THE waters off Western Australia’s south coast will be a focus of discussion at a special symposium of a national marine science conference to be held in Fremantle in July.
Western Australian Marine Science Institution Research Director Jenny Shaw says the symposium is an opportunity to bring the south coast to the attention of government bodies and the wider marine science community.
“This is the first step in understanding what knowledge is available ahead of canvassing government, industry, community and research views on management and what’s important to them about the south coast,” Dr Shaw says.
“Previously, there has been relatively little focus on the south coast.
“However, renewed interest in the opportunity for economic development in this pristine environment has meant it’s time to make this area a focus for research.”
Perth-based Dr Shaw has links to Albany, where for two years she attended the former York Street Senior Primary School. She has also done research work with members of Albany’s fishing industry.
She says she is “really pleased” with the level of interest from south coast researchers and students in participating in the Fremantle symposium.
“It shows there is a lot of research interest in the south coast, and there’s quite a bit of work being done,” she says.
Dr Shaw says several abstracts have been submitted for the symposium, including from researchers based in Albany and Denmark.
“The waters of the south coast are, obviously, quite extensive, and a lot of the areas are quite isolated, and so much of it is poorly understood,” she tells The Voice of the South.
“Compared to the west coast, relatively little is known about the environmental, economic and social issues, and all of those factors are important considerations for the sustainable management of the region.
“We’re really trying to get a better handle on that so we can identify the science priorities and put together a research plan for the south coast.”
Dr Shaw says the first step will be to learn what governments, industry, Indigenous people and the wider community are interested in knowing.
“I’ll be coming down and talking to a whole range of people to better understand what their needs are and what their questions are and the issues they want addressed,” she says.
“Parallel to that, we’ll be reviewing what published and unpublished research has been done and what data has been collected.
“From this we’ll be able to determine the gaps between what people want to know and what’s already been covered in different research projects.
Dr Shaw says these issues will be prioritised and put together to produce a science plan.
“Once we have the plan, we can build a stronger case to fund the research needed to better understand how the marine environment in this region works and how best to manage it,” she explains.
The south coast symposium, which Dr Shaw will chair, is part of the annual conference of the Australian Marine Sciences Association, which this year will be held at Fremantle’s historic Esplanade Hotel from July 7 to 11.