8 March 2002

UQ Sport’s underwater club UniDive has taken the future of one of its favourite dive spots into its own hands with the securing of a $14,000 CoastCare grant to study the ecological health of Point Lookout, off North Stradbroke Island.

Project leaders Chris Roelfsema and Ben Longstaff from UQ say the popular location, used by hundreds of divers and fishers each year, was at risk of ecological deterioration without adequate maintenance programs.

“It was surprising to learn that there had been so little research done at and around these sites, given their popularity and ecological importance,” Mr Roelfsema said.

“Continued use and abuse puts immense pressure on the area’s ecological balance.

“If left unchecked, the damage could be irreversible.

“What the CoastCare grant has enabled us to do is to study the area very carefully so that we can then disseminate the results to the widest audience possible.”

Volunteers from Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, UQ’s Marine Botany group, and the UQ Centre for Marine Studies provide training.

The team has adapted the monitoring techniques of the international ReefCheck program to marry with North Stradbroke’s subtropical, rocky outcrop environment.

Mr Roelfsema said while it was still too early to report on collated data, there was clear evidence of ecological damage to the area.

“Overall, while it is still a very healthy environment, we’ve noticed anchor damage and a lot of submersed fishing lines,” he said.

Other threats included species reduction through unmonitored fishing and collecting, as well as sewage pollution.

The 12-month project will culminate in a comprehensive report, community pamphlet and community video, after which the UniDive team is hopeful of securing a second grant for ongoing work in the area.

“Ideally, it will be important to make comparisons between annual periods and seasons, so we hope to apply for another grant next year.”

The UniDive CoastCare team will be conducting their fifth study weekend at Point Lookout on Saturday and Sunday, 16 and 17 March 2002.

For further information, contact Chris Roelfsema (telephone 07 3365 2529, mobile 0419 677 328) or visit the website: http://clubs.uqsport.uq.edu.au/unidive/