Many things can happen in a lifetime – leaders come and go, comets pass, fashions change. The destruction of one of the world’s most complex eco-systems, however, shouldn’t be one of them. And yet tragically that’s what the Great Barrier Reef is facing.

At home by the beach in Byron Bay, Auguste the Label keeps the ocean close to its sandy heart, which is why we’ve been working closely with the Australian Marine Conservation Society throughout 2017 to support the incredible work that they do.

Water child, wonderful human and Great Barrier Reef campaigner Shannon Hurley took the time to tell us more about the AMCS and its conservation projects. Read the interview below.

  

Tell us about your role with the AMCS.

As a Great Barrier Reef community campaigner with AMCS, I lead our community outreach program in South East QLD, inspiring the community to take action so that our leaders are prioritising the future of our Great Barrier Reef. Our active volunteer program empowers people to get involved in anything from film nights, stalls, meeting MPs, to helping out in the office on the campaign to save our precious ocean heritage.

 

When did you first realise ocean conservation was something you wanted to be a part of?

When I studied animal science at university in Melbourne, I originally wanted to become a vet – like most animal lovers. It wasn't until I started undertaking some marine subjects through my uni degree that I realised how much I loved learning about this magical underwater world. Not long after I learnt to scuba dive and when I plunged in for myself, it was full steam ahead from there – there was nothing else I would rather do in my life than to protect our vital and threatened blue planet.

 

What is the greatest achievement you’ve seen come out of the organisation since joining as a reef campaigner?

In July 2017, I was lucky enough to go to the 2017 World Heritage Committee meeting in Poland, where the future of the world's coral reefs was being considered by the world’s leaders. The committee, made up of 21 different countries, had a choice to make at the meeting – were they brave enough to hold global leaders to account for the impact of climate change on our world heritage Great Barrier Reef?

After a week of meetings and many meaningful conversations with global representatives, the final decision came down:Countries must act to reduce carbon emissions to keep warming to below 1.5 degrees so that the world's coral reefs have a chance at survival. This significant decision wouldn’t have happened if ocean lovers hadn’t chipped in to help us get our Reef Rescue Mission to Poland, if we hadn’t been there and talked with these people. It reinforced how powerful a conversation can be. Never believe that talking to people doesn’t make an impact!

What is it like visiting the reef now, compared to say 30 years ago?

I’m not even 30 years old yet, so I can only speak from now compared to 10 years ago, but when I first saw the Reef I was 20 years old and it was the most magical experience of my life. So many Reef outcrops, beaming with fish life, sharks, healthy coral – it was as if I had been finally been set free and could explore my new playground.

Since the coral bleaching has occurred over the last 2 years, we are left with many white skeletons and dead corals. It brings me to tears to think about how this dramatic change has happened in just a couple of years. The good news is that we still have over half of the corals on the Reef still left, and if we act they can have the time to recover. That is something that's worth fighting for.

 

What is it about the ocean that keeps drawing you back?

There is some unspoken energy that radiates from the oceans that just makes me feel great. I can't explain what it is, but any time I am having one of those days, being in or even seeing the oceans soothes me and reminds me of why I am dedicating my time to protect it. Seeing the array of different creatures which call it home continue to amaze me, from the tiny little blob like animals that make me feel like I am in some alien film, to swimming with sharks – everything is just so cool!

 

The individual can feel pretty hopeless when it comes to protecting our oceans, especially with issues as widespread as coral bleaching and water quality. What can we do to help the cause?

Every year we can buy for our Reef to have a future matters – there are so many wonderful programs researching what it will take to protect our precious coral reefs. There are so many ways you can help.

Getting active in a local group that is working to protect the oceans is the most important thing you can do. The oceans are something that provide life for all of us, and if we don't invest in their future now, we risk losing our precious ocean critters.

The most significant threat to our Great Barrier Reef and oceans is global warming. Make a change in your life that enables you to be active in some way. Call your local politician and tell them how much the ocean means to you, ask them to stand up for a solid climate policy.

Have these important conversations with your friends and families, and encourage them to vote for parties that have strong climate policies. Keep an eye out around election times for environmental scorecards and see where parties stand on the issue.

Sign up to be a part of it at fightforourreef.org.au

 

Any last words that you feel are important for the Auguste customer to know?

Sometimes it is easy to feel disheartened and helpless. But we are winning! For over 50 years AMCS has been defending our Great Barrier Reef against mining and industrial exploitation, and we will keep fighting. The movement to stop Adani and save our Reef is the fight of our times. So many people are standing up to take action. It can feel slow, but slowly, change is happening for the better as people realise how important the oceans are to us.

We can do this, we just need to stick together. People power always triumphs.




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