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The world’s best surfers highlighted coastal stewardship by helping plant native species and restore coastal dunes on the Gnarabup coastline today, ahead of the start of the Margaret River Pro.

Nature Conservation Margaret River Region teamed up with the World Surf League (WSL), Australian pro surfers Isabella Nichols and Ryan Callinan, and a collaboration of groups including the Shire of Augusta-Margaret River, Margaret River Coastal Residents Association, Undalup Association, Great Southern Reef Foundation, Tangaroa Blue, and juniors from Cowaramup Bay Boardriders for a busy bee in the Gas Bay dunes.

Nichols and Callinan joined a small army of local volunteers planting native pigface and spinifex into the dunes and laying down brush to close extra tracks and give the vegetation a chance to recover.

“I feel like when we go to different stops and tour locations it’s always we’re taking, we’re taking waves… and to come and give back to the local environment, it means so much to all of us,” said Nichols, the current women’s world no. 10. “Hopefully we can leave it as we found it, and maybe better. Wherever you are in the world, whether you’re a local or a tourist, get involved.”

Callinan, the current men’s world no.6, said: “We’re here trying to help the environment and conserve it as best we can and keep the nature alive. To me, it’s really important to conserve our environment and our beaches, and for everyone to chip in and do their part to make sure these special places aren’t harmed. To be able to help with something like this feels really good.”

It comes after the region’s peak conservation group also hosted a Coastal Forum at Surfers Point this week, which highlighted the hard work and many successes of the groups, individuals and stakeholders who are dedicated to protecting the Margaret River coastline. But it also put the spotlight on the many threats, from human impacts to invasive species, erosion, climate change, habitat loss and being “loved to death”.

At the forum, there was almost unanimous support for the idea of a new voluntary “coastal code”, where locals and visitors alike would become stewards and champions of our coast and its conservation. The concept is modelled on the tiny Pacific island nation of Palau which introduced a requirement for visitors to sign a pledge to act in an ecologically and culturally responsible way on the island. The hugely successful campaign, called the Palau Pledge, was the brainchild of author Laura Clarke, who spoke at the Nature Conservation coastal forum and said a similar concept could be an option here.

Nature Conservation general manager Drew McKenzie said both the coastal code and the partnership with the WSL were examples of stewardship of the coast. “Alone, we can all do a bit. But together we can really achieve so much. That’s the strength of this partnership with the WSL and so many local groups working on the ground in the Margaret River region,” he said. “A lot of us use the coastline for fun and recreation, but it’s really important we become custodians and stewards for the coast too – by acting with respect and treading lightly when we’re on the coast, learning more about the flora and fauna, joining your local coast care or environment group and giving back.”

Genny Broadhurst from the Margaret River Coastal Residents Association said a strong collaboration of local groups was “building and accelerating” the efforts to maintain and increase coastal habitat.

Tangaroa Blue’s Casey Woodward said working together was vital to tackling daunting global environmental issues like climate change, erosion control and plastics in our marine environment. “None of us can tackle these issues on our own but if we work together… we have a fighting chance,” she said.

Photo caption: Representatives of groups who collaborated on our coastal care day including (from left) Sahira Bell from Great Southern Reef Foundation, Casey Woodward from Tangaroa Blue, Drew McKenzie from Nature Conservation Margaret River Region, World Surf League surfers Ryan Callinan and Isabella Nichols, Kay Lehman from Augusta Margaret River Shire, and Genny Broadhurst from Margaret River Coastal Residents Association.