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Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Thursday, 26 September 2019

Tags: IPCC, Marine Environment, Climate Change

Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate: Rosalie Woodruff MP, 26 September, 2019


Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Madam Speaker, I rise tonight to read some initial comments to the House about the international panel on climate change special report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate, which was just tabled less than a day ago in the principality of Monaco.

I have not had time to read this in depth. I am afraid to say that it has the same gravity of news that the recent IPCC reports have brought to us, the one on land use and land use change, and the previous one in October last year on the state of our progress towards meeting the targets that we must meet to hold to the Paris Agreement, which we have committed to, as has a group of countries on the planet. That report in October last year made a very clear statement that we are failing to meet those targets.

Today, we have a special report on the state of the world's frozen ice and snow, glaciers, sea ice, ice in lakes and rivers and in the sea, as well as the warming of the ocean and the acidification of the ocean. It is very difficult reading, even the headlines. Chapter 6 is probably the one which is - I just want to dwell on some of the comments that have been made from that very important report.

More than 100 scientists from more than 30 countries have brought together the best knowledge about where we are and the news is very poor. We are melting ice everywhere around the planet faster than it has ever been recorded and that is changing the circulation of the water on the planet, changing the circulation of the oceans and that in turn is affecting the global weather patterns. It is affecting the heating of the water, the acidification of the sea, which is also affecting the ability of molluscs and other marine animals to create hard shells.

How is this affecting Tasmania? In Tasmania in 2015-16, we had the longest-ever recorded marine heatwave. For 251 days the water off the east coast of Tasmania was three degrees, or more, higher than the long-term average for water. For 251 days, the most intense and the longest-ever recorded marine heatwave on the planet, off our east coast.

We know after that we now have no more kelp forests growing on the east coast of Tasmania. We have a huge number of feral invasive species that are moving into the area, and we have an extension of these spiny sea urchins, Centrostephanus. It has been present on the east coast of Tasmania for a while but the evidence of Centrostephanus, the sea urchin, is that it has dominated and overtaken the rocky reefs of at least 30 per cent of the east coast of Tasmania. The expectation is that unless dramatic changes are made in how we manage the east coast ocean, the animals in it and our fishing of that place, there will be a 30 per cent loss in a couple of years, and predictions of more than 50 to 70 per cent in the several years after that.

We know from scientists that in the north of the coast, that up to 50 per cent of rocky reefs have already disappeared. That means dire impacts on all the fish that live in the rocky reefs that require those reefs for their survival. It means with the warming of the waters that is happening there is a real devastation and grave threats for abalone, rock lobster, scallops, finfish and scale fish, not only for the intrinsic values of those fish and their beauty and what they provide to the whole ecosystem of the east coast, but to all the commercial industries that survive from fishing rock lobster, abalone, scallops and finfish, as well as the recreational pleasure that people have in dropping a line and getting abalone, finfish and scallops. We are really at risk of losing the intrinsic value of the rocky reef system on the east coast, our pleasure and enjoyment of that, not just now but before an unknown period into the future.

There is a pathway out of this. In addition to showing real climate leadership, which we have talked about a lot in this House this week, the first very fundamental step must be to create marine protected areas because the scientists tell us that is the way to protect rock lobster so they can grow to a large enough size to be able to predate on the sea urchin. Only a healthy sized rock lobster is an effective way of having any impact on sea urchins. When they are large enough, they can crack them open and get rid of them. We will never be able to keep up by sending scuba divers in to pick them up unless we hold back and stop fishing in marine protected areas so that the whole area can develop a healthy functioning of the ecosystem, which we have the evidence will happen. When we have marine protected areas we have flourishing beautiful marine life like off Ninepin Point on Maria Island.

Time expired.