by Steve Lague

Boating and boating infrastructure has been identified as posing a “high risk” to the environment in a report prepared for the NSW Government.

In terms of statewide threats, boating in estuaries was ranked sixth out of 23 priority threats. It came in just behind climate change, ranked fifth, but ahead of sewage effluent and septic run-off, which was seventh, and foreshore development at ninth.

The draft of the Threat and Risk Assessment (TARA) Report for the NSW marine estate was released earlier this month.

Authority Chair Dr Wendy Craik said the draft report provided a summary of the findings of the first statewide evidence-based assessment of the threats to the social and economic benefits of the marine estate and the environmental assets that support them.

“The draft TARA report has been developed based on the best available scientific evidence and advice from experts, stakeholders and the community,” she said.

Its high ranking was based on:

  • Copper pollution – significantly elevated concentrations in organisms from areas with high concentrations of moored boats.
  • Physical disturbance, propeller/anchoring/mooring combined with low resilience of components of the habitat to these impacts (i.e. Posidonia seagrass population).
  • Sediment re-suspension – light limitation
  • Shading from boats and jetties
  • Bank erosion linked to wake boarding in upper estuary areas
  • Soft corals and sponges not mapped but thought to be highly susceptible
  • Vessel strike, disturbance from boats, feeding of seabirds.

Dr Craik said information had also been provided by the NSW community through a state-wide survey conducted in 2014.

The object of the survey was to help identify the social and economic benefits our estuaries and coastline provide, and the importance of the environmental assets that underpin them.

“These benefits include recreational pursuits such as swimming or surfing at the beach, boating, fishing, and commercial and tourism opportunities such as shipping, commercial and charter fishing, SCUBA diving and others,” she said.

“Community members and stakeholders now have an opportunity to provide feedback on the draft report, which highlights potential threats to these benefits and the marine estate’s environmental assets.”

Dr Craik said short videos and an interactive tool are being provided to facilitate community feedback and discussion by presenting the report results in a user-friendly way.

“We are committed to managing our marine estate for the benefit of the community, and this report and the process is designed to support and encourage participation,” she said.

The final report will inform the ongoing management of the NSW marine estate through the drafting of a new 10-year Marine Estate Management Strategy.

It will also be considered in the creation of new management plans, starting with the Solitary Islands and Batemans Marine Parks.

The draft TARA report includes revised findings for the Hawkesbury Shelf marine bioregion, now called the ‘Central Region’.

It also delivers on a key commitment of the NSW Government, to provide evidence-based management of the NSW marine estate, and is a requirement of the Marine Estate Management Act 2014.

The draft report, background reports and other supporting material are available here.

The public comment period closes on Friday, March 31, 2017.

Key marine estate stakeholders will be invited to participate in a series of workshops to be held along the coast in February and March.