Ocean Warriors Unite to Protect Marine Life

Ocean Warriors Australia is a new marine conservation agency dedicated to improving outcomes for sick, injured and orphaned marine wildlife.

The not-for-profit Ocean Warriors Australia (OWA) will work with NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service (NPWS), Indigenous communities and licensed rescue organisations. OWA will support the response to marine stranding events, entanglements and the critical care of sick, injured and orphaned whales, dolphins, turtles and other marine wildlife.

Ocean Warriors Unite to Protect Marine Life

A Focus on Culture, Science and Welfare

Based in Coffs Harbour, OWA will operate from the National Marine Science Centre through a partnership with Southern Cross University. Headed by Coffs Harbour-based marine veterinarian Dr Duan March, OWA will have a strong research focus. The organisation is currently working on research into factors influencing whale strandings and the impacts of pollution on sea turtles.

“Often when we have marine animal stranding events involving dolphins, whales or sea turtles, we never actually find out the reason these animals are stranded,” Dr March explains. “It’s our intention that our research will help fill some of those knowledge gaps.”

“Another important part of OWA is the cultural protocols that are important for that area and that animal – that’s why it’s great to have Nathan Brennan on board,” he adds. “The more we’re working with traditional owners and the more cultural protocols are being implemented the more positive outcomes we’re getting across the board.” 

A man speaking at the Ocean Warriors Australia launch
Dr Duan March

Caring for Sea Country

OWA will prioritise building capacity within Indigenous communities to care for marine wildlife on Sea Country.

“The Sea Country Custodian program will play a leading role in OWA’s strategy by building the capacity of Indigenous rangers to improve management of Sea Country,” says Bularri Muurlay Nyanggan Aboriginal Corporation Programs Director and Gumbaynggirr man, Nathan Brennan.

“This is both from a cultural perspective where animals of totemic significance are treated with the respect they deserve, but also from a scientific perspective to make sure that the food that is being eaten – oysters, pippis etc. – is actually safe to eat.”

Ocean Warriors Unite to Protect Marine Life
Bularri Muurlay Nyanggan Aboriginal Corporation Programs Director and Gumbaynggirr man, Nathan Brennan

Research and Outreach

The partnership with Southern Cross University provides OWA with an operating base, resources and research capacity. Importantly, the two organisations will partner together on important community education and outreach activities.

“Southern Cross University is thrilled to be partnering with OWA to bolster rescue and research for marine animals in waters of the Mid North Coast,” says Ben Roche, Vice President (Engagement).

“Our Researchers have substantial expertise in scientific research in marine ecosystems, as well as the operation of an array of marine vessels and drones,” he says. “Applying these strengths in the name of marine conservation is a logical next step.”

Ocean Warriors Unite to Protect Marine Life
Byron Bay vets treating an injured sea turtle

WWF Australia spokesperson Mr Darren Grover welcomes the announcement.

“OWA galvanises the skills, expertise and resources of Australia’s leading marine veterinarians and rescuers, research agencies and marine management authorities in a unique way. WWF Australia has identified Coffs Harbour as an ideal location for a dedicated wildlife hospital, and this is an important step toward that.”

OWA’s launch is also supported by the Gowings Whale Trust and the Sea Turtle Foundation, who will support the whale and sea turtle research.

“The Whale Trust was established to increase knowledge, involvement and understanding of the Humpback Whale through public education, research and conservation initiatives and this partnership does exactly that,” says Trustee, John Gowing.