A scientific study of marine grass meadows around the southern coast of Australia has ramifications for commercial fisheries including the rock lobster industry. A group of four marine scientists based in Western Australia were in Tasmania’s north east recently as part of the study which stretches from Shark Bay in Western Australia to north of Sydney.

Gina Scott - Bridport Beach, North East of Tasmania

Bridport: north east Tasmania (photo by Dan Fellow)

Tasmanian Marine Grass Study

by Tony Scott

Dr Liz Sinclair said the three-year research project is about halfway complete. “We are collecting specimens from as many of the seagrass meadows we have mapped as we can manage to look at the genetic diversity within and among different meadows. The grasses normally grow in water depths from zero at low tide to 15 or 16 metres, so much of our collecting can be done without even needing a boat,” she said.

Dr Renae Hovey said the meadows were well known as important refuges for many different fish species particularly juveniles. “The grasses are the place where juvenile crayfish first live when they drop out of the water column. So the health of the meadows is important, and most of what we’ve seen along the Bass Strait coast are quite good with nice long stems, but sometimes if there are high nutrient levels the grass can be attacked by other parasitic plants.”

She said both commercial and recreational fishers had an interest in maintaining healthy marine grass meadows around the coast.

Tony Scott is the co-owner of Platypus Park Country Retreat in Bridport Tasmania. He also writes newspaper articles like this one for the North-Eastern Advertiser.

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