The 2016 – 2017 progress report into estuarine habitat resilience has again shown the commitment of SURG and community members in identifying fish species in our estuaries, the health of our estuaries and seagrass habitats, hazards to our estuaries such as discarded fish traps and garbage and remediation and community education strategies.
Discarded fish traps
Thirty discarded fish traps were found in Coffs and Boambee Creeks. GPS marks were recorded and given to NSW Fisheries who removed these traps.
Strandline clean-up events were conducted in three Coffs Coast creeks and an Australia Day clean-up along Coffs Creek. During the Clean-Up Australia event 32 SURG and community members removed approximately 500 kg of litter along 400m of the Coffs Creek strandline. Extrapolating this data to the area for Coffs Creek east of the Pacific Highway, it is estimated that 15 tonnes of litter accumulates along the Coffs Creek strandline every year.
Underwater video surveys of estuaries
Five days of video surveys resulted in 58 baited underwater videos of fish species that utilise specific estuarine habitats. The accompanying seagrass searches identified sites inhabited by pipefish and flute nose pipefish.
Side scan sonar
Three field trips were conducted at Corindi River, Coffs Creek and Boambee Creek where SURG members used the side scan sonar to identify key fish habitats and found 15 discarded traps. A dead green turtle was found in a trap at Corindi River, and two estuary cods were observed in two traps found in Coffs Creek.
During four field trips to each of the monitored estuaries, seagrass meadows have been GPS referenced and uploaded onto mapping software to assess changes in seagrass cover over time. Initial comparisons show that there has been a general decline and thinning of seagrass meadows in all the estuaries.
Baited remote underwater training was conducted at the National Marine Science Centre where 16 SURG members were instructed in assessing fish diversity and abundance from video footage.
Remediation sites identified
Two locations have been selected as remediation sites; one along Corindi River and one near a popular fishing platform on Boambee Creek. Both sites have significant erosion issues. SURG is working with Coffs Council, who will provide seedlings to stablise the river bank and the North Coast Holiday Parks at Red Rock, Landcare and Sawtell Fishing club to develop a remediation strategy that will endeavour to remove threats of erosion at these sites.
SURG members and a graphic designer are currently preparing interpretive signs which will be placed along the four estuaries monitored by SURG.