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State of the Marine Environment Report for Australia: State and Territory Issues - Technical Annex 3

Edited by Leon P. Zann and David Sutton
Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Townsville Queensland
Department of the Environment, Sport and Territories, Canberra (1996)
ISBN 0 642 23012 9


Issues in the Queensland Marine Environment

Diane Tarte, Meredith Hall, Karen Stocks
Australian Littoral Society
Moorooka Qld

Introduction

The issues discussed here have been identified through consultation with a variety of people, government agencies and a limited review of the literature. A questionnaire was distributed to 35 government officers, private sector representatives, consultants and community groups seeking their opinions and sources of further information. A summary of the responses to the questionnaire has been forwarded to the SOMER secretariat.

In overviewing the state of the Queensland marine environment, the focus has been primarily on the impacts of land-based activities. There is little documentation of specific subtidal marine areas having been degraded through human activities, although substantial areas of intertidal and near-coastal habitat have been modified for a variety of human uses including urbanisation, agriculture, and industrial port and boating facilities.

The issues discussed are primarily in the context of existing usage patterns and future trends. Elsewhere within the SOMER Report, overview chapters have been prepared describing the specific impacts of present usages of the marine environment. Locations mentioned in the text are shown in Figure 1.

Major issues affecting the Queensland marine environment

Catchment and population issues

Any discussion of present day land uses and population demographics refers to the changes to the land and seascape, occurring over the last two hundred years. For Queensland, the pattern of European settlement is similar to elsewhere within Australia, with most major population and industrial centres located along the coast and substantial areas of the coastal catchments dedicated to agriculture activities.

Of the 32 catchment areas identified by the Queensland Department of Primary Industries, 25 are `coastal', with the catchments discharging into Queensland coastal waters.

The following is a discussion of the existing patterns and future trends in land use in the coastal catchment areas. This level of detail is included to allow the reader to appreciate the substantial impact that catchment land use and water extraction practices have on the quality of the receiving coastal waters.

Catchment land uses and river impoundments

Table 1 lists the coastal catchment areas and the major river systems in each catchment. Since the 1940s a number of these river systems have been impounded to supply water for agriculture or potable water for urban populations; the rivers with large dams are noted in Table 1. Additionally, weirs or barrages have been built on a number of coastal rivers to reduce the upstream extent of tidal influence and so allow greater access to fresh water in the lower reaches.

The ecological roles of rivers in terms of fresh water flow rates, nutrient cycles and life histories of aquatic species has received scant attention in the placement and management of water storages. Debate about the need to include an `environmental allocation' when determining water release rates from dams has occurred only in recent years. While some impoundments contain fish ladders, the overall impact of these barriers on the migration of fish and other aquatic species for breeding purposes has not been documented.

Statistics for each catchment area are reproduced in Table 2. Grazing is the major land use, ranging from 96% of the catchment for the Western Gulf to 8% for the Mulgrave-Russell Rivers, and averaging 57% overall. Cropping is a major land use in only a few coastal catchments, in particular the Johnstone and Mulgrave-Russell Rivers; on average only 6% of most catchments is allocated to cropping. These figures are particularly relevant in relation to the export of sediment and nutrients (see Figures 2 & 3).

Figure 1: State map showing locations mentioned in the text, including major coastal centres, trading ports and rivers

Queensland Coastline

Table 1: Major coastal catchment areas in Queensland, including major rivers

Region and Catchment Area Catchment Area Number River Basins Included 1 Major Rivers in each Catchment
Carpentaria
   
West Cape York 1 920-927 Jardine, Ducie, Wenlock, Embley, Watson, Archer, Holroyd, Colman
Mitchell 2 919 Mitchell, Palmer, Hodgkinson, Walsh
Eastern Gulf 3 916-918 Staaten, Gilbert*, Norman
Flinders 4 915 Flinders, Cloncurry*
Western Gulf 5 910-914 Leichhardt*, Nicholson, Settlement Ck, Gregory
Southern Coastal
   
Gold Coast 13 144-146 Tweed, Logan*, Albert, Coomera, Nerang*
Brisbane 14 143 Brisbane*, Bremer*, Stanley*, Lockyer Ck*
Sunshine Coast 15 139-142 Pine*, Maroochy*, Noosa, Mooloolah*
Mary 16 138 Mary*
Burnett-Kolan 17 135-137 Burrum*, Burnett*, Kolan*
Curtis Coast 18 131-134 Baffle Ck, Boyne*, Calliope
Central Coastal
   
Fitzroy 19 130 Dawson*, Fitzroy, Isaaca, Mackenzie*, Nogoa*, Comet
Shoalwater Bay-Sarina 20 126-129 Plan Ck, Styx, Shoalwater Ck, Water Park Ck
Pioneer-O'Connell 21 124-125 O'Connell, Pioneer*
Proserpine 22 122 Proserpine
Don 23 121 Don
Burdekin-Haughton 24 119-120 Burdekin*, Haughton, Suttor, Belyando
Ross-Black 25 117-118 Ross*, Black
Northern Coastal
   
Herbert 26 116 Herbert
Tully-Murray 27 113-115 Tully*, Murray
Johnstone 28 112 Johnstone
Mulgrave-Russell 29 111 Mulgrave, Russell
Barron 30 110 Barron*
Mossman-Daintree 31 108-109 Mossman, Daintree
North-East Cape York 32 101-107 Jacky Jacky Ck, Olive, Pascoe, Lockhardt, Stewart, Normanby, Jeannie, Endeavour

Key:

1 = River Basin Index as defined by the Australian Water Resources Council

* = Rivers with large dams

Sources:

QDPI (1993), Appendices 1 and 2

Water Resources Commission (1989), Appendix: Selected Large Dams

Table 3, (from QDPI 1993), shows the perceived level of concern rating for 11 key issues considered to be important to the condition of the natural resources in each of the catchment areas, plus the recreational and commercial fishing values for each catchment area. These land management issues will affect the quality of catchment discharges into coastal waters. This assessment is not based on specific research or survey data, but represents the considered opinion of State departmental officers. As such, it provides an indication of the likely physical and ecological condition of each catchment area.

An analysis of Table 3 shows that the issues of most concern are barriers to fish migration, erosion from cropping land, stream channel instability, urban expansion, and in-stream and off-stream water use conflict. Catchment areas in the Southern Coastal region rate the highest levels of concern, with some catchments in the Central Coastal and Northern Coastal regions also showing problems. QDPI (1993) notes that, `These concerns are generally associated with catchment areas with high and growing populations, and with more intensive land use and high economic productivity.' It is noteworthy that the majority of catchment areas rate highly for recreational and commercial fishing value.

Catchment Discharges

For the marine environment the major impacts of catchment uses are reflected in the changed water quality of rivers discharging into coastal waters. Moss et al. (1992b) have assessed the sediment and nutrient exports of the 20 catchment areas discharging into the northern and eastern coastal waters of Queensland. Their analysis is based on limited existing data and `best estimates' by the study team, and it utilised an established process modelling approach.

Figures 2 documents the export of sediment from the coastal catchments and indicates contributions from the major land uses of urbanisation, cropping and grazing as well as a comparison between current conditions and the `pristine' situation prior to European settlement. Figure 3 is a comparison of the magnitude of point and diffuse sources for both nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) from each catchment area.

Table 2: Various catchment characteristics and land uses influencing the quality of discharges from 'coastal' catchments (QDPI (1993), Appendix 3)

Region, Catchment

Area and Number

Catchment Area (km2)1

Area Grazing Land (km2)/ % Grazed2

Area Cropping Land (km2)/ % Cropped2

Area Irrigated (km2)2

Area of National Parks/ State Forest - Native/ State Forest - Plantation/ Timber Reserves (km2)3,4 Population/ Projected Pop. in 2001

(x 1000)5

Av. Ann. Rainfall (mm)1,A Av. Ann. Run-off (ML x 1000)1 Volume Major Storages >2500 ML (ML x 1000)1,B
Carpentaria
West Cape York (1) 64 025 26 770(42)

6631/ -/ -/ 195.0 6/ 6 800/2 000 28 750
Mitchell (2) 71 795 67 460 (94) 45 (<0.1) 30.7 494/ 745.6/ -/ 30.1 5/ 6 800/2 000 12 000
Eastern Gulf (3) 121 290 109 220 (90)

4896/ -/ -/ - 3/ 4 1 000/1 200 12 100 41
Flinders (4) 108 780 103 770 (95) 3 (<0. 1) 1.0 235/ -/ -/ - 8/ 9 400/1 200 3 050 16
Western Gulf (5) 85 960 82 760 (96)

129/ -/ -/ 90.5 26/ 27 400/1 200 9 100 301
Southern Coastal
Gold Coast (13) 5 995 2 020 (34) 159 (2.7) 69.9 358/ 127.2/ 4.8/ 6.6 381/ 717 1 000/2 000 1 700 235
Brisbane (14) 13 560 6 290 (46) 474 (3.5) 249.8 174/ 1468.6/ 222.6/ 34.6 1104/ 1280 800/1 200 1 350 1 846
Sunshine Coast (15) 6 565 580 (9) 164 (2.5) 44.0 511/ 1793.2/ 414.8/ - 125/ 226 1 200/2 000 2 300 252
Mary (16) 9 595 5 830 (61) 513 (5.4) 251.7 21/ 2669.3/ 669.8/ 43.6 58/ 73 400/1 200 2 300 133
Burnett-Kolan (17) 39 470 26 520 (67) 1 352 (3.4) 348.5 184/ 6178.7/ 211.4/ 123.3 100/ 118 400/1 200 2 900 1 327
Curtis Coast (18) 9 225 6 360 (69) 44 (0.5) 8.6 243/ 708.2/ 5.8/ 251.7 40/ 49 800/1 200 1 500 315
Central Coastal
Fitzroy (19) 142 645 119 320 (84) 7 065 (5.0) 236.4 3228/ 8472.5/ 14.4/ 1067.1 147/ 187 500/1 800 7 100 1 752
Shoalwater Bay-Sarina (20) 11 270 4 970 (44) 464 (4.1) 140.4 80/ 2233.9/ 48.8/ 96.1 55/ 72 800/2 000 3 700 63
Pioneer-O'Connell (21) 3 925 1 940 (49) 509 (13.0) 136.1 230/ 431.7/ 5.3/ 73.4 19/ 26 1 000/2 000 2 650 10
Proserpine (22) 2 485 1 670 (67) 159 (6.4) 59.0 297/ 252.4/ -/ - 10/ 21 800/2 000 1 400 500
Don (23) 3 985 3 850 (97) 41 (1.0) 33.0 83/ -/ -/ - 10/ 11 400/1 200 700
Burdekin-Haughton (24) 133 510 118 060 (88) 1 384 (1.0) 401.5 1073/ 1140.6/ 2.5/ 127.9 39/ 41 400/1 200 10 850 2 040
Ross-Black (25) 2 890 850 (29) 10 (0.4) 3.0 307/ 222.1/ 0.4/ - 112/ 159 800/1 200 1 100 420
Northern Coastal
Herbert (26) 12 130 7 970 (66) 447 (3.7) 19.0 382/ 1094.3/ 34.1/ 73.9 18/ 19 800/2 000 5 000
Tully-Murray (27) 2 825 530 (19) 151 (5.4) 18.1 166/ 1638.8/ 51.1/ 5.4 22/ 27 800/>2 000 5 300 212
Johnstone (28) 2 330 570 (24) 359 (15.4) 23.0 146/ 765.5/ -/ 4.3 8/ 9 1 200/>2 000 4 700
Mulgrave-Russell (29) 2 020 160 (8) 313 (15.5) 16.2 420/ 524.4/ 3.5/ 33.6 73/ 115 1 200/>2 000 4 200 45
Barron (30) 2 175 1 200 (55) 116 (5.3) 39.7 50/ 765.3/ 30.0/ 23.5 27/ 37 1 000/>2 000 1 150 407
Mossman-Daintree (31) 2 615 930 (36) 98 (3.8) 1.6 773/ 447.2/ -/ 756.8 7/ 14 1 000/>2 000 4 250 95
North-East Cape York (32) 43 300 26 720 (62) 22 (<0.1) 0.4 7173/ 8.1/ -/ 1861.9 3/ 3 400/2 000 19 100

(1) Source: Water Resources Commission officers. Several major land uses are shown on the table. Urban land, vacant crown land, aboriginal land, etc are not stated, hence the sum of the land uses shown does not equal the total catchment area

(2) Source: Agricultural Business Units (DPI) officers, current as at June 1991. 'Grazing Land includes some areas in state forests and timber reserves; 'Cropping Land' includes area under irrigation

(3) Source: National Parks data provided by the Dept. of Environment and Heritage, correct to 1992

(4) Source: Queensland Forest Service

(5) Source: Population Projections for the Local Government Areas of Queensland 1986-2001 (James Skinner, Martin Bell, and M. Elizabeth Gilliam), Applied Populations Research Unit, University of Queensland

(A) Range of average rainfall (mm) for the drier sections and the wetter sections of the catchment area

(B) The total storage capacity in the catchment area of artificial storages in excess of 2500 ML

 

Table 3: Perceived level of concern* of issues plus fisheries values for each 'coastal' catchment (QDPI (1993), Table 1 and Appendix 3)

Region, Catchment Area and Number Agricultural Land Uses

Water Quality Issues

  Water Quantity Natural Habitat Issues Fisheries Value 1
  Cropping Land Grazing Land Urban Expansion

Surface Water Quality

Ground Water Quality Instream and Offstream Water Use Conflict Stream Channel Instability Loss of Coastal Wetlands Barriers to Fish Migration Recreat-ional Comm-ercial
  Erosion Erosion  

Nutrient Enrichment

Pesticides

Impact on Biota

             
Carpentaria
West Cape York (1) VL L VL

VL

L

L

L L VL L VL H H
Mitchell (2) L M VL

VL

VL

L

M L L VL L H VH
Eastern Gulf (3) VL H VL

VL

VL

VL

L L L L L H VH
Flinders (4) VL M VL

VL

VL

VL

L L L VL L H VH
Western Gulf (5) VL M VL

VL

VL

L

VL L L VL L H VH
Southern Coastal
Gold Coast (13) M L VH

M

L

M

L VH M H H M M
Brisbane (14) H M H

H

M

M

M M M M VH M VH
Sunshine Coast (15) VH L VH

M

L

M

M M M M VH VH M
Mary (16) H M H

M

M

M

H M H L H VH H
Burnett-Kolan (17) H M H

M

L

M

VH M VL L VH VH VH
Curtis Coast (18) H M L

L

VL

M

L M L L M VH VH
Central Coastal
Fitzroy (19) M M L

M

M

M

M L L M VH VH VH
Shoalwater Bay-Sarina (20) M M L

L

L

L

L

L

VL

L

L

H

VH

Pioneer-O'Connell (21)

H

M

M

L

L L M M H L H H H
Proserpine (22) M M L

L

L

L

M H L L L H M
Don (23) M M L

VL

VL

L

H VL VH M L L L
Burdekin-Haughton (24) M H L

M

L

M

H H H L VH VH VH
Ross-Black (25) VL L M

M

L

M

M M M M L VH L
Northern Coastal
Herbert (26) L L VL

L

L

M

L L H L H VH M
Tully-Murray (27) L L L

L

M

M

VL H H L H VH H
Johnstone (28) H L M

L

L

M

VL H M L VL VH H
Mulgrave-Russell (29) M L M

L

L

H

VL L M H VL VH M
Barron (30) M L M

M

L

M

VL L L M L H H
Mossman-Daintree (31) L L VL

L

L

L

VL L L L VL VH H
North-East Cape York (32) L L VL

VL

VL

VL

VL L VL VL VL H H

1 Information supplied by the Fisheries Division, Qld D.P.I. Key: VL = Very Low; L = Low; M = Medium; H = High; VH = Very High

* Definition of Issues

Agricultural Land: Erosion of cropping land - soil loss from cropping land; Erosion of grazing land - soil loss from grazing land; Urban expansion - urban expansion into suitable agricultural land

Water Quality: Surface water nutrient enrichment - increase loading of nitrogen and phosphorous from rural, industrial and urban sources; Pesticides - contamination of water by pesticides from rural, industrial and urban areas; Impact on surface water biota - change in natural water quality sufficient to adversely affect aquatic flora and fauna; Groundwater quality - overall salinity, nutrient enrichment and pesticide levels in groundwater

Water Quantity: Instream and offstream water use conflicts - competing demands between offstream water use (urban, rural, industrial) and instream water use (environmental, recreational)

Natural Habitat: Stream bed and bank instability - changes to the bed and banks of streams that affect existing property, infrastructure and habitat; Coastal wetland habitat loss - loss of natural flora and fauna habitat in estuarine and tidal wetlands; Barriers to fish migration - impact on the up or down stream migration of fish resulting from artificial barriers on watercourses

Figure 2

Figure 2

Tables 2 and 3, and Figures 2 and 3, show that substantial change to Queensland's coastal catchments has occurred since European settlement, resulting in a three- to five-fold increase in sediments and nutrient levels discharged. The Burdekin-Haughton, north-east Cape York and Fitzroy catchment areas contribute most catchment discharges of sediment and nutrients to the marine environment in Queensland. Of the estimated 15 million tonnes of sediment discharged annually by Queensland east-coast catchments, these three areas contribute 6 785 000 tonnes, or 45% of the total; and of the 77 000 tonnes of N and 10 000 tonnes of P exported annually, the above three catchment areas make the highest contribution. The Burdekin-Haughton catchment alone contributes around 14 000 tonnes of N and 2000 tonnes of P annually (Moss et al. 1992b). As these discharge estimates are based on mean flow conditions for each catchment area, exports can be at least three times greater during years of major flooding. In their summary, Moss et al. (1992b) state:

`The dominant land use in all catchments is grazing so that the bulk of sediment and nutrient export are derived from grazing lands. However, exports from cropping lands become relatively more significant in the wet tropic catchments. Except in the heavily populated Gold Coast-Beaudesert and Brisbane catchments, point sources of N and P were found to make up only a minor proportion of total catchment exports.'

Figure 3

Figure 3

Population growth

Most of Queensland's population is located in coastal towns and cities. Table 4 lists the major centres of population, 1986 population statistics, and the projected populations in 2006 (Cooper & Skinner 1992). While Queensland's overall population is predicted to grow 1.7% annually till 2021, this growth is likely to be concentrated in the five coastal areas with marked population growth trends shown in Table 4, namely south-east Queensland and the coastal centres of Hervey Bay, Whitsundays, Townsville and the Cairns area. Parts of these areas are likely to experience a 28% to 272% increase in population by 2006.

This predicted increase in population has serious implications for management of impacts on the marine environment adjacent to these areas. Unless carefully planned and managed, effluent disposal, urbanisation and run-off resulting from servicing this expanding population, plus increased recreational pressures on coastal areas, will cause increased impacts. Additionally, there will be the impetus for substantially increased economic activity to meet the expected shortfall in employment opportunities for a fast growing population base. In south-east Queensland it is predicted that between 540 000 and 620 000 new jobs will be needed by 2011; however only 36% of these are likely to be generated by household expenditure from population growth (RPAG 1993).

Table 4: Projected population growth for Queensland's major coastal cities and towns, based on medium growth assumptions

Coastal Cities and Towns Local Government Areas   1986 Population Projected Population in 2006 % Change 1986-2006
Karumba * Carpentaria S.C.   3 170 3 317 5
Weipa * Cook S.C.   8 146 9 395 15
Thursday Island* Torres S.C.   6 952 8 254 19
Port Douglas Douglas S.C.   6 545 15 724 140
Cairns

Cairns C.C.
Mulgrave S.C.

Total 39 823
39 907
79 730
51 026
95 179
146 205
28
139
83
Townsville Townsville C.C.
Thuringowa S.C.
Total 82 223
30 544
112 767
91 019
79 104
170 123
11
159
51
Bowen * Bowen S.C.   13 967 14 077 1
Airlie Beach Whitsunday S.C.   9 870 23 564 139
Mackay Mackay C.C.   22 682 23 838 5
Rockhampton Rockhampton C.C.   57 384 69 514 21
Gladstone Gladstone C.C.   23 236 25 557 10
Bundaberg Bundaberg C.C.   32 368 36 096 12
Hervey Bay Hervey Bay T.C.   18 829 47 160 151
Maryborough Maryborough C.C.   22 763 25 816 13
Sunshine Coast Noosa S.C.
Maroochy S.C.
Caloundra C.C. Caboolture S.C. (part)
Total 18 770
61 047
35 937
18 760
134 514
45 178
126 524
94 001
41 824
307 527
141
107
162
123
129
Brisbane
(Statistical Division)
Brisbane C.C.
Albert S.C. (part)
Beaudesert S.C. (part) Caboolture S.C. (part)
Ipswich C.C.
Logan C.C.
Moreton S.C. (part)
Pine Rivers S.C. (part) Redcliffe C.C.
Redland S.C.
Total 736 656
21 399
4 319
29 839
74 636
121 337
27 013
74 199
46 127
60 521
1196 046
749 557
58 133
16 082
95 205
81 808
239 019
86 430
128 643
52 260
166 832
1 673 969
2
172
272
219
10
97
220
73
13
176
40
Gold Coast Albert S.C. (part)
Gold Coast C.C.
Total 63 976
120 300

184 276
189 227
161 200
350 427
196
34
90

* The population figures are for the entire Shire Council area. However, the towns/shires noted have a dispersed population with the listed town representing the major population centre in the shire

Key: C.C. = City Council; S.C. = Shire Council; T.C. = Town Council

Source: Cooper and Skinner (1992)

Water Quality

Most water quality monitoring has occurred in parts of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) Region. Some data are also available for Moreton Bay, but little work has been done in the northern waters of the GBR Region and the Gulf of Carpentaria. The Torres Strait Baseline Study, a special project managed by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), is specifically addressing heavy metal pollution to identify any major pollution problems resulting from extensive mining operations in the catchment of the Fly River in Papua New Guinea.

The GBRMPA has organised workshops since the mid 1980s addressing various aspects of water quality in the GBR (Baldwin 1988; Craik 1985; Dutton 1985). Additionally, monitoring and research programs addressing water quality effects, including the analysis of coral growth patterns, have been undertaken by various research organisations. While there is still debate as to the extent of the problem (see Search 22 (4) pp. 115-121), there is general agreement that the major water quality problems for the GBR derive from excessive sediment and nutrient discharges into the near shore waters. These discharges are raising the levels of nutrients, and hence phytoplankton growth in the inner and mid lagoon waters, particularly in specific coastal locations such as the Cairns and Whitsunday regions. Elevated nutrient levels are considered a major factor in a worldwide trend of a general decline in coral reefs (Dr J. Veron, quoted in The Weekend Australian, June 12-13, 1993).

There appears to be insufficient evidence to establish a direct causative link between land use patterns in the coastal catchments and the changed water quality conditions in parts of the GBR. However, studies such as Moss et al. (1992b) supply strong evidence for the need for improved land management practices. The January, 1992 massive mortality of seagrasses in Hervey Bay (almost 1000 km2 of seagrass meadow lost) has been linked to an extreme flooding event in two coastal rivers, the Mary and Burrum Rivers (Preen 1993), and provides further circumstantial evidence for water quality effects. Both rivers are impounded and their catchments are extensively used for agriculture.

Dutton (1985) notes that, `Measured levels of most contaminants [namely heavy metals, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and other organochlorines and hydrocarbons] within the reef waters proper are generally close to the lower limits of detection, although in some adjacent coastal waters (particularly harbours), concentrations indicative of low to moderate pollution levels equivalent to those found elsewhere in Australia and overseas, have been recorded.' The potential for acute pollution events caused through spills of hazardous chemicals from shipping accidents or onshore facilities cannot be ignored.

For areas outside of the Reef Region, reasonable water quality data is only available for Moreton Bay in south-east Queensland. Moss et al. (1992a) have provided an overview of existing data. Again, nutrient and sediment loadings are cited as the major cause for concern, while toxicants such as metals, pesticides, PCBs and petroleum are at relatively low levels, although the data for these toxicants was collected in the late 1970s.

Certain areas on the western side of Moreton Bay show signs of nutrient pollution, in particular elevated levels of P. These areas are generally associated with major sewage treatment plant discharges, in particular the mouth of the Brisbane River and Bramble Bay. This pattern is likely to occur in other coastal estuaries where there is a combination of sewage treatment plant discharges and periods of low flushing. Because sediments act as a P reservoir which can be utilised by algae over long periods, the control of P from diffuse and point sources is of particular concern.

Table 5 summarises the volume and level of treatment of 137 sewage treatment plants discharging into Queensland coastal waters. The areas where most treatment plants are located and which have the highest discharge volumes correlate with the major sources of point source discharges of P and N identified in Figure 3, namely the major coastal centres of south-east Queensland, Hervey Bay, Fiztroy River, Townsville and Cairns. Other areas could experience pollution events given a combination of plant overload or malfunction and low river flows or limited tidal flushing.

Table 5: Sewage discharges into Queensland rivers and coasts by catchment area

River Name Total No. of Plants Total Volume Discharged (m3/day) Level of treatment (volume discharged in m3/day)

Approximate Discharges onto Land % of total m3/day

SOUTHERN COAST
1. Gold Coast
Logan R. 4 52 490 3 Secondary (51 700) 1 Abattoir (790)

0
0

0
0
Albert R. 1 10 700 1 Secondary (10 700) <100* <10 700*
Nerang R. 1 19 500 1 Secondary (19 500) 0 0
Minor Rivers and Coastal Discharge 2 134 000 2 Secondary (134 000) <65* <84 000*
2. Brisbane area
Brisbane R. 20 374 245 1 Tertiary (800)17 Secondary (366 595)
2 Abattoirs (6 850)
0
0
0
0
0
0
Bremer R. 3 23 900 2 Secondary (21 800) 1 Abattoir (2 100) 0
0
0
0
Stanley R. 1 400 1 Tertiary (400) 0 0
Lockyer Ck. 3 2 487 3 Secondary (2 487) <25* <650*
Minor Rivers and Coastal Discharge 9 59 200 8 Secondary (57 000) 1 Waste Water (2 200) <30*
0
<16 100*
0
3. Sunshine Coast
Pine R. 3 37 390 1 Tertiary (8 500)
2 Secondary (28 890)
<100*
0
<8 500* 0
Maroochy R. 5 23 750 1 Tertiary (16 000)

4 Secondary (7 750)

<100*
0
<16 000*
0
Noosa R. 1 7 400 1 Tertiary (7 400) <100* <7 400*
Minor Rivers and Coastal Discharge 13 65 570 1 Tertiary (21 600)
11 Secondary (39 570) 1 Secondary into ground water (Bribie I.) (4 400)
<100* <20*
0
<21 600*
<7 070* 0
4. Mary R. area
Mary R. 4 17 950 3 Secondary (17 950) <30* <5 250*
Minor Rivers and Coastal Discharge 2 8 250 2 Secondary (8 250) <100* <8 250*
5. Burnett-Kolan area
Burrum R. 1 600 1 Secondary (600) 0 0
Burnett R. 11 25 274 11 Secondary (25 274) <10* <2 200*
Kolan R. 1 600 1 Secondary (600) 0 0
Minor Rivers and Coastal Discharge 1 1 800 1 Secondary (1 800) 0 0
6. Curtis Coast
Calliope R. 1 9 000 1 Secondary (9 000) 0 0
Minor Rivers and Coastal Discharge 2 3 000 2 Secondary (3 000) 0 0
CENTRAL COAST
1. Fitzroy
Fitzroy R. 6 37 340 4 Secondary (32 540) 2 Abattoirs (4 800) 0
<15*
0
<800*
Comet R. 1 200 1 Secondary (200) 0 0
Dawson R. 3 1 800 3 Secondary (1 800) <65* <1 200*
Nogoa R. 1 6 500 1 Secondary (6 500) <100* <6 500*
Minor Rivers and Coastal Discharge 2 820 2 Secondary (820) <40* <320*
2. Shoalwater Bay -Sarina
Plane Ck. 1 1 600 1 Secondary (1 600) 0 0
Minor Rivers and Coastal Discharge 1 1 350 1 Abattoir (1 350) 0 0
3. Pioneer O'Connell
Pioneer R. 1 19 000 1 Secondary (19 000) 0 0
Minor Rivers and Coastal Discharge 1 2 100 1 Secondary (2 100) <100* <2 100*
4. Proserpine
Proserpine R. 1 1 700 1 Secondary (1 700) 0 0
Minor Rivers and Coastal Discharge 6 4 510 5 Secondary (4 510) 30 1 462
5. Don
Minor Rivers and Coastal Discharge 1 1 800 1 Secondary (1 800) 20 360
6. Burdekin-Haughton
Burdekin R. 1 4 500 1 Secondary (4 500) 95 4 275
Minor Rivers and Coastal Discharge 1 2 900 1 Secondary (2 900) 0 0
7. Ross-Black
Black R. 1 345 1 Secondary (345) 100 345
Minor Rivers and Coastal Discharge 5 41 200 5 Secondary (41 200) 50 19 850
NORTHERN COAST
1. Herbert
Herbert R. 2 5 280 2 Secondary (5 280) <100* <5 280*
Minor Rivers and Coastal Discharge 1 250 1 Secondary (250) 100 250
2. Tully-Murray
Tully R. 1 1 600 1 Secondary (1 600) 0 0
3. Johnstone
Johnstone R. 1 6 600 1 Secondary (6 600) 0 0
4. Mulgrave-Russell
Mulgrave R. 1 1 430 1 Secondary (1 430) 0 0
Minor Rivers and Coastal Discharge 2 3 900 2 Secondary (3 900) 55 2 200
5. Barron
Barron R. 2 18 200 2 Secondary (18 200) 0 0
Minor Rivers and Coastal Discharge 2 19 150 2 Secondary (19 150) 0 0
6. Mossman-Daintree
Mossman R. 1 1 150 1 Secondary (1 150) 0 0
Minor Rivers and Coastal Discharge 2 13 000 2 Secondary (13 000) 100 12 870
7. North-East Cape York
Endeavour R. 1 400 1 Secondary (400) 0 0

* Treatment plants in these areas are known to dispose of some discharge onto land, but the amount is unknown

Source: Qld Dept. of Environment & Heritage sewage treatment plant licences, May 1993

Coastal Devlopment

The Moreton Bay area has lost up to a 20% of its mangrove forests since European settlement, and 10.5% of salt marshes between 1974 and 1987 (Hyland & Butler 1989). This pattern of land reclamation of these biologically important intertidal areas to support urban, industrial, tourism, airport and port expansion is reflected elsewhere along the Queensland coast, particularly in the high growth areas of the Gold and Sunshine Coasts, Hervey Bay, Gladstone, the Whitsundays, Townsville and Cairns. In central and northern Queensland the land is generally filled, while in southern Queensland canal estate housing developments have proved popular for coastal urban areas.

An associated problem of dredging for canals and marinas has been the exposure of acid sulphate soils. This problem has been identified only recently, although anecdotal evidence suggests that acid sulphate soil events have occurred in a number of sites in south-east Queensland following excavation for canals. The Tweed River estuarine system on the New South Wales - Queensland border provides probably the best documented case of the long-term impacts of this problem.

Intertidal lands have also been reclaimed for agricultural purposes such as grazing and sugar cane production. More recently large tracts in central Queensland have been utilised for ponded pastures. This practice involves building earth embankments to trap freshwater run-off and in some areas prevent tidal inundation. There are a number of major environmental problems associated with this practice. These include significant alterations to freshwater flows into tidal wetland areas, loss of tidal marsh habitat, and introduction of invasive exotic grasses and other weeds.

Ports

A substantial proportion of Queensland's economy is based on agricultural products and the mining of coal and mineral resources, much of which is exported. Table 6 contains details of Queensland's major ports, the number and maximum size of vessels visiting in 1991/92, and the total cargo handled as well as the major commodity. Queensland has six `trading' ports, namely Weipa, Cape Flattery, Mourilyan, Abbott Point and Hay Point/Dalrymple, which essentially deal in the export of primary products. The other major ports including Brisbane, Gladstone, Townsville and Cairns handle both imports and exports and service regional population centres. These latter ports generally have major industries sited within relatively close proximity; for example, Brisbane has oil refineries and a major fertiliser manufacturing plant, Gladstone an aluminium smelter, and Townsville the Yabulu nickel refinery.

The siting of new ports and the operation and future expansion of existing ports can directly affect the quality of coastal waters. Handling of hazardous cargoes and bunkering fuel are the main operational areas where pollution incidents can occur. Recently the Queensland Department of Transport released a draft Environment Policy for Queensland Ports (Qld Transport 1993) as a commitment to ensure responsible environmental management by port authorities. Implementation of this policy should assist in reducing the risk to the marine environment of port operations.

Maintenance of ports can require the regular dredging of shipping channels and swing basins. Table 7 summarises the amount of material dredged from Queensland ports in the past decade and either dumped offshore or pumped ashore. The dredge spoil can be used either for reclamation purposes onshore, or is dumped at specified offshore dumping sites. Either practice can cause acute environmental damage through site run-off and sediment plumes, if the sites are not carefully located and the operation well managed. Table 7 shows that several ports including Brisbane, Townsville, Cairns and Weipa require regular dredging operations. Qld Transport (1993, p.7) notes that, `most of the sediment so removed originates either directly or indirectly from the catchment. Good management principles by other authorities may minimise the process of erosion and silt transport during periods of run-off, controlling the introduction of sediments and contaminants into waterways.'

Table 6: Major trading ports in Queensland - 1991/92 cargo and shipping figures

Port

Total Cargo Handled
(tonnes x 1000)

Major Commodity Handled Total Number of Vessels Longest L.O.A. (m) Deepest Draft

(m)

Largest GWT/

Largest DWT

(x 1000t)

  Imports Exports Total




Karumba



21 59 4.10 0.7/0.8
Weipa1 73 8637 8710 Bauxite 295 255 12.67 178.8/76.3
Thursday Island 32 3 35
193 105 4.70 4.3/3
Cape Flattery1 - 1574 1574 Silica sand 40 226 13.56 36.6/69.6
Cairns * 717 510 1227 Petroleum products (45% of total) 463 262 9.64 48.6/45
Mourilyan1 - 344 344 Sugar 25 184 9.79 21.8/42
Lucinda1 - 351 351 Sugar 16 223 11.85 23.3/35.9
Townsville * 3091 1834 4925 Nickel ore
(47% of total)
376 262.08 12.49 51.2/69.1
Abbott Point1 (Bowen) - 5926 5926 Coal 81 304 17.37 83.7/161.8
Mackay * 460 906 1366 Sugar (41% of total) 121 196.45 10.90 26.2/43.7
Hay Point/Dalrymple Bay1 - 40513 40513 Coal 516 315 17.58 118.5/231.9
Rockhampton * (Port Alma) 103 163 266 Salt (52% of total) 68 182 10.49 26.2/36.7
Gladstone *
(Port Curtis)
8498 23276 31774 Coal (62% of total) 676 315 17.63 118.5/278.8
Bundaberg * 163 351 514 Sugar (68% of total) 38 189.9 9.62 26.2/42
Brisbane * 8023 8648 16671 Petroleum products (44% of total) 1580 276 13.24 68.8/127.8

Key: * Ports administered by specific Port Authorities; all other ports are administered by the Harbours Corporation.

1 Trading ports; essentially only handling exports.

L.O.A. - Length Overall; G.R.T. - Gross Registered Tonnage; D.W.T - Dead Weight Tonnage

Source: Various Port Authorities' 1991/92 Annual Reports plus Qld. Dept. of Transport 1991/92 Annual Report.

 

Table 7: Summary of dredged material placement in Queensland ports 1981 to 1993+

Placement Site 81/82 82/83 83/84 84/85 85/86 86/87 87/88 88/89 89/90 90/91 91/92 92/93
Weipa:
- Hay Point
- Jackson Channel - Albatross Bay
982 108 - 1142 - 924 19 562 25
20
-
74
324
99
179
590
33
80
394
Weipa Total 982 108 - 1142 - 924 19 562 45 398 868 507
Thursday Island (dumped at Weipa) - - - - - 3 - - - - - -
Cairns:
- Inner dump (1)
- Outer dump
- 296 208 545 - 427 194 392 * 321 * 923 687 197
Townsville:
- Dumped (2)
- Pumped
-

-

-

-

109

-

346

-

-

-

282

-

355

-

262

-

-

-

232

430

184

112

176

-

Townsville Total - - 109 346 - 282 355 262 - 662 296 176
Abbot Pt. dump * 851



4





Mackay dump (3) - - - - - - 77 - - - - -
Hay Pt. dump - - - - - - 14 - - - - -
Port Alma - - - 26 8 - - - - - 10 -
Gladstone:
- Dumped (4)
- Pumped ashore
-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

10

-

* 1570

-

12

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

35

Bundaberg:
- S. dump (3)
- N. dump
- Pumped ashore
94 192 208 286 165 108 59 88 92 158 132
Brisbane:











- Mud Island (5) 1553 1310 2524 850 2721 605 893 1038 470 305 482 -
- Fisherman Islands (6) 384 1117 20 367 902 636 15 1 1302 591 412 -
- Moreton Bay dump - 121 89 439 1557 1536 2556 1354 179 235 190 -
- Woorim (7) - - - - - - 96 236 120 83 - -
- Fisherman Is. river sand(8) 276 229 226 162 - - 137 232 273 265 56 -
- Whyte I. river sand (8) - - - 97 203 295 61 - - - - -
- Caloundra (7) - - - - - - - 94 - - - -
- Bilinga (7) - - - - - - - 85 - - - -

+ Measured by dry tonnage of material; * Majority development work; (1) Small quantity of contracted and Local Authority grab dredging; (2) Small quantity placed at inner dump area by Local Authority grab dredger; (3) Small quantities placed by Local Authority's grab dredging operations; (4) Approx. 5 400 000 cu m. (8.0 m tonnes) of material placed in dump area during 1986/87 from development dredging by contractor; (5) From Brisbane River dredging including minor development work; (6) Includes sand from Moreton Bay channels and mud from Brisbane River from 1989 onwards; (7) Beach replenishment; (8) Development dredging by cutter suction dredger

Source: Port of Brisbane Authority (POBA) Annual Reports and POBA pers. comm. April 1993.

 

Shipping Traffic

Table 6 shows that 4 509 cargo ships visited Queensland ports during 1991/92. Additionally, in 1992 there are over 2000 commercial fishing boats, some 600 Class I charter vessels primarily servicing GBR tourism, and 107 827 private pleasure vessels registered in Queensland in 1992, as well as private vessels visiting from interstate and overseas. Impacts on the marine environment from this volume of shipping traffic include:

- the risk of grounding or major accident by a supertanker or large ship carrying hazardous cargo;

- ballast water introductions;

- chronic `small' fuel and oil spills at ports or under way;

- sewage and garbage disposal at sea;

- to the development of coastal environments for the provision of marina and port facilities and associated industrial developments.

Of particular concern is any adverse impact on the GBR. The Reef's Inner Route shipping lane, the Great North East Channel through Torres Straits, and the various designated passages through the Reef are considered high risk areas for shipping. About 2000 large ships transit the Inner Route of the GBR annually, approximately 100 of which are tankers (Raaymakers 1993). Table 8 shows the number of piloted ships through the Great North East Channel and the GBR Inner Route from June 1992 to February 1993.

In November 1990, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) declared the GBR Region a `Particularly Sensitive Area'. This resulted in the Australian Government proceeding with introduction of compulsory pilotage in October 1991. Consequently, all ships 70 metres in length and over and all loaded tankers, chemical carriers and liquefied gas carriers, irrespective of size, are required to carry pilots when navigating the northern part of the Reef (north of Cairns) and Hydrographers Passage (off Mackay).

Raaymakers (1993) notes that, `Pilotage is not compulsory for the rest of the Great Barrier Reef, the Torres Strait and Great North East Channel. However ships transiting the inner route normally pick up their pilots at the western entrance to Torres Strait so most ships transiting Torres Strait and the Great North East Channel are piloted. The introduction of compulsory pilotage has substantially decreased the risk of ship groundings in the Great Barrier Reef. However it does not eliminate the risk and it does not address spills from collisions, structural failure and operational discharges.'

Australia has adopted three international conventions, formulated by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), which deal specifically with marine pollution matters and has legislation giving effect to these conventions. Queensland is presently drafting new marine pollution legislation which will give effect to MARPOL 73/78 Annexes I (oil), II (noxious liquid substances), III (harmful substances carried in packaged forms) and V (garbage); unfortunately Annex IV, dealing with sewage, is not yet in force internationally. This should provide an adequate legislative base to limit the impacts from shipping traffic, provided sufficient resources are made available to the responsible agencies to implement the legislation, and provide adequate navigational aids and enforcement, inspection and monitoring staff.

Accidents and Spills

Data from the GBR gives some estimate of the frequency and type of shipping accidents and spills in Queensland waters.

Raaymakers (1993) states, `there have been numerous large-ship incidents with significant pollution potential, including 19 collisions and 24 groundings, since 1979. In addition oil pollution from operational discharges from large ships is a common occurrence, with over 30 reports in the REEFPLAN Area since 1990, the largest being estimated at around 10 tonnes. There have also been a number of spills from bunkering and other operations in ports. Discharges from and accidents with small vessels are also a source of oil pollution, with about 350 collisions, sinkings, fires and other incidents having occurred in the Reef Region since 1980.' Further on he notes, `Studies of the distribution of hydrocarbon-associated bacteria in Great Barrier Reef waters show higher concentrations of these bacteria in areas of greatest shipping activity, presumably indicating that background levels of hydrocarbons are already elevated in these areas (Reichelt, pers. comm. 1991).'

Operational discharges from ships can be reduced by the provision of adequate waste oil reception facilities in ports. According to Raaymakers (1993), the ports of Cairns, Townsville and Gladstone have such facilities, whereas Cape Flattery, Lucinda, Abbott Point and Hay Point ports do not.

Ballast Water

Elsewhere within SOMER there is a discussion of the introduction and impacts of exotic species into the marine environment with specific attention given to introductions by way of ballast water. Experience in southern Australia has shown that a combination of frequent visits of vessels from international ports as well as movement between ports within Australia increases the potential for introduction of exotics from ballast water or associated sediments (Jones 1991).

Table 9 documents international visits to Queensland ports, interstate domestic shipping movements as well as the estimated volume of ballast water likely to be discharged. Queensland ports receive 27% of international visits (i.e. 1284 of a total of 4779 visits) and 25% of domestic movements (i.e. 677 of a total of 2681 visits) (Kerr 1994). Table 9 indicates that the ports experiencing most international traffic are Hay Point, Brisbane and Gladstone (75% of total movements); while Brisbane, Gladstone and Weipa have the most domestic traffic (70% of total movements). Each of these ports also handle a significant dead weight tonnage of cargo.

Kerr (1994) has shown that in 1991 over 85% of Australia's ballast water `imports' come from the Asian region, with the majority originating in Japan (54% of total ballast water). He notes that `The number of vessel visits is a better risk indicator than tonnage of ballast water carried, although both are important.' This means that an increase in the volume of ballast water does not necessarily translate into an increased risk; however, an increase in the number of ship visits usually results in a greater likelihood of introductions.

This recent assessment of the risk of ballast water introductions indicates that the Queensland ports most likely to experience problems with ballast water introductions are Brisbane, Hay Point, Gladstone and Weipa.

Tourism

Just as most Queenslanders live in coastal centres, most of the State's tourism is based in coastal areas, many of which provide access to important marine and estuarine habitats including the GBR, and Hervey and Moreton Bays. Table 10 indicates where most tourists in Queensland spend their time, and the percentage change in tourism activity between 1991/92 and 1992/93. Not unexpectedly the focus of tourism activity is in the coastal centres already identified as areas of high population growth, in particular the Gold and Sunshine Coasts.

In its 1993 Annual Report, the Queensland Tourist and Travel Corporation (QTTC) notes that 1.237 million international visitors came to Queensland in 1992, this representing an increase of 16.3% over 1991. The Corporation considers that these figures indicate that the targets set in its Vision 2000 Plan released in March 1992 are still achievable; namely 4.7 million interstate and 5 million international visitors by the year 2000. The QTTC estimates that this will contribute directly $12 billion annually to the Queensland economy and create 320 000 jobs. To accommodate these targets, the QTTC estimates that hotel/motel rooms and units and flats will need to double, and hostel and budget accommodation to treble (QTTC 1992).

While there are 18 islands with tourist resorts on the GBR, the majority of tourists access marine areas from mainland centres using either commercial day trip boats or overnight charters. Consequently, many of the impacts associated with tourism are the same as those noted earlier for an expanding urban population. However, because of the attractiveness of high quality natural coastal sites to tourists, some developers have established resorts in undeveloped coastal areas that often are environmentally sensitive and of high conservation value. In Queensland this trend has been exacerbated by specific legislation which actively promotes integrated resorts such as Woodwark Bay in the Whitsundays and Corio Bay in central Queensland. Additionally, successive Queensland governments have funded the QTTC to market and develop tourism, and yet have not established a mechanism to develop environmentally sensitive strategic plans for the industry.

There are specific issues associated with managing the high volume, large group, day trip tourism industry which operates mainly in the Cairns and Whitsunday regions. These include location of mainland departure terminals, access to high quality destination sites, habitat interference and damage at destination sites, location of permanent facilities (e.g. pontoons) in remote areas, localised sewage pollution, interference with important fauna sites, and reduced access opportunities and amenity and aesthetic values for local users. For a more detailed discussion of the impacts of offshore tourism activities see the Draft Offshore Cairns Strategy (GBRMPA & QDEH 1991).

Table 8: Ships piloted through the Great North East Channel and the Great Barrier Reef Inner Route, June 1992-February 1993

Month Great North East Channel GBR Inner Route
and
Year
General
/Misc.
Bulk
Carrier
Oil
Tanker
Chemical Tanker LPG
Carrier
TOTAL Oil Tanker Chemical
Tanker
LPG
Carrier
TOTAL



  (Hazardous Cargoes)  
  (Hazardous Cargoes)  
June '92 6 4 7 - - 17 6 3 2 11
July 13 4 5 - - 22 6 3 7 17
August 4 5 10 1 - 20 7 3 3 13
Sept. 8 1 15 - - 24 17 - - 17
October 4 10 18 - - 32 20 - - 20
Nov. 6 4 14 2 - 26 3 3 3 9
Dec. 6 6 12 1 - 25 1 3 3 7
Jan. '93 1 6 4 - - 11 4 3 - 7
Feb. 1 6 10 1 1 19 7 5 3 15
TOTALS 49 46 95 5 1 196 71 23 21 115

Note: An oil tanker was also taken through Grafton Passage in August and September 1992 and January 1993 (3 in total).

Source: Supplied by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, April 1993

Table 9: Estimated ballast water receipts in Queensland ports from international and domestic shipping movements January to December 1991.

Port

International Visits

Domestic Ship Movements


D.W.T.
(tonnes)
Visits % of Visits Est. Ballast Water *
(tonnes)
D.W.T.
(tonnes)
Visits % of Visits Est.Ballast Water *
(tonnes)
Weipa 4 703 605 86 6.70 1 834 876 5 142 970 71 10.49 2 005 758
Cape Flattery 1 062 378 26 2.02 414 434

0.00
Cairns 250 582 16 1.25 97 752 1 232 994 37 5.47 480 868
Mourilyan 192 160 9 0.70 74 962 83 970 2 0.30 32 748
Lucinda 260 251 9 0.70 101 524

0.00
Townsville 2 252 566 74 5.76 878 726 1 993 209 54 7.98 777 352
Abbott Point 5 091 996 60 4.67 1 986 388

0.00
Mackay 733 119 30 2.34 285 990 1 325 063 44 6.50 516 775
Hay Point/Dalrymple Bay 37 347 426 405 31.54 14 569 231 922 454 20 2.95 359 757
Rockhampton (Port Alma) 27 188 4 0.31 10 606 237 918 16 2.36 92 788
Gladstone 20 464 745 267 20.79 7 983 297 7 196 745 145 21.42 2 806 731
Bundaberg 20 118 1 0.08 7 848 687 229 28 4.14 268 019
Brisbane 11 237 281 297 23.13 4 383 663 8 189 201 260 38.40 3 193 788
TOTAL 83 643 415 1 284 99.99 32 629 297 27 011 753 677 100.01 10 534 584

* The average ballast tank capacity of bulk carriers is 39.01% of the dead weight tonnage (D.W.T.) of the vessel; ore carriers have an average ballast tank capacity of 34.31% of D.W.T.; oil tankers have 34.56% D.W.T.; while chemical tankers have 34.05% D.W.T.

Source: Kerr (in press)

Fishing

Queensland's marine and estuarine waters support extensive commercial and recreational fisheries. Table 11 lists the annual average commercial fin fish and crustacean catch for 1988-1991 and includes an assessment of the status of these fisheries and the adequacy or otherwise of knowledge for management purposes. Unfortunately, there is a lack of data for recreational catches for most fisheries. However, some data provide an insight to the relative catches for some fisheries. Quinn (1992) estimates that in Queensland approximately one third of angling effort occurs in the Moreton Region with some 300 000 recreational anglers catching approximately 2000 tonnes of fin fish; this compares with a commercial catch of 1600 tonnes. The Queensland Commercial Fishermen's Organisation (QCFO 1993) notes that if the commercial mullet catch is excluded, as these are not taken by recreational fishers, then the commercial catch becomes approximately 700 tonnes, substantially less than the recreational catch. The QCFO cites similar experiences elsewhere in Queensland and Australia (QCFO 1993, pp. 17-19) including one estimate that anglers take 70% of the GBR fish catch (Craik 1989).

The impacts of this intensity of fishing are similar to those found elsewhere in Australia and discussed in some detail in the Ecologically Sustainable Development Working Groups Final Report on Fisheries (ESD Working Groups 1991, pp. 78-82). This report states, `Fishing activities can affect the environment in a number of ways: on the physical structure of the habitat, on water quality, on by-catch and wildlife species and on genetic diversity. Effects can be direct, as in the effects of trawling on the substrate, or indirect, as in eutrophication resulting from aquaculture operations.' The intensity of the combined commercial and recreational fishing effort in the Moreton Region combined with the high population growth in the region makes this area particularly vulnerable to the impacts of fishing, in particular overfishing.

While a variety of impacts result from fishing activities, the fisheries themselves rely on the maintenance of healthy ecosystems and good water quality. Consequently, Queensland's fisheries are vulnerable to the many impacts referred to in previous sections such as urban and agricultural run-off, reclamation of tidal wetlands, inadequate catchment controls and pollution discharges.

Recent research initiatives in the GBR to determine the impacts of trawling are of critical importance, as is the need to continue research and data acquisition into the rates of growth and mortality, stock structure and biomass for the various fishery species. The extent of the recreational fishing effort must be determined with necessary management initiatives implemented. In addition, the siting of future marina developments and other shore-based facilities must be better planned so that they are not located in environmentally sensitive areas, as has occurred in the past.

The potential impacts of a growing aquaculture industry cannot be overlooked. There are a number of land-based and offshore projects established along the Queensland coast with many more proposed. While this industry is advocated as a means of reducing the fishing effort on wild stocks, it can result in a range of impacts including reclamation/modification of coastal wetland sites for aquaculture ponds, effluent discharges from ponds, potential introduction of diseases and translocation of species, and use of wild stock to manufacture fish food.

Table 10: Visitor nights in commercial accommodation by origin of visitors

Destination Regions Visitor Nights 1992/93 (x 1000)
(Percentage Change over 1991/92)

Intrastate Interstate Internat-
ional
Total
Gold Coast 2 004
(9)
6 755
(4)
2 111
(11)
10 870

(6)

Brisbane 1 241
(-6)
1 461
(12)
900
(-4)
3 602
(1)
Sunshine Coast 2 845
(-10)
2 616
(43)
397
(7)
5 857
(10)
Moreton Balance * 388
(-20)
214
(-23)
28
(-42)
629
(-22)
Wide Bay Burnett 1 466
(-2)
842
(-7)
177
(-30)
2 485
(-6)
Fitzroy 954
(-7)
553
(7)
178
(-19)
1 684
(-5)
Mackay (inc. Whitsundays) 996
(-2)
934
(13)
423
(-9)
2 354 (2)
Northern (Townsville) 879
(0)
582
(3)
370
(-8)
1 831
(-1)
Far North (Cairns) 1 042
(11)
2 171
(-9)
2 594
(-1)
5 807
(-2)
Western Queensland * 377
(-19)
304
(-18)
59
(15)
740
(-16)
Darling Downs * 457
(27)
304
(-5)
18
(-5)
779
(11)
Great Barrier Reef 229
(-20)
516
(1)
303
(7)
1 048
(-3)
Total Queensland 12 648
(-3)
16 736
(6)
7 255
0
36 639
(2)

* These districts cover mainly inland areas.

Source: QTTC 1993.

Table 11: Average annual commercial catch in Queensland of finfish/crustaceans (1988-91)1 and status of the fishery2

Species State Total Status of the Fishery Status of Knowledge

for


(tonnes) Over-fished Fully Fished Under-fished Uncertain Management ESD
Crabs
Mud crab
379
X

adequate incomplete
Sand crab 452
X

adequate incomplete
Spanner crab 533
X

adequate incomplete
Other crab 16





Prawns
Banana prawns
731
X

adequate incomplete
Tiger prawns 1861
X

adequate incomplete
Endeavour prawns 1303
X

adequate incomplete
Bay prawns 400
X

adequate incomplete
King prawns
- Eastern (SE Qld.)
- Ocean
- Redspot
- Eastern
- Western
2395 X X
X
X
X


adequate
adequate
adequate
adequate
adequate
incomplete
incomplete
incomplete
incomplete
incomplete
Other prawns
- Redspot (SE Qld)
- Greasy
- Leader
- School
583 X X
X
X


adequate
adequate
adequate
adequate
incomplete
incomplete
incomplete
incomplete
Total prawns 7273





Estuarine Fish
Mullet
2153
X

adequate inadequate
Yellowfin Bream 220





Summer Whiting 356





Winter Whiting 403





Tailor 198
X

adequate inadequate
Flathead 88
X

adequate inadequate
Gar 92





Black Bream 50





Barramundi 795
X

adequate incomplete
Total estuarine 5 983





Reef Fish
Snapper
90


X incomplete inadequate
Coral trout
- Inshore reef
- Offshore reef
1310 X X

incomplete
incomplete
incomplete
inadequate
Red Throat Emperor 630
X

incomplete inadequate
Others 550





Total reef fish 2580





Pelagic Fish
Mackerel
- Spanish
- Grey
998
X
X incomplete
adequate
inadequate
inadequate
Dart 37





Total pelagic 1236





Lobster 466





Scallop 161900
(baskets)



X adequate incomplete
Squid 193





Sources
1 - Table 8.1 in QCFO (1993)
2 - Table B.1 in ESD Working Groups (1991). The table is based on information given by Commonwealth and State Government agencies which has been assessed as 'good', 'adequate', 'incomplete' or 'inadequate'.

Industrial development and mining

Queensland has a number of major industries sited along the coast. Generally, these either service large population centres (e.g. Brisbane's oil refineries), or they process or handle one of the State's agricultural or mineral products (e.g. the alumina refinery plants at Gladstone, coal loading facilities at Mackay, and nickel treatment plant and sugar mills in the Townsville region). Operations of these industries are controlled by a variety of Queensland legislation, and their environmental performance is overseen by the Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage. In a summary of future major development projects and proposals for Queensland, DBIRD (1992) refer to some 12 major development projects which are committed to, and a further 16 under study; these generally represent investments in excess of $10 million and all are to be located on the coast.

While Queensland's industries operate generally within the guidelines established by government, over the years there have been various serious pollution incidents. Prior to the introduction of the Clean Waters Act and Regulations in 1975 and other environmental control legislation during the 1970s, most industry operated with little regard to controlling environmentally harmful waste discharges. This was evidenced by various organic and chemical industrial discharges into the Brisbane River and other coastal streams, such as the 60-year history of high volume organic waste discharges from the Sarina (Australian National) Power Alcohol plant into tidal creeks discharging into Llewellyn Bay; and various mine and tailing site discharges into water bodies in major catchments.

Recent evidence submitted at the Criminal Justice Commission's Inquiry into the Improper Disposal of Liquid Waste indicates that while the situation has improved, there are still a number of major problems. Most importantly Queensland has no legislation that adequately controls the disposal of toxic waste. This has led to some operators dumping untreated, toxic liquid waste into streams and tidal wetlands. The lack of strong legislation and insufficient resources in both the Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage (QDEH) and local government has meant that this problem is only now being identified. Compounding this problem, the QDEH has been unable to carry out adequate monitoring of receiving waters. Consequently, the extent of contamination is still to be determined.

Probably some of the most contentious development proposals in Queensland have been those associated with the mining and petroleum industry. Various mining leases and exploration permits cover parts of Queensland's marine and estuarine estate. These include heavy mineral sand reserves, oil shale deposits, petroleum exploration permits, sand and gravel extraction, and limestone extraction. The focus for much of this activity include parts of the east and west coasts of Cape York, central Queensland and Moreton Bay. Conflicts arise when reserves coincide with areas of high conservation value such as the proposals to sand mine in the Shelburne and Shoalwater Bay areas, extract oil shale in the coastal wetlands of the Curtis coast and Repulse Bay, explore for petroleum in areas adjacent to the GBR, and mine subfossil coral from Moreton Bay's limited areas of reef flat.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Use

The previous sections have discussed the variety of impacts on the marine environment resulting from European settlement of Queensland. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities have established within their cultures a range of rights and duties to marine areas adjacent to their coastal lands. The Torres Strait Islanders in particular are a seafaring people, many with wide-ranging sea territories.

For both Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders there are strong traditions of harvesting marine resources, hunting dugong and turtles, and collecting bird eggs; many communities in northern Queensland and the Torres Strait are heavily reliant on the sea as a major source of protein. The issues for these communities include ensuring that shore-based pollution such as sewage does not impact on marine areas; that economic enterprises such as commercial fisheries and ecotourism are sustainable; that modern hunting techniques and intensity do not cause local extermination of particular wildlife species such as dugong, turtle and seabirds; and that they are meaningfully involved in consultation and comanagement arrangements for parks, reserves and zoning plans. The reports by Mulrennan et al. (1993) and Smyth (1993) examine the issues and concerns of coastal Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Disturbed areas, trends and future problems

This paper has not attempted to present a list, either definitive or indicative, of chronically or acutely disturbed sites in Queensland's marine areas. Given the paucity of adequate data for much of the area under consideration any list would be extremely subjective, and is likely to exclude more than it includes. What can be said however, is that substantial disturbance, particularly of estuarine and inshore marine areas, has occurred since European settlement with chronically disturbed areas associated with most major population centres. Many of the causative agents have been discussed earlier, and areas of particular concern identified. However, for many disturbances, the extent of the problem is only now being recognised.

Table 12: Future problems

• Increased demand for access to reefs and islands.

• Areas that are presently remote will soon be accessible due to advances in water transport technology.

• Increased population and development in coastal areas of high conservation value.

• Shipping in the Great Barrier Reef - potential spills of toxic cargoes and introduction of exotic organisms through ballast water.

• Conflicts between wildlife protection and recreational use and tourism. For example: access to important nesting sights for seabirds and turtles; interference with whale migrations by whale-watching tourism; increased injury to dugong and turtle populations from propeller strikes of faster, more numerous vessels.

• Insufficient resources for management by agencies.

• Inadequate legislation for environmental protection. Various new Queensland Acts are still to be finalised including the Environment Protection Act and the Coastal Protection Act.

Table 13: Major resource assessment and monitoring programs

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority:

Effects of Fishing Program.

- Visual surveys of Cairns Section closed reefs opened under the new zoning plan - Dr. Tony Ayling of Sea Research

- Effects of zoning changes on the fish populations of unexploited reefs - Dr. Ian Brown, QDPI

- The effects of prawn trawling in the far northern section of the Great Barrier Reef. 1992 was the first year of this 5 year project (fundc allowing) - Dr. Mapstone, CSIRO Fisheries Research and QDPI

Aerial monitoring of reef flat Communities: for changes in cover patterns

Human use database project

Crown-of-Thorns Starfish - Professor Graham Mitchell

Torres Strait Baseline Study of trace metals in the marine environment

Townsville Port Development reactive monitoring - with JCU, AIMS, QDEH

Water quality with respect to nutrients

Monitoring of the temporal changes in the distribution and abundance of dugong, turtle and cetaceans in the Great Barrier Reef. Ongoing monitoring usually repeated every five years - Dr. Helene Marsh

Reef quality program

Water quality monitoring to determine the effects of sedimentation of fringing reef colonies near Cape Tribulation. Has been ongoing since 1984 - Dr. Tony Ayling

Queensland Government Departments:

Sunfish Project: database of logbook data for commercial fishermen catch and effort - Neil Trainor, QDPI

Mapping mangrove and seagrass distributions in areas around Queensland. Hervey Bay, Moreton Bay, Cape York, and soon Burdekin Delta - John Beumer, QDPI. Trinity Inlet and Daintree - John Russell, QDPI

Broad-scale resource assessment of Queensland's biogeographic regions by QDEH. Of 13 regions targeted, 6 are completed, 3 started, and 4 yet to begin

Monitoring population density and distribution of species of concern. From the marine environment, green and loggerhead turtles are included - QDEH

Preparation of a Seabird Atlas of the Great Barrier Reef - Griffith Uni./QDEH

Tidal Wetlands Inventory - Australian Littoral Society/QDEH

Coastal Observation Program in Engineering - monitors beach, wave and wind conditions at 50 sites. Also storm surge at 20 sites, multiple-year hydrographic surveys, long- and short-term wave recording stations, meteorological data, and aerial photography. - QDEH

Long-term ambient water quality testing for physical and chemical parameters at 52 coastal and inshore sites in Queensland. Ongoing, began in 1992 - Dr. Phil Morgan, QDEH

Site-specific water quality investigations of a limited duration

- Raine Island: Green turtle nesting and population dynamics - QDEH

- Whitsunday-Mackay: Coast geology and vegetation surveys - QDEH

- Woongarra Marine Park: Study of the impact of trawling on turtles, and a study on the impact of an artificial recreational reef - QDEH/QDPI

- Swain Reefs: Survey biological integrity of and human impact on the reefs

- Cape York: Resource assessment and the extent and effects of commercial fishing - CYPLUS

Non-government:

Use of chemical control of mosquito and biting midge in mangrove and saltmarsh areas. - Fisheries Research Consultants

Keppel Bay and Islands, intertidal organisms - Uni. of CQ Biology Dept., Dr. Mike Coates

Fishermans Landing (Gladstone) trade waste outfall in relation to the benthic community, '92,'93 - WBM Oceanics, Commissioned by QDEH

Fisherman Islands Mangrove Monitoring - WBM Oceanics, '92, commissioned by the Port of Brisbane Authority

Crown-of-Thorns starfish monitoring. Ongoing as part of AIMS' long-term reef monitoring program - Dr. Peter Moran, AIMS

Various site-specific programs associated with tourist pontoon operations in the Cairns region

In many instances disturbances have resulted in irreparable damage to ecosystems such as the loss of extensive tidal wetland areas. Other impacts, however, can be repaired often through natural processes, given a cessation of the cause and a sufficiently robust ecosystem. An example is improved water quality in coastal rivers and inshore marine areas following reduced nutrient and sediment inputs from urban and agricultural areas. Such an improvement will take time both in terms of reducing the nutrient and sediment loads, and eliminating excessive nutrients and other contaminants in marine sediments. Likewise, serious pollution incidents will occur resulting in massive fish kills and contamination of parts of the ecosystem. However, immediate remedial action can sometimes be taken, and in the longer term if the problem does not persist then the impacts will be mitigated.

Table 12 lists a number of future problems. While no new impacts are identified, it does reflect those impacts that are likely to increase in the future. This increase will be triggered by Queensland's expanding population and tourism and industrial activities. To meet these challenges, Queenslanders will need to become far more aware and knowledgeable of the variety of adverse impacts on the marine environment. As well, government must provide good legislation, integrated planning to manage development, and adequate resources for management agencies, community consultation, and monitoring and research.

Table 13 provides an overview of the monitoring and resource assessment programs presently under way.

References

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Cooper, J. & Skinner, J.L. 1992, Population projections for Queensland and Statistical Divisions - 1986-2021 and Local Government Areas and Statistical Districts - 1986-2006, 1991 Revision, Queensland Department of Housing and Local Government, Brisbane.

Craik, G.J.S. 1985, Proceedings of a workshop on Response to Hazardous Chemical Spills in the Great Barrier Reef Region, Townsville 3rd August 1984, Workshop Series no. 6, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Townsville.

Craik, W. 1989, Management of Recreational Fishing in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, Technical Memorandum GBRMPA-TM-23, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Townsville.

DBIRD 1992, Major Development Projects and Proposals in Queensland, Issue no. 12, Department of Business, Industry and Regional Development, Brisbane.

Dutton, I. 1985, Proceedings of a workshop on Contaminants in Waters of the Great Barrier Reef, Griffith University 26 May 1984, Workshop Series No. 5, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Townsville.

ESD Working Groups 1991, Final Report - Fisheries, AGPS, Canberra.

GBRMPA & QDEH, 1991, Draft Offshore Cairns Strategy, Reef Use to the Year 2000, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (Cairns Section), Cairns Marine Park, Queensland Department Environment & Heritage, Far Northern Regional Centre, Cairns.

Hyland, S.J. & Butler, C.T. 1989, The distribution and Modification of Mangroves and Saltmarsh - Claypans in Southern Queensland June 1988, Information Series QI89004, Queensland Department of Primary Industries, Queensland Government, Brisbane.

Jones, M. 1991, Marine Organisms Transported in Ballast Water. A Review of the Australian Scientific Position, Bulletin no. 11, Bureau of Rural Resources, AGPS, Canberra.

Kerr, S., in press, Ballast Water Ports and Shipping Study, Final Report to the Scientific Working Group on the Introduction of Exotic Organisms through Ships' Ballast Water, Australian Quarantine Inspection Service, Canberra.

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Mulrennan, M., Jull, P., Sullivan, M. & Hanssen, N. 1993, Towards a Marine Strategy for Torres Strait (MaSTS), Australian National University North Australia Research Unit and the Torres Strait Island Coordinating Council, Darwin.

Preen, A. 1993, `Extensive loss of seagrass and dugongs from Hervey Bay', Bulletin of the Australian Littoral Society, vol. 16(2), pp. 2-3.

QCFO 1993, Submission to Recreational Fishing Inquiry, Queensland Commercial Fishermen's Organisation, Brisbane.

QDPI 1993, The Condition of River Catchments in Queensland - A Broad Overview of Catchment Management Issues, Queensland Department of Primary Industries, Brisbane.

Qld Transport 1993, Environment Policy for Queensland Ports, Draft, Queensland Department of Transport, Brisbane.

QTTC 1992, Vision 2000. The Corporate Plan for the Queensland Tourist and Travel Corporation 1992, Queensland Tourist and Travel Corporation, Brisbane.

Quinn, R.H., 1992, Fisheries Resources of the Moreton Bay Region, Report for Queensland Fish Management Authority, Brisbane.

Raaymakers, S. 1993, Ship Sourced Oil Pollution in the Great Barrier Reef: Causes, Frequency, Response and Prevention, paper presented at the meeting of experts on the Transport of Oil and Other Hazardous Substances through the Great Barrier Reef, Canberra, April 1993.

RPAG, 1993, Industry Location and Tourism. A Draft Policy Paper of the SEQ2001 Project, Regional Planning Advisory Group, Department Housing, Local Government and Planning, Brisbane.

Smyth, D. 1993, A Voice in all Places, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Interests in Australia's Coastal Zone, Consultancy Report for the Coastal Zone Inquiry, Resource Assessment Commission, Canberra.

Water Resources Commission, 1989, Water for Queensland, Water Resources Commission, Queensland Department of Primary Industries, Brisbane.

Next Chapter: Issues in the South Australian marine environment