Standard Presentation (15 mins) Australian Marine Sciences Association 2022

The Seagrass Monitoring Trifecta: Traditional Owners, Scientists and Management. A Torres Strait Partnership. (#74)

Alex Carter 1 , Madeina David 2 , Moni Carlisle 2 , Terrence Whap 2 , Jane Mellors 1 , Michael Rasheed 1 , Abbi Scott 1 , Richard Davis 3 , Lynne Jones 3 , Aaron Bon 2 , Troy Laza 2 , Laura Pearson 2 , Stan Lui 2
  1. Tropwater, James Cook University, Smithfield, QLD, Australia
  2. Torres Strait Regional Authority (TSRA), Thursday Island, QLD, Australia
  3. Northern Australia Quarantine Strategy (NAQS), Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (DAWE), Cairns, QLD, Australia

The extensive and diverse seagrass meadows of Torres Strait make it one of the primary seagrass habitats in the world. These meadows provide critical habitat for dugong, green turtle, and other fishery species that are of immense cultural and spiritual importance to Torres Strait Islanders. The Torres Strait Seagrass Monitoring Program includes a network of sites, which include: Ranger-led intertidal monitoring at 6 islands (established 2009) and 3 deep-water meadows (established 2011), and Researcher-led monitoring of 4 reef top meadows (established 2016) and 9 meadows at the Port of Thursday Island (established 2002). Results across all monitoring programs are reported in an annual seagrass report card. The report card was established in 2018 as a means of synthesizing and comparing information from the growing number of monitoring locations. In late 2019, Rangers and Researchers recorded significant seagrass declines across 3 monitoring programs in western Torres Strait. Our talk focusses on the importance of the collaboration between Rangers and Researchers in detecting these declines, and the swift response by TSRA Sea Team management and partnerships which led to Rangers, Researchers, Managers, and Traditional Owners working together to clarify the extent of these declines and investigate potential causes.