Environmental flows for subtropical estuaries: understanding the freshwater needs of estuaries for sustainable fisheries production and assessing the impacts of water regulation
Department of Agriculture and Fisheries EcoScience Precinct
Julie B. Robins
Freshwater allocations to sustain fisheries The 1994 COAG Water Reform Agreement and various state legislation (e.g. Water Act 2000 in Queensland) requires managers to allocate water to maintain downstream ecosystem health. One aspect of ecosystem health is estuarine and coastal fisheries production. Information on the role of freshwater in maintaining the productivity of commercial and recreational fisheries is needed to ensure that estuaries and their stakeholders are duly represented in the water allocation processes. Natural resource managers (fisheries and water) need to be made aware of the fishing industry’s vulnerability to the impacts of non-fishing activities, such as water regulation. This issue has been identified as a challenge for the fishing industry in reaching sustainable production (see Challenge 1 of FRDC’s R&D Plan 2000, page 59). Logical frameworks for research leading to new procedures and methods A logical framework needs to be developed for investigating the role of freshwater flows in estuaries. Procedures to assess the impacts of current and proposed water infrastructure in Australian coastal rivers on estuarine fisheries need to be developed. Methods for monitoring biological responses to environmental flows are needed to provide feedback to managers as to whether desired fisheries-related outcomes are being achieved under current water allocations. Enhancing the research outcomes - integrating across research disciplines An integrated research program is needed to develop a robust sampling proceedures that can investigate the role of freshwater flows in estuaries and the impacts of modified flows on fisheries production. The CZCRC offers the opportunity to integrate flow-influenced fisheries data with other hydrological (i.e. costal modelling) and primary productivity (i.e. nutrient cycling) research projects that will provide greater insight into ecosystems processes.
1. To develop a logical framework for investigating (i) the role of freshwater flow, and (ii) the effects of modified flows, on estuarine fisheries production.
2. To review the current knowledge of the relationship between freshwater flows and estuarine fisheries production.
3. To correlate historical flow and fisheries production data of subtropcial Queensland estuaries.
4. To develop procedures for assessing the changes in estuarine fisheries production that result from water abstraction and regulation.
5. To develop and communicate guidelines on environmental flows for estuarine fisheries to water managers, water users, the fishing industry and the general community.
Principal Investigator: Ian Halliday and Julie Robins