Seagrass not growing

SEAGRASS damage in Gladstone Harbour continues to be a source of concern for environmentalists and fishermen.
Along much of the Queensland coast, seagrass meadows have taken a hit from the January floods and, while the problem has been widely reported, the scientific community is still coming to terms with what it all means for our marine animals.
Dr Michelle Devlin from James Cook University said the main cause of seagrass damage in the Gladstone region has been higher turbidity and lower sunlight since the floods. She said there were still many "unknowns" regarding seagrass damage and studies are underway to gain a clearer picture.
Environmentalists are increasingly worried about the impact on the region's dugongs, which rely on seagrass for food.
World Wildlife Fund Queensland manager Nick Heath said the problem, far from improving, has been entrenched since the floods.
"Sunlight only gets to seagrass if the water is clean," he said. "The water is still not clean. Those floods didn't stop at the river mouths. They are moving in giant plumes that have spread out over the seagrass in the past few months.
"We are seeing very large loss of seagrass across Queensland, but particularly in Central Queensland."
Mr Heath said dugongs are now having to travel in search of new seagrass meadows and this was causing a new set of problems.
"This massively increases the risk of boat strike," he said.
"Because they are moving into areas that the planners haven't cordoned off from boats (or created 'go slow areas')."
On June 22, QPWS in Gladstone collected the third body of a dugong in less than a month after it was hit by a boat in Calliope River.
"We need to reduce the speed limits and educate boaties that they need to be watchful. These are very avoidable deaths."
Queensland Seafood Industry Association president Michael Gardiner said commercial fishermen were also worried about sea grass levels in the region.
"One would always worry when the seagrass starts to disappear," he said. "There have been major seagrass issues up and down the coast. That's been well recognised by fisheries. It's been attributed primarily to the flooding. "How much is due to flooding and how much to urban development? Who knows?"

June 25, 2011



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