INTERPRETATION AND EDUCATION
Byron Bay Dive Centre aims to prevent, reduce and mitigate any harmful and negative impacts on our ecosystem. With our staff, crew and customers working together we can achieve this goal daily.
JULIAN ROCKS AND SURROUNDS
We operate our tours and courses at Julian Rocks Nature Reserve within the Cape Byron Marine Park (MPA). The Park is located on the NSW Far North Coast and runs a total span of 37km from Lennox Head to the Brunswick River northern training wall. The Park was established in 2002, with zones and management rules commencing in May 2006. Within the park are many threatened and endangered marine species, this includes the following:
- Grey nurse sharks; protected and vulnerable.
- Green and loggerhead turtles; protected and endangered.
- Hawksbill turtle; protected and critically endangered.
- Leatherback turtle; protected and vulnerable.
- Black rock cod; protected and near threatened.
- Protected fish species; Bleeker’s devil fish, estuary cod, giant QLD groper.
Julian Rocks Nature Reserve which is located within the marine park is home to many marine species and is classed as a Sanctuary Zone, this is the highest level of protection within a marine park and covers all cultural and natural features as well as biodiversity.
The Cape Byron Marine Park is unique in its location, in that the East Australian Current (EAC) strongly influences the warmer waters from the north meeting the cooler waters from the south, resulting in a wide range of marine species calling the park their home!
Additionally, the marine park contains many local marine habitats and major ecosystems including estuaries, rocky shores and platforms, open oceans, sandy beaches and subtidal reefs and emergent rocks and islands, which includes Julian Rocks. These ecosystems and marine habitats boast a wide variety of flora and fauna which we are lucky enough to see at Julian Rocks.
IMPACTS AT JULIAN ROCKS
The Cape Byron Marine Park and Julian Rocks like many other marine environments around Australia and around the world are impacted by several different factors. Some of the biggest impacts facing us today are pollution, fishing, climate change, coastal development and tourism and recreational use.
By implementing Marine Protected Area’s (MPA’s) it allows governments to enforce limits on human activities and to ensure the areas are used in positive ways that do not damage the environment, therefore conserving marine resources and life. MPA’s also allow the use of marine parks to be managed effectively as well as the impacts of tourism in a sustainable way, ensuring activities are ecologically sustainable and operated with the best environmental practices in place. Additionally, commercial fishing can be managed, and cultural and historical values are protected. MPA’s are an essential tool for managing increased threats to marine environments.
When visiting Julian Rocks is it essential that we minimise our impact as much as possible. By following a few simple steps, you can join us!
- Ensure correct diving and snorkelling practices are carried out, for example, make sure you are correctly weighted, secure all dive equipment and have great buoyancy control.
- Do not touch, feed, collect or harass any marine life or their habitats.
- Do not ride, chase or touch turtles and keep clear of all free-swimming marine life.
- Avoid kicking the bottom or disturbing sandy areas and avoid holding or leaning on anything.
- Pick up any debris you spot (where it is safe to do so).
- Report any environmental violations to the skipper of the vessel.
- Take part in a conservation project.
- AND make sure to never purchase souvenirs made of coral, shell or other marine life.
The conservation significance of Julian Rocks Nature Reserve is of high priority due to the importance it plays not only as a nesting place for many seabirds (classified as a Fauna Reserve in 1961 under the Fauna Protection Act 1948) but also in its foraging habitats for turtles and of the protection of many habitats of native plants and marine animals. Julian Rocks was later reclassified as a nature reserve under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974. Nature reserves are managed to:
- Conserve biodiversity, maintain ecosystem functions, and protect geological and geomorphological features and natural phenomena.
- Conserve places, objects, features and landscapes of cultural value.
- Promote public appreciation, enjoyment and understanding of the reserve’s natural and cultural values.
- Provide for appropriate research and monitoring.
Additionally, pest animals and plants are managed within the reserve to minimise any impacts on native species, with the protection of native plants, animals and the conservation of the habitats being at the forefront of the management plan for Julian Rocks Nature Reserve.
The waters of the Cape Byron Marine Park which surround the reserve are regulated through its zoning as a sanctuary zone. The zoning laws also prohibit fishing of a recreational and commercial nature and anchoring on reefs within the sanctuary zone.
MPA (Marine Park Authority) and NPWS (National Parks and Wildlife Services) aim to ensure that all management of the marine park and the nature reserve are compatible. While visitor use to the nature reserve is very minimal, the waters of Cape Byron Marine Park surrounding the reserve are used regularly for diving and snorkelling, providing our customers with a fantastic experience!
There are many impacts that affect our reefs and marine parks both directly and indirectly, such as climate change, coastal developments and water quality. It is therefore essential that we all do our part to protect our culture and our environment, which can be achieved in many ways and is super easy to do!
- Be water wise.
- Be plastic free.
- Reduce, reuse and recycle.
- Purchase energy efficient appliances.
- Print less.
- Drive less.
- Boycott products that endanger wildlife.
- Volunteer for beach clean ups.
- Understand and learn about correct reef etiquette and ensure you comply when in the water!
ARAKWAL PEOPLE OF BYRON BAY
We acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land where we work and live, the Bundjalung People of Byron Bay (Arakwal) and pay our respects to Elders past and present. We celebrate the stories, culture, and traditions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders of all communities who also work and live on this land.
Aboriginal communities have lived alongside and used the marine park’s resources for many thousands of years. The Bundjalung People of Byron Bay (Arakwal) have a strong association with land and sea in the park’s northern parts while the Jali people have a similar association with the southern section.
The marine park takes in many sites of cultural significance to Aboriginal people. It is adjacent to the Arakwal National Park, a protected area, declared following the Indigenous Land Use Agreement between the traditional owners and the NSW Government.
The Arakwal People have lived around the Byron Bay area for at least 22,000 years and have many significant sites within the region, including Nguthungulli (Julian Rocks). Nguthungulli is associated with several important dreaming stories and was also used by the Arakwal People in ceremonies when the sea levels were lower, 7000 years ago and the rocks were accessible by land.
In one story, Nguthungulli, Father of the World, who created all the land and the waters, the animals and plants, now rests in a cave at Julian Rocks. The Elders have instructed over the generations that Nguthungulli must be protected from any misuse, or it will cause destruction. By understanding the cultural meaning of sites, we can in turn enhance conservation and all play our part in protecting the beautiful world we live it.
Climate change has been listed as a key threatening process under the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995, with predictions for future changes in relation to climate for NSW including:
- Higher temperatures.
- Increasing sea levels and water temperatures.
- Elevated CO2.
- More intense but reduced annual rainfall.
- Increased temperature extremes and higher evaporation.
Climate change at Julian Rocks may significantly affect biodiversity by changing population size and distribution of species, modifying species compositions and altering the geographical extent of habitats and ecosystems.
The management of the reserve will aim to improve the ecological resilience of native plants and animals to climate change by controlling pest species, excluding fire and excluding unauthorised access.
Increased greenhouse gases from human activities result in climate change and ocean acidification. CLIMATE CHANGE = OCEAN CHANGE. We all need to do our part to reduce our carbon footprint to reduce greenhouse gases and to help improve overall reef condition.
Byron Bay Dive Centre is currently working towards becoming certified as an Ecotourism operator and aims to inspire environmentally sustainable and culturally responsible tourism.
The definition of ecotourism adopted by Ecotourism Australia is: “Ecotourism is ecologically sustainable tourism with a primary focus on experiencing natural area’s that fosters educational and cultural understanding, appreciation and conservation”.
References and Websites
Check out the below websites for more information on Julian Rocks Nature Reserve, Arakwal People of Byron Bay, Climate Change and Ecotourism: