Independent Scientific Audit of
Marine Parks in NSW
PO Box H292, Australia Square NSW 1215
9–10.10am, Tuesday 29 November 2011
Port Stephens-Great Lakes Marine Park Office
12B Teramby Road
Nelson Bay NSW
Assoc Prof Bob Beeton, Chair
Prof Colin Buxton
Mr Greg Cutbush
Prof Peter Fairweather
Assoc Prof Emma Johnston
Ms Petrina Alcock, Secretariat Manager
Dr Fiona Powell, Secretariat
Dr Bob Creese, Research Leader, Aquatic Ecosystems, Department of Primary Industries
Dr Tim Glasby, Senior Research Scientist,Aquatic Ecosystems, Department of Primary Industries
Dr Melinda Coleman, Research Scientist, Batemans Marine Park
Dr Roberta Ryan
The views expressed at all workshops are those of the individual participants. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the NSW Government, the views of all the workshop participants or the views of the Audit Panel.
The Chair welcomed attendees, provided a background to the Audit and explained Audit procedures.
Participants discussed invasive species in the NSW marine environment. It was suggested hundreds of invasive species may be present but there is no evidence that they are having widespread detrimental effects on marine biodiversity. The main invasive species currently being researched are the European Green Crab (Carcinus maenas) and the Caulerpa seaweed (Caulerpa taxifolia).
It was suggested the European Green Crab has been established in NSW for some time. International studies were discussed that show the European Green Crab can affect biodiversity when first introduced to a system but that the threat diminishes over time.
Participants indicated that most Catchment Management Authorities (CMAs) do not have programs for marine pests. However, The Southern Rivers CMA does, and has co-funded survey work and local control activities for the European Green Crab, the Pacific Oyster (Crassostrea gigas) and the European Fanworm (Sabella spallanzanii).
It was suggested Caulerpa opportunistically establishes in disturbed seagrass habitat but that native seagrasses and Calulerpa appear to co-exist. Ecological impacts from Caulerpa may be restricted to infauna including clams, which appear to die off in areas dominated by Caulerpa, and changes to sediment chemistry, suggesting it may be a possible threat to soft sediment biodiversity in general.
Participants discussed how Caulerpa is classified as emerging, meaning its extent is not measured or mapped, rather the places where it is detected are recorded. All estuaries where is it likely to occur have been surveyed, though not necessarily every year, and some southern estuaries where it is highly unlikely to survive have not been surveyed.
Participants suggested it was difficult to rank threats to NSW marine biodiversity. There is some evidence for impacts from fishing but only very localised evidence for impacts of invasive species on marine biodiversity, though this may be confounded by not surveying at the right time.
Participants referred to Audit document 115 Backgrounder on Marine Biosecurity, as outlining departmental knowledge on invasive species and disease.
It was suggested it is important to maintain populations of natural predators to keep established and future marine pests in check.
It was suggested the resources put into monitoring invasive species are not vast. There are annual surveys for Caulerpa and the European Green Crab. Surveillance occurs under the Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting (MER) program, which provides for serendipitous recording of newly established species, targeted surveillance of emerging pests (including Caulerpa) and management of widespread invasive species. It was suggested the current level of targeted surveillance is sufficient for monitoring the known marine invasive species in NSW.
It was suggested MER invasive species monitoring focuses on estuaries because these areas are at greatest risk.
Participants indicated MER monitoring occurs annually, which then feeds into the MER program’s 3-year reporting cycle, with data being presented as part of the State of the Catchments reports.
It was suggested the MER program also reports on invasive species as the Department of Primary Industries become aware of them. First indications of new invasive species very much rely on information from outside the department. For instance, the Australian Navy first reported the presence of a suspicious sea squirt in Twofold Bay to the Department.
Participants explained the Office of Environment and Heritage had co-ordinated State of the Catchment reports but the next iteration will be led by the Natural Resources Commission. Indicators are currently being reviewed by most will remain the same.
Participants discussed an invasive species risk assessment undertaken for major Sydney ports (Sydney Harbour, Botany Bay and Port Hacking) funded by the Sydney Catchment Management Authority. Funding to extend this approach to other major NSW ports, some of which are in Marine Parks (eg Coffs Harbour and Jervis Bay), had been sought on several occasions but had not been granted.
It was suggested invasive species management should begin with risk assessment followed by the design of a monitoring program.
Participants discussed the farming of the Pacific Oyster in NSW. The species is introduced and is listed as noxious under the Fisheries Management Act, largely because it is considered a pest on some oyster farms that grow only Sydney Rock Oysters. It was put to the Panel that there is no evidence that Pacific oysters have had a significant negative impact on native oysters or other marine biodiversity.
Participants discussed the origins of vessels entering NSW waters. It was suggested that most vessels entering Sydney are from Asia and so marine pests here have different vectors compared to overseas locations reported in the literature such as Brazil and Europe.
It was suggested the main preventative measure employed to mitigate the risk of invasive species is education. Ships are also prohibited from releasing ballast water in marine parks. In marine parks the legislation allows for removal of heavily fouled vessels. An example of a boat from Victoria being removed from Sydney Harbour and cleaned by the Department of Primary Industries was discussed. The Marine Parks Authority once liaised with a cruise ship company to minimize any effects from a visiting ship on Bateman's Marine Park.
Participants discussed the Marine Parks Authority giving local councils permission to open Intermittently Closing and Opening Lakes and Lagoons (ICOLLs). It was suggested that the question of whether this facilitates the spread of marine pests is still being investigated.
It was suggested sanctuary zones mitigate more threats than just fishing. For instance, sanctuary zones are often placed adjacent to National Parks to minimize effects of land-based activities on the sanctuary area.
It was suggested that marine parks contribute to the management of marine invasives as there is an expectation that sanctuary zones will be more natural and that more natural processes confer resilience. It was further suggested however that it is difficult to test for increased resilience.
It was suggested building resilience is also the primary way to begin to address a whole suite of stressors, including threats such as climate change which are difficult to manage.
The difference between resistance – the ability to resist invasion, and resilience – the ability to recover from invasion, was discussed.
Participants suggested sanctuary zones are not so much for restoration of marine biodiversity as for preventing impacts on biodiversity.
It was suggested a priority for managing invasive species was the identification of highest risk vectors and species.
It was suggested marine invasive species may also originate from household aquariums, as was likely the case for Caulerpa, and that monitoring of aquarium stores may be important for the identification of potential pests.
Participants suggested there is little knowledge on the movements of marine organisms; funding is being sought to study dispersal of marine organisms with the East Australian Current.
Participants discussed the human resources currently employed on invasive species.
Participants explained the Department of Primary Industries is guided by a national trigger list of potential pest species whereby the Department responds when a trigger species is detected. It was suggested attempts are being made to establish which species on the trigger list pose the greatest risk to the marine environment of NSW.
Participants discussed the significant funding for terrestrial pest species management and the relatively scant funding for marine pest species management. It was suggested this disparity may reflect the economic value of agriculture versus fisheries, and that it highlights the lack of proper ecosystem services valuation.
Participants were concerned zoning for Batemans Marine Park had not accounted for pest species.
Participants discussed the value of local expert knowledge in monitoring invasive species. It was suggested the reliability of volunteers varies but some volunteers, including those assisting with the Reef Life Surveys, are highly trained. It was also suggested that having any persons (skilled or unskilled) monitoring for invasive species was better than having nobody undertaking this work.
Participants discussed whether some species should be removed from the national trigger list of potential pest species whilst others should be added.
Participants suggested there are new approaches, including genetic techniques, for managing invasive species.
The Chair closed the workshop at 10.10am.
Supplementary workshop material participants offered to provide:
Information on new approaches to managing invasive species.