Proposed Seaweed Farm to be located Southern end of Pumicestone Passage BIEPA In Moreton Bay Marine Park

By The Bribie Islander

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The Bribie Island Environmental Protection Association (BIEPA) has been actively caring for our special habitat and its residents for 41 years. BIEPA supports, in principle, as does Healthy Land and Water, the establishment of commercial seaweed farm industries in Australia. A seaweed farm in Moreton Bay Marine Park could compliment the Pumicestone Shellfish Reef Restoration Project in helping to improve the declining health of the Pumicestone Passage and Moreton Bay Marine Park.

These projects will help to return healthy ecosystem services – a healthy economy depends on a healthy environment, especially a sustainable tourism industry in the Moreton Bay region. Seaweed Farms appear to tick all three boxes of the Triple Bottom Line test for long term business viability – economically, socially and environmentally. The Australian Seaweed Institute first brought their proposal to the local community’s attention over a year ago in August 2018.

A documentary film about the Australian Seaweed Institute and seaweed farming titled, “2040 – Join the REGENERATION”, was to be shown at the Bribie Island Cinema at 6:00 pm Wednesday 28th August 2018. The screening was cancelled due to lack of bookings. At that time the proponents also shared a comprehensive information package about the proposed seaweed farm and its business model: to build “a new seaweed industry for Queensland that would create jobs in coastal areas while protecting and enhancing our bays and oceans”.

Scientists from the University of the Sunshine Coast have been researching the viability of seaweed farms in Moreton Bay for some time at the Woorim Aquaculture Research Centre. Professor Tim Flannery authored, “Sunlight and Seaweed – An Argument for How to Feed, Power and Clean up the World”. The proponents of the seaweed farm venture in Moreton Bay Marine Park are part of a new generation of entrepreneurs whose mandate is to make a positive impact, socially (jobs), environmentally and economically (region) in areas where they do business.

At the Sandstone Point Community Association Information Evening (held 16th October 2019), Jo Kelly, one of the proponents, presented and explained in depth their business model and plans, the processes which the project needed to complete for government approvals (such as an Environmental Impact Assessment) and their plans for funding sources. Regarding funding sources: Again, this is an example of how the new generation of entrepreneurs operates.

Ms Kelly explained that once the necessary Governmental requirements had been met and approved, they would continue to seek funding from “Impact Investors”. These are investors who expect their investments to make a positive impact, socially and environmentally. The Bank Australia is one such bank whose mandate is to “put people before profit”. There were many valid enquiries raised by the local community about the impacts of this concept of seaweed farms In Australia.

The audience learned that presently eight Asian nations produce 99% of farmed seaweed; and most importantly, seaweed farms do not need arable land; do not need fresh water for irrigation and do not need fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides. Seaweed is one of the very few foods produced commercially that can have a positive impact on the environment.

Some people were concerned about undesirable sea views that could affect real estate values; some asked where the seaweed would be dried; what would happen if the project failed; would there be excess noise from the boats attending the farm. As was explained, the lowest astronomical tide (LOT) mark is at least 800 metres across the mudflats from real estate and the seaweed farm will be located at least 50 metres beyond the LOT.

Markers will be colours that blend with the ocean colours. And the boats will be moving slowly when on site. Essentially, the seaweed farm would be a kilometre from real estate views across the mangroves and mudflats. The audience heard that plastic was not the only option for the lines holding the seaweed baskets and the farm will cultivate only local native species of seaweed.

As the migratory shorebirds feed primarily in mudflats, intertidal zones, mangroves, beaches and coastal wetlands, it is unlikely they would become entangled in the seaweed farm lines that will be situated in the ocean beyond the mudflats. As studies have demonstrated the positive impacts of seaweed farms are evident. Seaweed farms and Shellfish Reefs are helping to clean unhealthy waterways that are suffering from everincreasing pollution and silt from coastal developments.

They remove nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P); absorb heavy metals and CO2 (become carbon sinks); create habitat for marine life and will likely increase the fish found around the area for anglers. Seaweed farms do not sterilise the ocean floor with waste matter, as do fish and prawn farms. Certainly, seaweed farms do not have the negative impacts, environmentally, visually, socially and economically created by the uncontrolled and unrestricted aggressive and destructive “leisure” activities already allowed in the Moreton Bay Marine Park.

Jet skis, powerboats, 4WD recreational vehicles, for example, are having devastating impacts on passive leisure seekers and our internationally protected waterway and foreshore habitats upon which endangered species rely for caring for our special habitat and its resident’s survival. Not to mention, fireworks, loud open-air concerts and the increased use of beaches adjacent to Conservation Park for off-leash dog recreation.

BIEPA is confident, the seaweed farm is one commercial enterprise that will be the least invasive, compared with the negative impacts other recent business, recreational and unsustainable tourism activities are having on local communities. special habitat and its resident’s survival. Not to mention, fireworks, loud open-air concerts and the increased use of beaches adjacent to Conservation Park for off-leash dog recreation.

BIEPA is confident, the seaweed farm is one commercial enterprise that will be the least invasive, compared with the negative impacts other recent business, recreational and unsustainable tourism activities are having on local communities.

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