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Learning about introduced marine species

Monday, 3 April 2017

The work of scientists and local high school students will help decision-makers to manage the health and biosecurity of Bunbury's waterways in future years.

As part of studies being undertaken for the Transforming Bunbury's Waterfront project, scientists recently carried out a survey of introduced marine species in areas that are planned for redevelopment.

The fieldwork was assisted by Year 11 biology and aquaculture students from Newton Moore Senior High School who walked along Jetty Baths and BP beaches to look for specimens that had washed ashore.

RPS Group environmental director Jeremy Fitzpatrick said the results from the beach walks will provide baseline data against which future survey data can be compared.

"This will allow the manager of the boat harbour to understand that if a new introduced marine species is washed up on the beach the biosecurity measures will need to be reviewed," he said.

The overall introduced marine species survey, which covers Casuarina Boat Harbour and Koombana Bay beach, will feed into the assessment of potential environmental impacts associated with planned future development involving new marine facilities such as boat pens.

In addition to the beach walks at the boat harbour, the scientists also conducted beach walks at other sites, deployed baited traps for small fish and crabs, and examined marine structures at each site.

Divers examined mooring buoys and lines, pilings, moored vessels and the seabed.

A waterproof video camera system was towed underwater to enable the habitat map for the development areas to be updated and to search for benthic introduced marine species. The updated habitat map will be used in the environmental impact assessment for the project.

The South West Development Commission is leading the environmental approvals process for the project on behalf of the TBW steering committee and arranged to have the NMSHS students assist with the survey.

SWDC assistant director infrastructure Ashley Clements said the students not only received information about introduced species but gained valuable insight and practical experience.

"This was a great opportunity for the students to have real-life experience working on a scientific investigation that has a purpose," he said.

"They can be proud to have played a role in a major project."

Other environmental studies being carried out include investigations into marine fauna, sediment quality, flushing and groundwater monitoring. Coastal process modelling for the new breakwater structures is also progressing well.

The environmental component of the Transforming Bunbury's Waterfront project has been funded through the Royalties for Regions program.

TBW aims to take underused areas along the city's waterfront and convert them into thriving, vibrant places that produce long-term community and economic benefits.

The first stage of the project involves the redevelopment of the Dolphin Discovery Centre, and revitalisation of the Koombana Bay foreshore. The second stage involves landscaping along Casuarina Drive, and upgrades to Jetty Road causeway.

The potential third stage would involve the construction of Casuarina and Koombana breakwaters, with the Koombana Bay breakwater expected to lead to private investment in the development of a multi-club facility. A marina and marine industry precinct to be located at Casuarina Boat Harbour is a major component of the third stage.

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