Annie Ford is a marine scientist, explorer, world record holder, charging surfer, cold water sailor, mountain biker, salted sticky date pudding connoisseur - and recently, she has added Surfrider Campaigner to her growing list of many titles. We are lucky to interview her from her home close to the ocean in Southern Sea Country. Dive into learning from the incredible Annie Ford with us!
Hi Annie! Thanks for joining us today. You are a marine biologist who has spent years living, working, and playing in Lutruwita land and sea Country (Tasmania). Can you tell us a little more about yourself?
Growing up in Tasmania, I’ve always loved and held a strong connection to the outside world - especially the ocean. When I left university I began working as a marine fauna observer in the fossil fuel industry. My job was to look out for whales from seismic vessels that were looking for offshore oil and gas.
A few years ago, I chose to stop working in that industry, despite high demand for workers due to the increase of oil & gas exploration. Although my job was mitigating the impact on whales, I could no longer facilitate the exploration of oil & gas in our oceans.
Now I bring my oil & gas background and my experience as a marine environment consultant to work for Surfrider and work on surfrider campaigns to protect our oceans. I use evidence based information to educate communities, business and politicians and provide solutions to help minimize or help mitigate our impact.
You know Southern Sea Country (The oceans surrounding Tasmania, Victoria and SA) especially well because it is your home, playground and workplace - could you tell us a little about what makes Southern Sea Country so special?
It’s so hard to describe in a few sentences but I’ll try! Picture a place where the oceans circumnavigates the entire planet before touching land, where air currents travel thousands of meters before hitting the coastline here. These winds generate groundswell that create world renowned surf, incredible reefs and really unique coastlines.
Picture abundant sea life, remarkable and substantial upwellings that attract blue whales, right whales, anddense krill aggregations and endemic species - that is southern sea country: it’s wild, ancient and unique. And it’s my home.
I have spent a lot of time exploring this coastline - I've surfed around this coastline, and it's moving, it’s so alive - it's really an experience. Tasmania is well known for breeding capable sailors because it's quickly changing and intense - sailing and surfing is an extreme sport down here.
I just love this place. If you exist down here, you are part of the land, you are not separate from it - and I think this is what makes people so energized to stand up for it and learn about it and protect it. We all know a fisherman, we all either surf or walk the beaches, we are the frontlines of this ocean and the interface which is a pretty remarkable place to exist.
Surfrider Foundation Australia have launched a campaign to Save Southern Sea Country. Could you tell us a little more about what the campaign is about?
SSSC is a campaign to stop one of the biggest seismic blasting projects ever conducted in Australia’s history. It extends from the coastline of Tasmania, all the way through Victoria, to South Australia.
Seismic blasting is the first step in oil & gas exploration - it uses blasts of up to 156 decibels to search for oil & gas - for context, that's one of the loudest man made sounds on the planet. These blasts can be heard across oceans - blasts here in Aus can be heard in antarctica. They are shot into the ocean every 10 seconds, and this proposal from TGS & SLB will take up to 200 days of blasts every 10 seconds. These blasts will extend over 5.5 million hectares of southern sea country.
Now, seismic is known to displace, injure and kill marine life - we know that this affects marine life from zooplankton all the way to whales however research is very limited and there is a lack of research and studies in the area. What we do know is that the more we learn, the greater the impact is found to be. We urgently need to save southern sea country and stop seismic blasting in these southern waters.
Why should protecting Southern Sea Country from fossil fuel exploration matter to all of us?
Great question - it should matter to all of us, because change doesn't happen without us standing up and speaking up. Fossil fuels are the cause of the climate crisis, and every single new fossil fuel project is incompatible with a liveable future.
When we protect southern sea country we all win - looking closely at the case for new oil & oil, I cannot see any way to defend the reality of fossil fuel exploration here in Australia. It is a major contributor to our carbon output, it leads to direct and indirect loss of threatened and protected species - it sends massive blasts across our oceans, it provides no benefit to local communities and takes up important resources - people have to spend their lives trying to defend critically important ecosystems and all of it occurs on stolen and unceded land and sea.
What’s more, is that we simply don't need it anymore - we do not need more gas. Australia has enough fossil fuels in reserve to push us well above our climate target - I really do think this place has far more to offer than a little bit of gas, and I think a lot of people will stand with me when they learn about what is happening out there.
How can people who care about this get involved?
There are quite a few ways! Firstly, it’s so important to use your very valuable voice to call and write to your local politicians. We have a letter and citizens declaration available on the Ben & Jerry's and Surfriders websites, but I really think talking to people on the ground - talking to friends and family, letting people know what is happening and keeping up to date is key.
We are going to be hitting the ground in communities and people can get involved - but it all starts with sharing this information and taking the emotion of the injustice of this and letting our leaders and our decision makers be aware of what you want because they are there to represent you.
And very importantly, if you were to invent a Ben & Jerry's ice cream flavour for the Surfrider Save Southern Sea Country campaign, what would it be?
The hard hitting questions! If I were to invent a flavour, I couldn’t go past combining all my favourite things…good luck fitting this on a tub, but it would have to be Southern Ocean Sea Salted Sticky Date Pudding. I’m OK with a bigger tub if we need to fit the label on. Especially if it has those fudgy kind of swirls.
Big kudos to Annie who spends her time dedicated to protecting Southern Sea Country. You can join Annie and take action by sending your letter to your leader here! Want to know more? Keep up to date by following Surfrider socials here and check out their website here!
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