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This page includes news articles of international and national interest. Seagrass-Watch HQ does not guarantee, and accepts no legal liability whatsoever arising from or connected to, the accuracy, reliability, currency or completeness of any news material contained on this page or on any linked site. The material on this page may include the views or recommendations of third parties, which do not necessarily reflect the views of the program nor it's supporters, or indicate commitment to a particular course of action

 

 

 

 

 

In praise of seagrasses and their special place in the Pacific

16 April 2015, Radio Australia (Australia)

An international project that's helping save the threatened dugongs of Solomon Islands and Vanuatu has produced some amazing facts about their seagrass habitats.

Pacific Regional Environment Program's migratory species specialist, Mike Donoghue says they store carbon dioxide 35 times faster than rainforests can and ecology assessments rate them as three times more valuable than coral reefs.

They're clearly an underwater miracle plant and James Cook University researcher Len McKenzie says the value of seagrass is not widely appreciated.

To listen to the radio interview: Click Here


Protecting dugongs - just what is the scale of the threat to the sea cow?

15 April 2015, Radio Australia (Australia)

Dugongs - or sea cows as they can be known because they graze on underwater grasses - are vulnerable to extinction while seagrasses are one of the most threatened ecosystems on the planet.

The four-year project has just started and for more details,

The Pacific Regional Environment Program's migratory species specialist, Mike Donoghue, says the four-year project will have a focus on Vanuatu and Solomon Islands.

To listen to the radio interview: Click Here


 

Townsville council seeks exemption from proposal to ban dredge spoil dumping on Great Barrier Reef

15 April 2015, ABC Local (Australia)

Townsville City Council in north Queensland has asked for emergency dredging projects to be exempt from a ban on the dumping of spoil on the Great Barrier Reef.

The Federal Government has been asking for feedback on its plan to ban the disposal of capital dredge spoil in the World Heritage area.

In its submission, the Townsville council said it welcomed the proposal but recommended works to protect coastal communities from climate change and potential sea level rises be exempt from the ban.

It said it would support the re-use of spoil and it would benefit the community.

It has also asked authorities to allow dredge spoil to be dumped in the marine park area, if it is in response to natural disasters.

The council said it also wanted a guide to be developed to help identify possible sites on land for the dumping of spoil.

The Federal Government is hoping to have the ban implemented by the end of June.

More information: Click Here


 

'Citizen scientists' immersed in bid to conserve vital marine habitat

12 April 2015, Western Morning News (UK)

A female spiny seahorse

Divers, kayakers, and other water users have been enlisted to study some of the most threatened parts of the Westcountry coastline.

The Community Seagrass Initiative, led by the National Marine Aquarium (NMA) in Plymouth, is surveying seagrass beds from Looe to Weymouth.

The "Citizen Science" project was awarded £475,000 by the Heritage Lottery Fund to provide opportunities for volunteers to get involved.

Seagrasses are the only marine flowering plants, and an important habitat for creatures like seahorses.

They are also breeding grounds for three valuable commercial species: cuttlefish, pollack and bass.

Seagrass locks up twice as much carbon dioxide as the tropical rainforests, helping to combat global warming. Unlike seaweed, seagrass has roots, and these help to stabilise the seabed in shallow waters on sandy seabed. They can also improve water quality and reduce coastal erosion.

But seagrass meadows are one of the most threatened habitats in the world – estimated to be in decline by seven per cent a year. The first step in halting the decline is to assess the health of the beds.

The three project officers running the project in the South West are keen to reach recruit divers, kayakers, boat users, teachers and Internet users to help with their surveys.

Dr David Gibson, director of the NMA, said it was a "Citizen Science" project.

"Fishermen do not pose a threat to the seagrass beds. The risk is us, and the way we live our lives," he said.

The beds are all protected, but they are damaged by pollution from the land and by boaters who anchor carelessly or by jetskis.

Dr Gibson said that around the world schemes to get local people to adopt the seagrasses had been a success, leading to no-anchor zones and other protective measures.

Global warming also poses a threat because British species of seagrass are adapted to survive in colder water. Warmer water also allows the spread of fish such as bream and rainbow wrasse, which graze on the plants. The grasses grow from the zone of the lowest low tide down to about ten metres.

The project is being run by Mark Parry at the NMA, helped by colleagues at Living Coasts at Torquay and the Sea Life Centre in Weymouth. There are 17 individual seagrass beds between Looe and Weymouth, in sheltered areas like the Tamar estuary, Plymouth Sound, the Salcombe estuary and Torbay.

The Community Seagrass Initiative has a page on Facebook.

More information: Click Here


Alarm over reclamation of massive sea area

10 April 2015, Free Malaysia Today (Malaysia)

 

GEORGE TOWN: A civic group has questioned the wisdom of carrying out the state-proposed Middlebank reclamation project in the Penang Channel to facilitate implementation of the Penang Transport Master Plan (TMP).
A civic group has questioned the wisdom of carrying out the state-proposed Middlebank reclamation project in the Penang Channel to facilitate implementation of the Penang Transport Master Plan (TMP).

Penang Citizens Awareness Chant Group (Chant) sounded the alarm today with its coordinator, Yan C Lee, pointing out that there is a submarine power cable and a sea grass bed in the Middlebank area.

He said reclaiming such a large sea area and shifting the TNB cable would be costly.

“The whole process will be a major undertaking,” he said. “TNB may not agree to it.”

He pointed out that the Department of Environment (DOE) had rejected a similar reclamation project to facilitate the Forest City project in Johor.

He warned that any reclamation project carried out in the Middlebank area would cause severe damage to the state’s coastal environment and ecosystem.

“The state government should explain why it chose that sea grass bed when it could have chosen another site,” he said.

The project, which will be carried out between the Sungai Pinang river mouth and the Penang Bridge, is part of the proposed RM27 billion Penang TMP. A third of it covers the sea grass bed.

The TMP was prepared by Halcrow Consultants Sdn Bhd, AJC Planning and Singapore Cruise Centre Pte Ltd in 2012. The plan recommends highway improvements, policy changes and an upgraded public transport system to improve traffic conditions in the state.

Yan, who claimed to have inside information, said there were no clear guidelines on how the project would take place without tampering with the submarine cable.

Six companies have submitted tender bids to implement the TMP. A decision on the successful bidder is expected to be known before the middle of this year.

Bursa Malaysia-listed construction giants Gamuda Bhd, IJM Corp Bhd, WCT Holdings Bhd and government-linked Prasarana Malaysia Bhd were among the six that submitted bids to participate as the project delivery partner (PDP). The costs of the four phases will be RM330 million between 2012 and 2015, RM7.13 billion between 2015 and 2020, RM8.9 billion between 2020 and 2025, and RM10.6 billion between 2025 and 2030.

To part finance the project, the successful PDP will be awarded the reclamation rights to the Middlebank area.

Before implementation, the selected company is required to conduct a feasibility study of the proposed reclamation.

The reclamation is expected to contribute RM18.3 billion in land premium to the state’s coffers if the rate were set at a minimum of RM280 per sq ft.

An online portal reported that certain bidders had been told that they were “welcomed” to scout for state land in Penang for projects to help kick-start the TMP packages while waiting for completion of the Middlebank reclamation.

The land swap business model is similar to the agreement with Consortium Zenith BUCG Sdn Bhd, tasked with building the RM6.3 billion integrated infrastructure project comprising three highways and the 6.5km undersea tunnel.

“Why is the Penang government insisting on reclaiming Middlebank with all these issues cropping up?” Yan asked.

“The state government should explain why bidders were ‘welcomed to scout for state land to kick-start TMP packages’. Is the state government giving away the state’s prime real estate to finance TMP? If so, Penang people should fear this. More high density projects are coming to their neighbourhoods.”

Middlebank covers an area of about 607ha, almost twice as big as Pulau Jerejak. It is the only sea grass bed in Penang waters and among only a handful in the Straits of Malacca.

It is home to a rich biodiversity and to at least four distinctly different genera of sea grass, making it a unique biological habitat.

Researchers have found that Middlebank contains a rich variety of living marine species, including sea anemones, hermit crabs, cockles, clams, sea urchins, fan shells, sea cucumbers, turtles, dugongs and octopuses.

Marine experts have said that sea grass beds provide natural nurseries, shelter and food for marine species and protect fishermen and fish breeding workers from big waves.

More information: Click Here


Researchers to undertake Sydney Harbour ecosystem review

09 April 2015, 9news.com.au (Australia)

A scientist collects samples. (9NEWS)

There are concerns locals are enjoying Sydney Harbour too much, with a new study set to determine impacts people have had on the precious waterway.

Researchers at the University of New South Wales are set to review how boating is affecting the 55 square kilometre underwater ecosystem – the largest natural harbour in the world.

"We're in danger of loving our harbour to death; we have so many people who want to enjoy the harbour, that we need to find better ways that minimise environmental impacts," Professor Emma Johnston from the University of NSW said.

Four million people, tens of thousands of fishermen, and 17,000 boats are taking their toll.

"We have everything from close to 570 different fish species, we have close to 10 thousand kinds of bacteria that live in the sediment, but the interesting thing about the harbour is that we don't actually know that much about it," Dr Luke Hedge said.

Getting to the bottom of the mystery, researchers are plunging into the biggest survey ever undertaken in the harbour.

"So we want to know how that community really interacts with the natural resources, the fish and the plants and the animals that live underneath this, this iconic harbour," Dr Hedge said.

Seagrass at the bottom of Sydney Harbour. (9NEWS)

Of special concern the damage caused by thousands of permanent boat moorings on delicate meadows of seagrass.

"We know we've already lost 50 percent of our seagrass meadows in the harbour, now that's important because seagrass is habitat for baby fish and for places where larger fish eat," Dr Johnston said.

Their findings may ultimately lead to major changes to boat moorings. so clusters of boats can hang off just one point on the seabed. There are many possibilities.

Ahead of researchers is thousands of dives over three years, right around Sydney Harbour

And video of everything from fish populations, to seagrass, and even the rubbish we leave behind.

Hopefully at the end of the research is a plan to allow future generations to enjoy what they have now.

"What we're aiming to do is essentially future-proof this harbour and i think we have a great chance of doing that," Dr Hedge said.

More information: Click Here


Seagrass project will help preserve 'cute' sea life

09 April 2015, Torquay Herald Express (UK)

THE Community Seagrass Initiative has been launched in Torbay with a special event for volunteers to learn more about opportunities to get involved in preserving some of the area's cutest underwater residents.

The pioneering initiative will cover the 191-mile stretch of coastline from Looe in Cornwall, to Weymouth in Dorset. The citizen-based project will provide opportunities for the general public to engage with their coastal areas and be a part of an exciting project to benefit the coastal communities for years to come.

Everyone from schoolchildren, sailors, canoeists, divers, kayakers and even internet users will be encouraged to get involved and help collect vital data to aid the mapping and surveying of seagrass meadows along the south coast which are homes to native seahorses.

The Torquay launch at Living Coasts was the last of three events to take place along the south coast. Rachel Cole, Community Seagrass Initiative project officer for Torbay, said: "It was great to host the last of our regional launch events in Torbay. It was great to see members of the local community coming out to join us and learn more about the project.

"We've got an exciting few months ahead, with lots of dives, kayaking trips and school visits lined-up, but we'd still love to see even more people getting involved — it's not too late."

Mark Parry, seagrass project manager for the National Marine Aquarium, said: "The project is a culmination of partner organisations, working together to engage and educate the public to help protect as many seagrass beds as possible over the next three years — it will be great to see the project getting underway and people out in the water helping with our research."

Spearheaded by the National Marine Aquarium, the initiative is in partnership with Plymouth University Maine Institute, Torbay Coast and Countryside Trust, Weymouth Sealife and Living Coasts, and was made possible by a £475,000 grant received by the Heritage Lottery Fund last year.

More information: Click Here


Celebrating seagrass: Local communities participate in annual festival

08 April 2015, Aransas Pass Progress (USA)

In 2009, World Seagrass Day was established in Aransas Pass as way to connect seagrass research scientists with the general public. At the time, this small but growing number of seagrass scientists were appealing for a way to raise public awareness about the importance of seagrass to the ecology and economy of Texas.

They were and still are part of the Texas Seagrass Monitoring Work Group created by Texas Parks & Wildlife Department to generate a 10-year seagrass monitoring plan for the State that began in 2000 for 2010, and now 2010 to 2020.

The group also includes the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Texas General Land Office, University of Texas Marine Science Institute, Harte Research Institute at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, University of Texas-Pan American, University of Texas-Brownsville, Coastal Bend Bays & Estuaries Program, NOAA’s Mission-Aransas National Estuarine Research Reserve (MANEER), recreational and commercial users of seagrass habitats, nonprofit organizations and concerned citizens.

The group meets biannually in the Coastal Bend region where there are vast seagrass meadows in shallow bays and estuaries. Historically, the group has met in Corpus Christi, but will meet for the first time in Port Aransas on April 15 at the MANEER office at UTMSI. They will discuss the latest seagrass research efforts, review regulatory challenges, and the future of seagrass monitoring.

This past year, TPWD and TCEQ teamed up to set up the first comprehensive seagrass monitoring project at 53 sites in primarily San Antonio Bay and a few in surrounding bays. It is a major accomplishment with 15 chemical, biological and physical parameters to be measured and data collected.

The Science & Spanish Club Network, a nonprofit organization, had already established the “We Love Redfish Bay Seagrass Tent” in 2006. The public education and outreach tent was a reaction to the designation of the Redfish Bay State Scientific Study Area by TPW. Many Aransas Pass students at the time spent countless hours assisting TPW staff with boater surveys about boating habits that could impact seagrass habitat. The Coastal Bend Bays & Estuaries program supported TPW with a years-long radio and television Lift, Drift, Pole and Troll public service announcement campaign.

“Seagrass is the nursery for so many living organisms,” said Billy Ellis, a professional chef who works on San Jose Island. “There are shrimp, oysters, crab, trout, redfish, flounder, sheepshead, triple-tail, mangrove snapper and so many other fish that need and feed in seagrass habitat. It is vital to our economy and I grew up in a seafood business called Duque’s Seafood. Many businesses in Aransas Pass have depended on the seagrasses for their livelihoods, too.”

On Friday, April 10, Aransas Pass Charlie Marshall Elementary School and Blaschke-Sheldon Elementary Schools will team up to host the sixth annual World Seagrass Day Parade and Festival Of Knowledge. Both schools are designated ‘Seagrass Savvy Schools’ for their learning about the importance of protecting seagrasses now and for the future.

The parade will start at 10 a.m. in front of Charlie Marshall Elementary and arch to the Bo Bonorden Memorial Football Stadium. They will be greeted by the A.C. Blunt Middle School audience and the State of the Seagrass message will be read along with the “Aransas Pass: Seagrass Capital of the World” proclamation.

The parade is dedicated to Bill English, retiring community affairs representative with Cheniere. English was instrumental in organizing a $4 million seagrass restoration project at Shamrock Island in 2012. He also sponsored a field trip for 108 students from Aransas Pass, Ingleside and Corpus Christi to see the restoration project. Charlie Marshall students then spend the rest of the day with different presenters on the importance of seagrass.

More information: Click Here


 

Great Barrier Reef marine reserves get a big tick

27 March 2015, ABC Science Online (Australia)

The combination of marine reserves and fishing controls appears to be working to protect the Great Barrier Reef as well as preserve stocks of commercially important species, say researchers.

The findings come out of a 30-year monitoring effort by scientists from the Australian Institute of Marine Science and James Cook University, and are reported today in the journal Current Biology.

In 2004, fishing was excluded from around a third of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park in a network of 'no-take marine reserves'.

Monitoring since the 1980s of corals, fish species and other organisms on the reef have enabled scientists to now compare the health of marine reserves with matched fished areas.

The comparison, carried out by Dr David Williamson of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University, and colleagues, found the main difference was in the number of coral trout, the most commercially important species on the reef.

"There are more coral trout in the reserves and their average size was bigger," he says.

The findings show that the total biomass of coral trout is on average 2.5 times higher in the reserves than in the fished areas.

If there was no poaching at all on the reef by commercial and recreational fishers, this figure would be higher, says Williamson.
No 'squeeze effect'

Importantly, the researchers found no differences in the general health of the reef between the reserves and the fished areas.

While fishing on some reefs can have a devastating effect on coral and other organisms, this is not the case with the selective approach taken on the Great Barrier Reef, says Williamson.

"The fishery methods that they're using on these coral reefs are essentially hook and line and this is not particularly damaging to the reef," he says.

One concern about marine reserves is that they may create more fishing pressure on the areas outside them, but Williamson and colleagues found no evidence of this "squeeze effect" when it comes to coral trout.

Levels of coral trout in the fished areas were the same both before and after the reserves were put in place, he says.

Williamson says this may be partly explained by catch limits that were imposed on the fishing industry at the same time the reserves were implemented.

However, he also argues that the increase in the number of coral trout in the reserves is likely to be benefiting the fishing industry.

Williamson points to a 2012 study that traced dispersal of coral trout larvae from places that are closed to fishing to places that are open to fishing.

"Those fish populations in the areas that are closed are forming really valuable breeding populations and that's also contributing to what we call 'recruitment' in the areas that are open to fishing," he says.

Another interesting finding from the study is that the larger coral trout in the reserves were better able to tough out and survive Tropical Cyclone Hamish, which devastated the reef in 2009.
'Heartening'

Dr Neville Barrett, a conservation biologist from the University of Tasmania who studies the impact of marine reserves, welcomes the study.

"The work here is very, very heartening because it's actually showing that the integrated management involving the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, and Commonwealth state and fisheries agencies, is doing a really great job," he says.

"It's great to see such a good independent endorsement of fishery work."

But, he says, while coral trout larvae from marine reserves on the Great Barrier Reef may disperse to fishing zones it's hard to say how many of these will survive to adult fish and therefore benefit fisheries.

"It's likely to have some positive benefits to industry," he says, "But it's very difficult to quantify given the vagaries of larval and post-settlement processes that ultimately limit populations of such species."

"It can't be a bad thing," he adds. "But given the fisheries are in relatively such good condition, the magnitude of the difference is such that it's unlikely to be a marked improvement."

Regardless, Williamson says reserves are a good "insurance policy" to have, which are simple to implement, especially in developing countries where policing size or catch limits is particularly difficult.

The researchers emphasise that fishing is just one of the pressures on the reef, which must also contend with climate change, pollution, sediment and coastal development.

The Commonwealth government is currently carrying out a eview of marine reserves. Submissions close on Tuesday 31 March.

More information: Click Here


What can we say for certain about dredging and the Great Barrier Reef?

26 March 2015, The Conversation AU (Australia)

To protect and manage environmental treasures like the Great Barrier Reef requires a strong foundation of science, but what should agencies and political leaders do when the science is as widely debated as it has been for dredging and disposal in the Great Barrier Reef?

Over the past 15 months, we have led a process with a panel of experts to provide an independent overview of the current knowledge of the effects of dredging and sediment disposal in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. Our panel included a very diverse range of expertise and experience, from years in the dredging industry, to physical oceanographers and coral ecologists.

The report, published yesterday, covers the effects of dredging on the physical and chemical environment, flow-on effects on the habitats and biodiversity, cumulative impacts, effects of land-based disposal, and next steps for management.

The report shows, for example, that although direct effects are localised, dredging and disposal may have been making significant contributions to suspended sediments in inshore waters of the Great Barrier Reef.

Given the complexity of the issue, the report can’t provide conclusive answers to all of the questions reef managers face, but it does provide a comprehensive and balanced interpretation of the available evidence. By clearly distinguishing what is known (and agreed by the experts), what is definitively not known, and what is uncertain (that is, still debated by the experts), the report not only provides a clearer way forward for managers, but clearly identifies the knowledge gaps we still need to address.

So what does the report tell us? It says that dredging and sediment disposal can change the physical and chemical environment, and thus affect the biological values of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. But these effects will differ between locations, and also be influenced by the different types and extents of dredging and sediment disposal.

Direct removal by excavation, and burial during disposal, only affect relatively small areas, although within those areas the effects are obviously severe. Dredging and disposal don’t occur on coral reefs within the Great Barrier Reef area.

Release of fine sediment is the greatest concern

Both dredging and marine disposal create significant plumes of suspended sediment, causing increased cloudiness in the water and reducing the light available to marine organisms.

Importantly, the report concludes that both disposed sediments and dispersed sediments from dredge plumes have the potential to be re-suspended and transported by waves and ocean currents, and to contribute to the long-term, chronic increase in fine suspended sediment concentrations in the inshore Great Barrier Reef.

The extent to which this occurs and affects marine life was not agreed by the expert panel. In particular, the panellists had differing views on whether sediment from dredging was significant compared with background levels of resuspension and inputs of fine sediments in river run-off from catchments. However, calculations suggest that previous large dredging operations had potentially very significant effects.

Most experts do agree that increased levels of fine sediments, and associated nutrients, are, along with climate change, seriously affecting the long-term health of the Great Barrier Reef. Understanding dredging in the context of inshore sediment dynamics is a serious gap in our knowledge.

In general, dredged material from near the Great Barrier Reef has few chemical contaminants, and there are robust management procedures to avoid disposal of such material at sea.

Different habitats, differing effects

The report breaks down and summarises the risks to coral reefs, seagrass meadows, mangroves and estuaries, pelagic (open water) and seafloor habitats, along with the risks to fish and other wildlife of conservation concern, such as dugongs, marine turtles and seabirds. These effects will vary greatly with the location, timing and extent of dredging and disposal. But if dredging and disposal have been significantly increasing fine sediments supply, it is possible that long-term impacts on inshore ecosystems have been under-estimated. We know that chronic increases in suspended sediments have been affecting inshore coral reefs and seagrass beds.

What is clear is that the extent of future impacts in the marine environment will be very significantly improved with the impending bans on disposal of capital dredging in the marine environment, recently announced by the federal and Queensland governments. The proposed ban on disposal of capital material in the Marine Park closed on Friday 27 March 2015.

Future challenges

Following a ban on disposal of capital material within the marine environment, there remains the challenge of managing the remaining impacts of dredging, including disposal of maintenance dredged sediments in marine environments, and disposal of capital dredging material on land.

The Expert Panel identified a number of potentially serious impacts and challenges involved in disposing of dredge material on land or in reclamation, including loss of coastal habitats, runoff of seawater and fine sediments from dredged material, and potential acid sulphate soils.

Our panel prioritised identifying what we do know about dredging, but also found significant areas of insufficient knowledge. Most of the panel also agreed on the need to follow up our report with a similar analysis of the social, economic, cultural and heritage aspects of dredging and sediment disposal, including the impacts on Indigenous culture and heritage.

Given the complexity of the Great Barrier Reef ecosystem, and the range of expert views, the intention of this process was never to provide a single, conclusive answer. Rather, our report provides a strong foundation for progressing both knowledge and management directions, and it appears it is already doing that.

More information: Click Here


WEYMOUTH: Help with seagrass research project

25 March 2015, View Online (UK)

PEOPLE interested in a unique project to preserve sea grass beds have gathered for a volunteer evening at Weymouth Sea Life Park.

There are 19 known sea grass beds along 191 miles of coastline between Weymouth and Looe and the night, which attracted more than 40 visitors, was devoted to explaining all about how people could get involved in the three-year project.

The sea grass beds are home to everything from young fish to seahorses.

Community seagrass initiative spokesman Jess Mead said: “We are looking for three groups of volunteers, kayakers, sailors and qualified divers, as well as our schools programme which will engage with 19,000 schoolchildren.

“We hope that we will get lots of volunteers to help us survey the sea grass.”

She added that the Heritage Lottery Fund had provided nearly £500,000 for the project into the habitat which appears to be in decline perhaps through poor water quality, invasive species and increased recreational water use over the habitat.

Many people were unaware of the sea grass bed locations, five of which are in the Weymouth area at Ringstead, Weymouth bay, Weymouth pier, Portland harbour and the Fleet lagoon.

She urged people to volunteer for the project and said no knowledge or survey experience was needed.

More information: Click Here


Compiling and expanding knowledge of dredging

25 March 2015, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (Australia)

An independent panel of experts has compiled existing scientific knowledge of how dredging and disposal impacts on the Great Barrier Reef.

Brought together under a joint initiative of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and the Australian Institute of Marine Science, the panel reviewed information on the physical and biological effects of dredging and disposal.

The panel's report titled Synthesis of current knowledge of the biophysical impacts of dredging and disposal on the Great Barrier Reef summarises what is known about the effects of dredging, what is scientifically contentious, and the key gaps in our knowledge.

Consisting of 19 technical and scientific experts, the panel represented a broad range of skills, experience and perspectives — from oceanographic modelling to coral ecology.

Among its key findings, the report concluded:

  • In terms of direct effects, dredging and burial of seafloor habitats during disposal can have substantial impacts at a local level, but have only a small impact on the broader Great Barrier Reef and its biodiversity as a whole.
  • In terms of indirect effects, sediments released by dredging and disposal have the potential to stay suspended in the water and move. This may be contributing significantly to the long-term chronic increase in fine suspended sediments in inshore areas, however there wasn’t consensus among the panelists on the extent to which this happens and its impact on biodiversity.
  • Dredging and disposal may be a significant source of fine sediments in the World Heritage Area, in addition to other sources, such as land run-off. A general comparison shows that past large dredging projects produced amounts of fine sediment similar in magnitude to natural loads coming from land run-off in the same region.
  • The recent policy commitments to ban disposal of capital dredge material in marine environments will mean future disposal, which will be limited to maintenance dredging, will contribute much less fine sediment. This reduced amount will still need to be considered in the context of other cumulative impacts on the Great Barrier Reef.

The knowledge gaps identified by the panel are likely to guide further research into the effects of dredging and disposal.

Improving our understanding of the effects of dredging will also help us further develop policy and best practice guidelines.

All management actions are based on best available knowledge — it is part of our adaptive management approach to ensure this knowledge is updated.


Project scope

This work focuses on physical, chemical and ecological aspects such as how sediment moves, settles and disperses and looks at ecological impacts on reefs, seagrass and other key species and habitats.

Although the social, economic, cultural and heritage aspects of dredging are important, these are beyond the scope of this phase of the project.

More information: Click Here


Dugong washed ashore

25 March 2015, The Hindu (India)

The carcass of a Dugong washed ashore at Marakayarpattinam near Mandapam in Ramanathapuram district on Tuesday. (Photo: L. BALACHANDAR)

The carcass of a male Dugong, weighing around 200 kg, was found washed ashore at Maraikayarpattinam seashore near here on Tuesday morning.

Forester M. Jaffar said forest personnel were on routine patrolling when they found the carcass washed ashore with injury on its back.

The injury suggested that it could have hit against a rock and succumbed to the injuries on Monday night.

The Dugong measured 213 cm long with a circumference measuring 84 cm.

It was buried at the seashore after Dr. Manikandan, Veterinary Assistant Surgeon conducted post mortem, he said.

Collector K. Nanthakumar, Superintendent of Police N. M. Mylvahanan and Wildlife Warden, Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park, Deepak S. Bilgi, visited the seashore and inspected the carcass.

Second carcass:This was the second carcass of Dugong to be washed ashore in the Gulf of Mannar region in less than one month.

On February 27, the forest officials found a two-year-old female Dugong washed ashore at Thalaithoppu near Periyapattinam.

More information: Click Here


Chant questions Middlebank reclamation by state government

24 March 2015, New Straits Times Online (Malaysia)

An environmental interest group here questioned the state government's insistence in going ahead with the Middlebank reclamation, with the knowledge that it could destroy the ecosystem of the seagrass bed there.

Speaking in a press conference today on the matter, Citizens Awareness Chant Group (Chant) adviser Yan Lee said the Penang government should explain why it insist on reclaiming the Middlebank area, when there are so many other places to be reclaimed.

"Choose somewhere else that is feasible. The ecosystem on the seagrass bed has to be a priority," he said in a press conference here.

Lee claimed that reclamation in the area would change the whole system and water flow in Penang, affecting fish farmers from the island to Nibong Tebal, and cause siltation.

Lee cited the Forest City project in Johor as an example of how such a seagrass bed should not be touched for development. He said the Johor Department of Environment (DoE) had not allowed the Forest City developer to reclaim areas that have a large amount of seagrass.

The 50.6ha seabed in the Middlebank, located between the first Penang Bridge and the Sungai Pinang river mouth, is the second largest in Peninsular Malaysia after Merambong in Johor.

It was reported that the state government planned to reclaim the area under the proposed RM27 billion Penang Transport Master Plan.

The Penang Development Corporation (PDC) had called for a Request for Proposal (RFP) to reclaim the area, and ended on Feb 23.

When contacted by the New Straits Times, state Welfare, Caring Society and Environment Committee chairman Phee Boon Poh said nothing has been decided yet on the project.

More information: Click Here


New study shows net value of seagrass to fishing in the Mediterranean

24 March 2015, Phys.Org (UK)

Seagrass meadows could be worth around €190 million every year to commercial and recreational fishing in the Mediterranean according to a new study by marine scientists.

Seagrass meadows could be worth around €190 million every year to commercial and recreational fishing in the Mediterranean according to a new study by marine scientists.

In a report published in Conservation Biology, academics at Plymouth University and the University of Central Queensland, Australia, say that marine policies should consider the socioeconomic effects of the loss of seagrass, which provides habitat for many fishery species.

Beds of seagrass play a fundamental role in supporting populations of marine species that are caught by commercial and recreational fishers, acting as nursery areas for juveniles, feeding grounds and refuge from predators. But despite protection from the European Union which bans the use of mobile fishing gear over the beds, seagrass is declining in the Mediterranean.

Project lead Dr Emma Jackson, who commenced the work while at Plymouth before moving to the School of Medical and Applied Sciences at Queensland, said:

"Where they dominate coastlines, seagrass beds are thought to have a fundamental role in maintaining populations of exploited species, and are afforded protection accordingly. And yet, no attempt to determine the contribution of these areas to both commercial fisheries landings and recreational fisheries expenditure had ever been made. The figures, even allowing for some variation and uncertainty, clearly demonstrate just how much is at stake if seagrass declines further."

Conducted under the EU's KnowSeas project, the researchers used a 'Seagrass Residency Index' to give different fishery species a score based on how much time they spend in seagrass meadows at different life stages, compared with other habitats. The score was then combined with information on the economic value of seafood caught by commercial fisheries to calculate the total value of seagrass to this industry. For recreational fishing, the scores were combined with figures on how much is spent each year by anglers, for example, on equipment and transport, contributing to the wider economy.

The results indicated that seagrass contributed between €58.3 million and €91.5 million per year to commercial fishing in the Mediterranean, between 2006 and 2008, at an average of €77.7 million. Approximately 4.5%, or €112.6 million, of annual angling expenditure could be attributed to seagrass meadows.

With seagrass (Posidonia oceanica) estimated to account for 5.5 million hectares, or 2% of the surface area of the Mediterranean Sea, it contributes a disproportionately valuable amount to fisheries in terms of 'habitat service'.

"Certain species would have a significant economic impact for commercial fishing if seagrass were to further decline," said Dr Sian Rees, a Research Fellow within Plymouth University's Marine Institute.

"These include cuttlefish (Sepiidae, Sepiolidae), scorpion fish (Scorpaenidae) and octopus (Octopodidae). In terms of recreational fishing, declines in seabass would have a particularly damaging effect."

The EU's Marine Strategy Framework Directive requires the cost of marine degradation to be determined. The full economic value of seagrass beds would be even higher than this calculated value if other ecosystem services were also accounted for, such as erosion protection and carbon sequestration, indicating how important seagrass habitat is to both the marine environment and human society.

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