, rail and shipping terminals to regional air hubs, new dams, and communication services and programmes.

"Regarding water infrastructure, the government is seeking to identify new dam and infrastructure projects that can deliver Australia's water supply needs in the future.

"The paper suggests ways to reduce Commonwealth, state and territory regulatory burden and to improve market competition by strengthening domestic competition laws.

"Many of the submissions received through the issues paper consultations raised the need for greater investment in biosecurity information and intelligence gathering tools.

"In terms of taxation and finance, the government is also seeking input on proposals to amend income tax averaging provisions, alter non-commercial loss rules and change the eligibility boundaries for the Zone Tax Offset.

We're looking to farmers to tell us about the most important ideas and the policies we should focus on to take agriculture forward—so feedback will be very useful.

"Everyone has the opportunity to have their say on the Green Paper. Submissions are open online until 12 December 2014. Now is the time to help shape Australian agriculture into a stronger, more profitable and more sustainable sector," Minister Joyce said.

To read the Green Paper, or provide a submission in response, visit:

 Arabian sea humpback whales isolated for 70,000 years

December 3, 2014 - Scientists from WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society), the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), the Environment Society of Oman, and other organizations have made a fascinating discovery in the northern Indian Ocean: humpback whales inhabiting the Arabian Sea are the most genetically distinct humpback whales in the world and may be the most isolated whale population on earth. The results suggest they have remained separate from other humpback whale populations for perhaps 70,000 years, extremely unusual in a species famed for long distance migrations.

The study appears in the online journal PLOS ONE. The authors include: Cristina Pomilla of the Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics at the American Museum of Natural History; Ana R. Amaral of the Universidade de Lisboa; Tim Collins of WCS; Gianna Minton of WWF-Gabon; Ken Findlay of the University of Pretoria; Matthew Leslie of AMNH and WCS; Louisa Ponnampalam of the University of Malaysia; Robert Baldwin of the Environment Society of Oman; and Howard Rosenbaum, Director of the Ocean Giants Program at WCS.

Known for its haunting songs and acrobatics, the humpback whale holds the record for the world's longest mammal migration; individuals have been tracked over a distance of more than 9,000 kilometers between polar feeding areas and tropical breeding areas.

"The epic seasonal migrations of humpbacks elsewhere are well known, so this small, non-migratory population presents a wonderful and intriguing enigma," said WCS researcher and study co-author Tim Collins. "They also beg many questions: how and why did the population originate, how does it persist, and how do their behaviors differ from other humpback whales?"

Previous studies on humpback whales, including several published by WCS, have revealed a great deal of population structure among humpback whales of the Northern Hemisphere and many areas of the Southern Hemisphere, particularly on breeding grounds. At the ocean basin scale, scientists are gaining an understanding of humpback whale gene flow, including in the Southern Indian Ocean. The dynamics and movements of animals in the Arabian Sea, however, are poorly understood.

"We have invested lots of energy working to clarify the population structure of several large whale species around the world," said Dr. Howard Rosenbaum, Director of WCS's Ocean Giants Program and senior author on the study. "The levels of genetic differences for Arabian Sea humpback whales are particularly striking; they are the world's most distinct population of humpback whales and might even shed some light on the environmental factors that shape cetacean populations."

To assess the origins of the Arabian Sea humpback whale population, the research team examined nuclear and mitochondrial DNA extracted from tissue samples that were collected as biopsies from 47 individual whales. The data were then compared to existing data sets from humpback whales in both the Southern Hemisphere and the North Pacific. All of the sampling was conducted in the Sultanate of Oman, a known hotspot for the animals. "We couldn't have conducted this study without the magnificent support of the Sultanate of Oman, and particularly our partnership with the Environment Society of Oman," said Collins

The authors have speculated that the 70,000-year separation might be linked to various glacial episodes in the late Pleistocene Epoch and associated shifts in the strength of the Indian Monsoon. The separation is likely reinforced by breeding cycles that are asynchronous; humpback whales in the Arabian Sea breed on a Northern Hemisphere schedule, whereas the closest whale populations in the Western Indian Ocean (below the equator) breed during a different season. The population's known range includes Yemen, Oman, the UAE, Iran, Pakistan and India, and possibly the Maldives and Sri Lanka.

Other lines of evidence support the genetic data, including an absence of photo-identified individuals from the Arabian Sea appearing with whales in theWestern Indian Ocean (and vice versa). Arabian humpbacks also have far fewer barnacle scars than Southern Hemisphere whales, and a total absence of cookie-cutter shark bites (such bites are common on humpbacks found south of the equator). Future work will explore the possible causal mechanisms for the population's isolation.

The genetic study also revealed a comparatively low level of genetic diversity when compared to other humpback populations, as well as the signatures of both distant and recent genetic bottlenecks, events caused by population declines. The most recent bottleneck may be due to illegal whaling; during two very short periods in 1965 and 1966 Soviet whalers killed 242 humpback whales in the Arabian Sea (39 of the captured females were also pregnant), a potentially devastating loss for a small population. Today, the major and most urgent concern for this population is lethal entanglement in fishing gear and ship strikes. "This latest study strengthens the evidence that we have an urgent conservation priority to attend to, not just in Oman, but with partners across range states," said HH Sayyida Tania Al Said of the Environment Society of Oman. "We are working with stakeholders in Oman to advocate for the importance of conservation of this species and its consideration in development plans. We are also seeking to work with international partners to improve conservation of marine mammals in the wider Arabian Sea, including participation in a regional humpback whale conservation initiative."

"The Arabian Sea humpback whales are the world's most isolated population of this species and definitely the most endangered," added Rosenbaum. "The known and growing risks to this unique population include ship strikes and fishing net entanglement, threats that could be devastating for this diminished population; we need to see increased regional efforts to provide better protection for these whales."

The current best estimate of population size for Arabian Sea humpbacks is fewer than 100 individuals although this is based solely on the work conducted in Oman. The status of the population is reviewed annually by the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission. The authors of the study recommend that the population be uplisted from "Endangered" to "Critically Endangered" on the IUCN's Red List of Threatened Species.

1. Cristina Pomilla, Ana R. Amaral, Tim Collins, Gianna Minton, Ken Findlay, Matthew S. Leslie, Louisa Ponnampalam, Robert Baldwin, Howard Rosenbaum. The World's Most Isolated and Distinct Whale Population? Humpback Whales of the Arabian Sea. PLoS ONE, 2014; 9 (12): e114162 DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0114162

A whale named 'Spitfire' swims in the waters off the island of Hallaniyah in southern Oman. Scientists from WCS, AMNH, and the Environment Society of Oman have found that humpback whales inhabiting the Arabian Sea are the most genetically distinct humpback whales in the world and may be the most isolated whale population on earth. Credit: Copyright Tobias Friedrich

 Join the conversation about Commonwealth Marine Reserves

28 November 2014 - Media Release

Written submissions to the independent review of Commonwealth Marine Reserves open today.

The co-Chairs of the Bioregional Advisory Panels, Professor Colin Buxton and Mr Peter Cochrane invite interested parties to provide them with ideas and suggestions on how marine reserves should be managed into the future.

“We are really keen to hear from a broad range of stakeholders and are hoping those with an interest will complete a simple online survey or provide a more detailed submission,” Professor Colin Buxton said.

The Review is focused on making sure that its work builds on the feedback and efforts that individuals and organisations have already made.

“We’re seeking new and additional information that address our terms of reference.  The government has reproclaimed the outer boundaries of the Commonwealth Marine Reserve networks and the Coral Sea, so our focus is on their zonation and internal management.”

The Review has established five Bioregional Advisory Panels (representing the South-west, North-west, North, Temperate East and Coral Sea marine regions) to facilitate consultation with interested parties.                                                               

Details about making a submission can be found on the Join the Conversation page at The online survey is expected to be available soon.

The submission period will remain open until 28 February 2015.

“We’d encourage everyone to get in early as this will help focus our efforts over the coming months,” Mr Peter Cochrane said.

“We’re looking for suggestions on how we can engage most effectively with affected parties and interests, to best explore options for zonation and management that will effectively and efficiently address concerns raised.”

The terms of reference can be found on the review .

For background:

The terms of reference for the Review task the Bioregional Advisory Panels with providing government with:

•Advice on areas of contention with the Commonwealth marine reserves

•Advice on options for zoning boundaries to address those areas of contention

•Recommendations for improving the inclusion of social and economic considerations into decision-making for marine reserves, with particular regard to their management

•Suggestions for ongoing engagement of regional stakeholders

•Advice on information received through consultations that the Panels may feel influence, contribute to or improve the drafting of future management plans

 New Northern Beaches Plants Website

Pittwater native plants. PNHA member Gillian Gutridge is developing this website. Have a look!

Photo is Coachwood, cousin of NSW Christmas Bush, on Mullet Creek Warriewood.

More Support for People Living with Diabetes

4 December 2014 - A range of new resources for Australians with diabetes are available from today.

Health Minister Peter Dutton today launched the materials aimed at further helping people manage their diabetes.

The print and web-based resources target four groups with a high risk of suffering from diabetes – older Australians, people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, pregnant women and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

The resources include a new health eating guide for older Australians with diabetes and a new booklet about type 1 diabetes and pregnancy.

The ‘Life After Gestational Diabetes’ booklet will now be available in five new translations – Arabic, Turkish, Vietnamese, Chinese (traditional) and Chinese (simplified); along with a new web portal for information about diabetes for people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

New culturally appropriate information resources about the National Diabetes Services Scheme (NDSS) are also available for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. 

Mr Dutton said the Australian Government was committed to promoting awareness and knowledge of diabetes so that key groups were more informed and therefore better able to manage their conditions.

“More people than ever before are living with diabetes,” Mr Dutton said. 

He said the Australian Government was providing considerable funding support to deal with the increasing incidence of diabetes in the community.

In 2013-14, this included $542 million through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, $17 million through the Medical Benefits Scheme, and more than $180 million through the National Diabetes Services Scheme (NDSS). 

The NDSS alone will cost the Government $1 billion over five years. Administered by Diabetes Australia it aims to provide timely, reliable and affordable access to products and services to assist people with diabetes to effectively self-manage their condition. 

Diabetes Australia continually reviews existing services to identify gaps and explore opportunities to develop new services and resources focused on particular priority areas, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and diabetes in pregnancy.

The Australian Government also provides access to Medicare rebates for HbA1c testing to manage established diabetes. From 1 November 2014, rebates became available for HbA1c testing for the diagnosis of diabetes mellitus in patients with undiagnosed diabetes who are considered at high risk of the disease.

Health boost for fitness centers - Australian 3rd Fattest in World by 2020

December 2, 2014 - Health is high on the agenda in many countries with efforts to get more people exercising in order to reduce the problems associated with obesity, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer. Unfortunately, risk assessment is inadequate in terms of sports facilities and many fitness programs rely on the participants taking out insurance and signing legal waivers rather than their being taught safe practices and given a safe environment in which to exercise.

Writing in the International Journal of Business Continuity and Risk Management, Betul Sekendiz, School of Medical and Applied Sciences, Central Queensland University, Australia, highlights how risk management in the health and fitness industry is "sub-optimal" across Queensland. She suggests that inappropriately designed fitness programs and services put users at increased risk of injury and adverse health outcomes rather than providing them with the tools to build a healthy lifestyle. Conversely, the same programs expose the facility operators and employees to risk of litigation.

Millions of people die each year from problems associated with being overweight or obese. Sekendiz reports that by the year 2020, Australia will be the third fattest nation after the USA and England as obesity rates are growing 15 percent each year.This will not only account for a great deal of morbidity and mortality for Australia but will apply huge economic pressures to the health system as well as reducing productivity.

Sekendiz suggests that health and sports facilities must face up to their responsibilities in order to avoid problems associated with irresponsive practice, such as the low but catastrophic risk of new users suffering heart failure, for instance, when given an overly vigorous workout. Facilities must have better record keeping, have pre-activity health screening procedures, have at least one accessible and functional automated external defibrillator on site and staff trained in their use. They should carry out regular inspections of equipment and facilities, have a risk-management plan and a preventative maintenance program. It seems that across Queensland these points are not widely acknowledged by fitness centers, it is likely that Queensland is not unique in this regard.

1. Sekendiz, B. Implementation and perception of risk management practices in health/fitness facilities International Journal of Business Continuity and Risk Management, December 2014

 Fort Denison (Pinchgut) A Relic Of Early Sydney

From the NFSA collection of "Australia Today" newsreels made by Enterprise Film Co 1939. Directed by Rupert Kathner. Pinchgut, is one of a number of islands situated in Sydney Harbour and was used as a prison for convicts after European settlement in 1788. The island was called Pinchgut by convicts who were marooned there as a punishment with meagre rations of bread and water. By 1796 Pinchgut had a gibbet – a post with a crossbeam, from which convicts were hung. This was intended as a warning to newly transported convicts, who passed the island as they arrived by ship in the Harbour. Fort Denison, which is located on the island, was completed in 1857 as part of Sydney’s defences. The fort is shown against the backdrop of the then recently completed Sydney Harbour Bridge. Various aspects of the fort are shown, including canons, a ship’s mast and the Martello Tower with a lighthouse on top. The sole occupant of the Fort is the caretaker, whose job includes the firing of the one o'clock gun. Fort Denison is now a NSW National Park site.

 Aust. Govt. Tax offset to boost search for new minerals

4 December 2014 - Joint media release with the Minister for Finance and Acting Assistant Treasurer, Senator the Hon Matthias Cormann

The Government is acting to boost exploration for new mineral deposits, bringing legislation into Parliament today that delivers on our election commitment to support junior mineral explorers with new exploration.

The Exploration Development Incentive is aimed at fostering the discovery of new resource deposits and will encourage investment in eligible junior exploration companies conducting greenfields mineral exploration.

New mineral discoveries underpin the future of the Australian mining industry. Junior and small miners do most of Australia’s greenfields exploration, but changing global market conditions have created challenges and created barriers to new investment and exploration.

The Government understands that the mining industry drives our economy through export revenue and by directly employing hundreds of thousands of Australians.

This new legislation will enable junior explorers to use their tax losses for the benefit of their Australian shareholders.

It’s another significant policy the Government has delivered to ensure the resources sector continues to underpin our economy. We’ve scrapped the carbon tax and the mining tax and we’re getting rid of the excessive red tape that has burdened the sector.

 People putting their lives at risk by dismissing cancer symptoms

December 2, 2014 - People could be putting their lives at risk by dismissing potential warning signs of cancer as less serious symptoms, according to a Cancer Research UK-funded study* published in PLOS ONE today (Tuesday). More than half (53 per cent) of 1,700 people who completed a health questionnaire said they had experienced at least one red-flag cancer 'alarm' symptom during the previous three months. But only two per cent of them thought that cancer was a possible cause.

Researchers sent the questionnaire listing 17 symptoms -- including 10 widely-publicised potential cancer warning signs, such as an unexplained cough, bleeding, and a persistent change in bowel or bladder habits -- to people, aged 50 and over, registered with three London general practices.

Cancer was not mentioned, but they were asked which of the symptoms they had experienced, what they thought caused them, if they were concerned that symptoms were serious and whether they had consulted their GP.

The results showed that people rarely attributed potential signs of cancer to the disease, putting them down to other reasons instead, such as age, infection, arthritis, piles and cysts.

Dr Katriina Whitaker, senior research fellow at University College London and lead study author, said: "Most people with potential warning symptoms don't have cancer, but some will and others may have other diseases that would benefit from early attention. That's why it's important that these symptoms are checked out, especially if they don't go away. But people could delay seeing a doctor if they don't acknowledge cancer as a possible cause.

"It's worrying that even the more obvious warning symptoms, such as unexplained lumps or changes to the appearance of a mole, were rarely attributed to cancer, although they are often well recognised in surveys that assess the public's knowledge of the disease. Even when people thought warning symptoms might be serious, cancer didn't tend to spring to mind. This might be because people were frightened and reluctant to mention cancer, thought cancer wouldn't happen to them, or believed other causes were more likely."

Overall, people taking part in the study appraised the cancer warning 'alarm' symptoms as more serious than 'non alarm' symptoms, such as sore throat and feeling tired, on the questionnaire list. Over half (59 per cent) of them contacted a doctor about their 'alarm' symptoms.

Sara Hiom, director of early diagnosis at Cancer Research UK, said: "Making that doctor's appointment is important. It's not a waste of time for the GP or the patient -- it really could save your life. Diagnosing cancer early saves lives because it gives patients a better chance that treatments will be successful.

"Most cancers are picked up through people going to their GP about symptoms, and this study indicates that opportunities for early diagnosis are being missed. Its results could help us find new ways of encouraging people with worrying symptoms to consider cancer as a possible cause and to get them checked out straightaway with a GP."

1. Katriina L. Whitaker, Suzanne E. Scott, Kelly Winstanley, Una Macleod, Jane Wardle. Attributions of Cancer ‘Alarm’ Symptoms in a Community Sample.PLOS ONE, December 2014 DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0114028


The Hon Katrina Hodgkinson MP, Minister for Primary Industries - MEDIA RELEASE - Thursday 4 December 2014

Minister for Primary Industries Katrina Hodgkinson today officially launched the Australian Centre for Genomic Epidemiology (Ausgem) - a partnership between the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) and University of Technology Sydney (UTS) to strengthen the State’s capacity to identify and respond to biosecurity threats.

“Ausgem brings together leading scientists dealing with disease and those using the most advanced gene technology, to map the DNA of disease causing agents,” Minister Hodgkinson said.

“Their work with genome sequencing has the potential to help us understand how pathogens cause disease, how they switch hosts, how they become resistant to antibiotics and why they keep changing.”

“This collaboration will help our industries fight disease threats and safeguard the State’s $12 billion primary industries sector.”

Minister Hodgkinson said the incidence of infectious disease continues to grow both globally and in Australia.

“Hendra and rabies are examples of diseases first seen in animals that over time have become infectious for humans, often becoming virulent and lethal.

“We know that the health of humans, animals and the environment are intrinsically linked, and to best manage the risks we must bring together scientists with expertise in all three areas.

The NSW DPI and UTS scientists are building intelligence on the DNA of disease causing agents, such as bacteria and viruses, to develop new treatments and vaccines, and to halt increasing rates of resistance to antibiotics, antimicrobials and pesticides.

Work being conducted by DPI and UTS scientists includes:

• Fighting anti-microbial resistance in E coli, ensuring the deadly pathogen doesn’t get into our food chain;

• Understanding Clostridium difficile, a neo-natal disease of piglets, foals and potentially humans;

• Tackling vibriosis and theileriosis, diseases affecting our livestock;

• Improving diagnostic testing to more rapidly and accurately identify plant pathogens;


• Developing probiotics for sterile fruit flies to recharge their gut bacteria after irradiation and improve survival rates.

Director of the UTS ithree institute, Professor Ian Charles, said that the alliance with DPI embodied the university’s commitment to collaborative research.

“UTS prides itself on its vision of combining innovation, creativity and technology in a way that impacts the community and the world around us,” Professor Charles said.

“The ithree institute is building a reputation for excellence in infectious disease research and this alliance with DPI underlines our belief in the importance of multi-disciplinary and multi-institutional research collaborations,” Professor Charles said.

 Commonwealth Bank invests $5m in quantum computing

02 December 2014 - Commonwealth Bank of Australia has committed $5 million in funding to help Australian-based researchers in their quest to build a silicon-based quantum computer.

As part of the agreement, Commonwealth Bank will provide $5 million over five years to the ARC Centre for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology, based at UNSW. The funds will assist the Centre to buy and maintain the necessary equipment, and conduct experiments for research and development.

The Centre for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology is led by UNSW Scientia Professor and Laureate Fellow Michelle Simmons, who leads a team of more than 170 researchers in six affiliated universities working across both optical and silicon quantum computing and secure communications. In 2014, Michelle was elected into the elite American Academy of Arts and Science for her work in atomic electronics and quantum computing.

“Australia is a powerhouse in quantum information research. Under the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence scheme we have built a global leadership position in quantum computing and demonstrated our ability to engineer and control information on individual atoms. We are delighted to be working with Australia’s visionary bank,” Professor Simmons said.

Mr David Whiteing, Chief Information Officer at Commonwealth Bank said CBA, known affectionately as the technology bank, is a strong supporter of innovation in Australia and is proud to support the Centre’s research efforts. 

“The silicon quantum computing research and development of Professor Michelle Simmons and her colleagues is truly world leading,” Mr Whiteing said.

“The Centre is at the forefront of a global scientific race to build the first silicon based quantum computer. This race is akin to the space race half a century ago where countries wanted to be the first to fly to the moon – and in this modern race we want Australia to get there first. 

“Commonwealth Bank has a long history supporting Australian people and communities, and a silicon based quantum computer which brings a wealth of benefits to Australians and the world aligns tightly to our vision. The speed of quantum computing means it promises to solve real world issues such as searching large databases, solving complicated sets of equations, and modelling atomic systems such as biological molecules and drugs. This means they’ll be enormously useful for healthcare industries, government, finance industries and security,” Mr Whiteing said.

Commonwealth Bank’s investment will assist two three-year projects: firstly to demonstrate entanglement in a scalable silicon based quantum computing architecture and then to coherently transport quantum information to create “flying qubits” within the computer. The work will be conducted by Professor Simmons together with her colleagues Scientia Professor Andrew Dzurak, Professor Sven Rogge and Associate Professor Andrea Morello. Already these projects have resulted in ground breaking research for qubit coherence times (the time available for processing) holding the world-record for a solid state system.

The Centre for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology is a global leader in the engineering and control of individual atoms in silicon and associated manipulation of quantum states. It is working with the support of Commonwealth Bank to build a quantum computer prototype in silicon, the material of choice in the semiconductor industry.