The seagrass bed in Gladstone Harbour.
The seagrass bed in Gladstone Harbour.

Project underway to keep CQ fish habitats swimming

A THREE-year project by the Fitzroy Basin Association will aim to restore and safeguard the health of Central Queensland’s fish habitats.

The “Protecting and enhancing high-value fish habitats across Central Queensland’s coast” project has two goals: to spread seagrass near North Keppel Island and Gladstone Harbour and to educate the public on the origins of marine debris.

FBA environment leader Shannon von Nunen said that a single hectare of seagrass supported 55,000 more fish compared to a barren seabed.

“We’re looking to engage the community through our partnership with CQUniversity to train them in how to identify the sea pods of seagrass when they float to the surface,” he said.

“CQUniversity will assist in the propagation of those seeds, deploying them back in the Gladstone Harbour and The Keppels.”

He said that aside from being a productive ecosystem, seagrass was also the diet of Central Queensland’s marine animals, such as turtles and dugong, and many of which, once grown, are sought after by recreational and commercial fishermen.

The habitat is at risk, Mr van Nunen said, from sediment run-off, dredging, and certain boating activity.

“It’s really important that we get into this space and that we monitor the decline over time and what’s going on,” he said.

North Keppel Island.
North Keppel Island.

The project also involves researching where the debris that ends up in the habitats comes from.

Mr van Nunen said that that knowledge would allow residents to advocate changes in their own area.

“It’s not just good enough to really remove marine debris, it’s also important to understand where it’s coming from,” he said.

“We use a well-documented method to analyse where out local plastics are coming from and try to empower our local community to then go to those sources and try to drive some form of change.

“It’s much better to be informed and empowered and to act on the source of the issue than to play the blame game and point fingers.

“We’re all part of it; we all have a role to play.”

The FBA’s task will be helped along by $295,998 from the Federal Government, and Mr van Nunen estimated the organisation would receive about $430,000 in kind from the CQUniversity and other groups volunteering to lend a hand.

Once the research is complete, the results will be made available upon request.

The project will end in June 2023.