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Joint Media Release

Australian Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Senator the Hon. Ian Campbell
and
Australian Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry
The Hon. Peter McGauran MP
and
Western Australian Minister for the Environment
The Hon. Mark McGowan MLA
and
Western Australian Minister for Agriculture and Food; Forestry
The Hon. Kim Chance MLC

13 December 2006

Marine mapping mission continues in Western Australia


Cutting-edge underwater mapping technology is revealing the hidden depths of Western Australia’s sea floor.

The $4.2 million Securing Western Australia’s Marine Futures project, running for just under a year, uses hydroacoustic surveys and underwater video footage to generate state-of-the-art habitat maps of the marine environment from Kalbarri to Eucla.

Funded by the Australian Government’s Natural Heritage Trust and the Western Australian Government, the project is a partnership between the South Coast Regional Initiative Planning Team, the University of Western Australia, Fugro Survey Pty Ltd and natural resource management agencies, with input from stakeholders.

Australian and Western Australian Government Ministers joined the Marine Futures project team on board the Kimberley Quest in Fremantle today for an update on recent voyages to the Mid-West.

Australian Ministers for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell, and Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Peter McGauran, said the data would help to guide marine planning.

“This is about backing decisions with the best available science to benefit the environment, fishing industries and the wider community,” Senator Campbell said.

“The Marine Futures project involves hydroacoustic surveys to find out about seafloor contours, video surveys, biodiversity surveys, research on human uses and a community outreach programme.

“In terms of mapping the team has already covered more than 900 square kilometres of sea floor including Cape Naturaliste and Geographe Bay, Rottnest Island, Jurien Bay and the Abrolhos Islands.

“The success of the project is very much based on strong partnerships, while the research itself is going to be wide-reaching – it’ll feed into the South-west Marine Bioregional Planning process, which I also announced during our visit to Fremantle.”

Western Australian Minister for Agriculture and Food; Forestry, Kim Chance, said the Marine Futures voyages saw the hydroacoustic survey team working 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“These trips have up to 15 people on board working in shifts as they ‘mow the lawn,’ painstakingly scanning marked sections of the sea floor,” Mr Chance said.

“The multibeam underneath the boat delivers images of the sea floor back to team above, where they watch the high-tech modelling appear on a number of computer screens.

“These voyages are followed by video surveys taken in areas with the greatest variations – for example, where shallow areas drop rapidly into a deeper seabed.

“Habitat maps for the Capes and Rottnest are nearly complete, so the team is collecting anecdotal evidence along the west coast to find out about fishing and recreational use over past decades.”

Western Australian Minister for the Environment, Mark McGowan, said other experts were using the visual work to support their more detailed analysis of marine plant and animal life.

“The biodiversity team is undertaking surveys to understand the relationship between fish and invertebrates - such as Queen Snapper and abalone – and their habitats,” Mr McGowan said.

“Once completed, the mapping, biodiversity assessment and analysis of human use patterns will help regional NRM groups set targets for future management.

“Marine Futures also has a great outreach programme, which sees the team visiting ports in places like Busselton and Geraldton to give communities an opportunity to be part of the experience.”

The Ministers congratulated everyone involved in work to date and in particular thanked the Kimberley Quest crew for its ongoing support.

For more information contact Dr. Jessica Meeuwig on (08) 6488 1464. More detail on the Natural Heritage Trust is at www.nht.gov.au. For the South-west Marine Bioregional Planning process visit http://www.deh.gov.au/coasts/mbp/south-west/

Editors please note: underwater footage is available at the event. Contact Richard Wilson, DEH Public Affairs, on 0419 699 682.

Media contacts:
Regina Titelius (Minister Campbell) (08) 9421 1755 or 0419 099 324
Ben Houston (Minister McGauran) (02) 6277 7520
Alicia Miriklis (Minister Chance) (08) 9213 6700 or 0428 911 240
Kym Coolhaas (Minister McGowan) (08) 9222 9111

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