Longboarder Belinda Baggs on protecting the surf coast she grew up on
Belinda Baggs is a legendary longboard surfer from Australia, known for her feminine, timeless, and fluid style. Born in Newcastle in NSW, this campaign to stop the Seismic testing off the coast of her home town of Newcastle is particularly close to her hear & us at Still Stoked.
Watch the full Interview with Belinda Baggs
We can count the many ways in which we are lucky to call Manly Australia home: We are spoilt for surf and healthy food, we have a wonderful community, a population of little penguins by the wharf, the ocean is home to migrating whales, and we have a local Patagonia store! Over and above all of these privileges, it is the beauty of our environment that make this coastline so special.
I nor many other Manly residents had any idea what is being planned for our coastline from Newcastle, through the Central Coast to the Northern Beaches of Sydney. A company called Asset Energy has been granted a permit to conduct 3D seismic testing in their search for oil and gas, across a 1000km square section between Newcastle and Sydney. The area is dubbed PEP-11 and in a sick joke, exploration sections within this 4,500km have been named after local wildlife. Note that 2/3rd of oil Australian oil and gas is shipped overseas.
Seismic testing involves continuous airgun blasts which can be between 200-256 decibels, every 2-3 seconds, for 24 hours, for days or weeks at a time (a jet airplane is only 140 decibels of sound). Those blasts have been shown to kill plankton 1.2km away, cause malformation in oysters, cause death and injury to fish, turtles and other marine life, as well as interfere with communication and navigation in whales and dolphins. Fishermen report hauls of dead and decaying fish following seismic testing, with 2 years before productivity returns. Seismic testing has been banned in New Zealand and the US (recently overturned by Trump to widespread opposition).
The waters of PEP-11 fall in Federal waters and not local NSW government jurisdiction. It was approved by the Federal Government without adequate community consultation and despite opposition from the NSW Government. Seeing that this whole coastline is home to migrating whales, and many other populations of mammals and pelagic fish, the impact on them, tourism, and subsequent fishing industries would be horrendous.
This is a cause close to pro surfer and activist Belinda Baggs’ heart, not just as a surfer from Newcastle but as a concerned parent and lover of the environment. We sat down to talk through what is going on, how her new film South Fish is hoping to raise awareness, and what us as individuals can do to make a difference. One such action would be to sign this Save Our Coasts petition, currently at 37,000 signatures.
In this Still Stoked Chats, Belinda and I spoke about the Fight For The Bight and learnings from the 31,000 comments that were left on the NOPSEMA website in response to Equinor’s environmental plan to drill for oil on Australia’s south coast. Apparently, only around 1,000 comments were considered valid which means the public need to take a more thought out and researched approach to their feedback on the environmental plan when it is released for comment. We touched on what we as individuals can do to make a difference. From attending last week’s Climate Strike with 300,000 other Australians combined with 6 million people across the globe. To changing your Superannuation to a more ethical company that doesn’t invest in oil and gas, to changing your food to a more plant-based diet. Every little action we do helps.
Actions you can take now:
- Sign the petition to stop the seismic testing
- Send a letter to the Australian government to say you want better climate policies (takes 1 minute through Patagonia’s website)
Belinda Baggs is an ambassador for the brand Patagonia who put on the South Fish event in Manly to raise awareness of the threat to our local coastline. Still Stoked is also a huge supporter of Patagonia and all their environmental efforts, as well as an advocate of the amazing products that they make that see Still Stoked through harsh winters as a mountain guide and cold water surfer.
Watch South Fish
Patagonia offers financial grants to support small grassroots activist organisations with provocative direct-action agendas, working on multi-pronged campaigns to preserve and protect our environment. If you shop in the local Manly or Sydney stores, your purchases have helped fund many local environmental projects like SeaBin which is creating solutions for cleaner oceans by collecting floating rubbish in marinas.
Apply for a Patagonia environmental grant for grass-roots environmental causes: