COAST WATCH

According to the latest edition of the ratepayer-funded junk mail issued by the Port Phillip City Council in Victoria under the title DiverCity (get it?), a local "environmentalist" group called Earthcare St Kilda has discovered that the beaches and waters of Port Phillip, which Argus likes to visit on pleasant days, are full of starfish known as Northern Pacific sea stars.

How nice, you might think. Starfish are harmless and geometrically elegant creatures, always more attractive as objects of contemplation when gently lapped in the shallows than a tetra-pack or condom. It's also very civil of them to come all the way from the Northern Pacific to see us. But no. The sea stars, which - if you were wondering how they got here - "have entered the local ecosystem through the bilge water of cargo ships", are not only that horror of horrors in the bigoted environmentalist's pantheon of hates, an "introduced species", but as "highly successful breeders and voracious feeders with no predator in Australia" [they] "eat native sea creatures out of house and home" and thus "alter the ecology" of the sea at St Kilda. Earthcare volunteers, clearly with nothing better to do, have taken on the predator role themselves faute de mieux, and march around the beach removing the offenders. We are assured by biologists that starfish cannot feel pain, which is fortunate when presumably after being gathered up they are thrown into a waste bin (the Earthcarers making sure they go into the right one and don't get mixed up with the recycling) to dry up and die.

Poor old put-upon island that is Australia. As if the much lamented invasion by "Europeans" hadn't altered its ecology enough without sea stars coming along to wreak their twopence worth of damage. If it's not one thing it's another.

And another there certainly is. Far worse then sea stars is a noxious import not noticed by Earthcare St Kilda for the simple reason that the latter is itself a sub-species of this unwelcome arrival. Fascista verdus insanus, otherwise known as the mad green enviro-crank, was first spotted in northern Europe and the United States in the late 1970s and has since spread through much of the world. In Australia whole colonies infest not only Port Phillip but coastal regions around the country. In fact, the Port Phillip version fossicking around for sea stars is relatively harmless compared to the strain now destroying the amenities of once-attractive beach resorts along the north central coast of New South Wales. There the ecology has suffered two waves of dramatic alteration, first thirty years ago when dopey hippies moved in and colonised the local habitat of family beach shacks and caravan parks, then more recently, by Fascista verdus insanus. These pernicious pests breed most numerously in an environment infected with "green scare syndrome" or as it is sometimes known, climate change fever, which is particularly prevalent on that part of the coast.

The infestation has now reached plague proportions with enviro-cranks in some places such as Byron Bay getting the upper hand in local government. This enables them to, if not quite emulate the sea stars by eating other residents out of house and home, at least be very dictatorial about where the latter build their houses and homes. Anywhere judged too close to the sea is banned (and being close to the sea is surely the whole purpose of being in a coastal resort) because Fascista verdus insanus believes that any day now the seas will rise up and swamp those houses, perhaps carrying them far out into the Pacific. You might think that if the home-owner is prepared to accept that risk it's no one else's business. But when ever did a local council take that hands-off view, even one not stacked with ecomaniacs?

By the way, it does seem to Argus that it's not exactly a fair fight between Earthcare St Kilda and the starfish. The former are much bigger and stronger, though perhaps more equally matched with the latter in intelligence. Might one suggest that when warm weather returns Earthcare St Kilda volunteers pick on someone their own size and devote their beach patrols to removing a much more invasive pest, Navicella louda, or "jet ski". A gaggle of enviro-cranks trying to detach a jet ski from its tattooed and sunglassed shaven-headed owner would be a spectacle to amuse the most jaded observer.

9 May 2012

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