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Natural Heritage Trust

Media Release


30 July 1998

Cleaner seas should be the result of a Natural Heritage Trust project to trial cultivating sea lettuce on abalone farms to reduce biological waste in effluent.

The Fremantle Maritime Centre project is an Australian first, modelled on similar studies undertaken in Israel.

The sea lettuce absorbs nutrient waste such as nitrogen and phosphorus, effectively cleansing waste water from abalone farms before it goes into coastal water.

The $122,950 sea lettuce cultivation project is also expected to reduce pressure on wild stocks of seaweed and will have uses in other areas of agriculture besides abalone farming.

The sea lettuce project is one of 13 Natural Heritage Trust projects for Western Australia announced today by Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill during a visit to the Fremantle Maritime Centre.

"Abalone is a major export product and a developing industry in Western Australia," Senator Hill said.

"The project will encourage ecologically sustainable practice and address concerns about possible environmental impact of the expanding abalone industry," Senator Hill said.

Western Australia's marine life and coastal areas will benefit from Natural Heritage Trust funding of nearly $880,000 for the range of Coasts and Clean Seas projects.

Grants range from $200,000 for an environmental management strategy by the WA Department of Environmental Protection for the North West Shelf to $2000 to the Surfriders Foundation in Margaret River to help protect the blue groper.

Australia's largest fringing coral reef at Ningaloo Marine Park will benefit from a $103,050 grant to the Department of Conservation and Land Management for reef monitoring.

"The program will establish 50 monitoring sites along the Ningaloo reef, which has diverse and abundant tropical marine flora and fauna and unique features such as seasonal aggregations of whale sharks and whales," Senator Hill said.

An extra $10,000 will assist the Department of Conservation and Land Management to develop a CD-based photographic identification database for whale sharks in the Ningaloo Reef and Exmouth Gulf regions.

"Seasonal aggregations of whale sharks in the Ningaloo Marine Park have led to expanding tourism industries focusing on human-whale sharks interactions and an expanding whale watching industry," Senator Hill said.

"The project will ensure that this industry is managed to minimise impacts on the sharks."

Senator Hill says the projects assist community members and local and state government agencies to find the best ways of managing our marine environment.

"Our coastlines and marine life are under threat from many different pressures and we are keen to assess and meet these challenges," Senator Hill said.

"One project will ensure seabirds in the Abrolhos Islands are not adversely affected by the expansion of a development fishery. The WA Fisheries Department will receive $62,400 to identify and protect fish which are important in the seabird diet."

Surfriders Associations in Margaret River and Cowaramup Bay will receive $30,000 each to monitor water quality using volunteers.

"The local community is concerned about the impact of tourism on water quality and keen to take action to address the problem," Senator Hill said.

A full list of projects is attached.

30 July 1998

Matt Brown (Senator Hill's office) 0418 693 515 or 02 6277 7640
Dr Conall O'Connell (Environment Australia) 02-6274 1015

Commonwealth of Australia