Seagrass making a comeback

When you think of seagrass, it probably doesn’t conjure up the same tropical images as if you thought of coral reefs.

It doesn’t have an award winning Pixar movie associated with it or a world famous fish, and sure, it is probably a little less eye catching than the rainbow coloured reefs. But don’t be fooled by its appearance.

Seagrass beds are one of the most important marine environments on earth. They are home to juvenile fish and crustaceans that form the basis of commercial and recreational fisheries. They provide food for dugongs, listed globally as vulnerable to extinction, as well as the vulnerable green turtle.

But according to a scientific study, 58 percent of world’s seagrass meadows are currently declining. There are many factors that contribute to the decline of seagrass, including sediment runoff and algal blooms, but perhaps less known is the damage from block and chain moorings.

Block and tackle moorings rip out seagrass as the chain drags on the sea floor, creating ‘crop circles’ in a classic halo shape.

Each boat can scour out on average 1400m2 of seagrass, leaving a desert like area void of marine life.

Each boat can scour out on average 1400m2 of seagrass, leaving a desert like area void of marine life.

Photo by Healthy Waterways.

Photo by Healthy Waterways.

For the first time in Australia, new environmentally friendly designed boat moorings are being offered on a large scale to boaties in Moreton Bay, where up to 15% of the seagrass beds are scoured out by boat moorings.

By using these new designs, an area of approximately 12 football fields of seagrass will begin to recover, although the cumulative benefit to surrounding seagrass beds is expected to be much higher.

Within a year, over 100 boaties will have these new moorings installed, free of charge, through a grants program.

At just over $3,000 a pop, these new boat moorings remain very cost competitive, with many more installations expected to take place over the next five years.

The inventor himself: Des Maslen, inventor of the Seagrass Friendly Mooring.

The inventor himself: Des Maslen, inventor of the Seagrass Friendly Mooring.

SEQ Catchments Community Partnership Manager for the Redlands, Bay & Islands, Joel Bolzenius, said that working with the local boating community through this voluntary program is an important step forward in seagrass recovery.

“Using this design, seagrass starts to recover relatively quickly in about a year, as do all the critters that rely on it to survive.”

‘‘These moorings also have a longer service life and good security that matches or exceeds traditional moorings,” Joel said.

Coordinated by SEQ Catchments and funded through the Australian Government’s Caring for Our Country initiative, as well as Queensland Government, OceanWatch Australia and WetlandCare Australia.

Listen online to a seagrass feature on the triplej hack program –

http://mpegmedia.abc.net.au/triplej/hack/daily/hack_thu_2013_2_14.mp3.