Coastal areas of Australia, especially those close to urban areas, are under increasing pressure from industrial and tourism developments, and the associated infrastructure to support them. These shallow-water coastal and estuarine areas will also continue to be the focus of attention by the recreational and commercial fishing sectors. An understanding of the impacts of damage to key intertidal habitats will allow managers to minimise the adverse impacts and developmental degradation on Australia's fisheries resources.
There is currently no detailed information available on the specific effects of loss or damage to intertidal estuarine habitats on the animal assemblages that utilise these habitats, despite the recognised importance of the habitats and the benthic invertebrates to fisheries resources. Studies which have examined the effects of damage to subtidal habitats have shown important links to fisheries utilising these habitats (e.g. Sainsbury et al., 1993). Similar studies should be a priority for critical intertidal estuarine habitats. Although this project focuses on damage to intertidal habitats caused by bait-harvesting, the results of this work will be applicable to other sources of damage to these habitats, providing an important database establishing causal relationships between effects on the physical structure of the habitat and impacts on the associated animals.