10 June 1999

UQ research guides Noosa dredging decisions

University of Queensland research will help the Noosa Council decide whether to proceed with further dredging from the mouth of the estuary as part of their ongoing replenishment program.

For the past year, the Council has funded Zoology and Entomology Department honours student Andrew Pryor and PhD student Samantha Miller to investigate the effects of dredging on important fish habitats in the area.

The $65,000 project, supervised by Department senior lecturer Greg Skilleter, examined fauna before and after a brief dredging program conducted between June and September 1998 to establish the effects of the activity.

The program involved removing sand from the mouth of the Noosa River to build up the Noosa Spit.

"University scientists in collaboration with staff from the Department of Primary Industries and the Department of Environment and Heritage advised Council whether they could dredge and the likely impacts on the environment," Dr Skilleter said.

"Mr Pryor's work examined the impact of dredging on animals such as small worms and crabs which live in the estuarine sand. He found the community had changed in terms of species dominance since the dredging.

"Ms Miller's work found colonisation of the new sand areas on the Spit by worms, clams and juvenile fish had taken place very quickly although further investigations are needed to determine whether this will results in a positive outcome for fisheries in the area."

The Council was waiting on the researchers' next report as to whether dredging had impacted on protected fish habitats on the northern side of the Noosa River to determine whether it would continue the activity, this time to rebuild damaged Noosa beaches, Dr Skilleter said.

"The funding of these research projects by local government is unprecedented. Normally decisions about dredging are driven by engineers not scientists. Noosa Council should be congratulated on their pro-active approach to environmental issues such as this," he said.

For more information, contact Dr Greg Skilleter (telephone 07 3365 4819).