Comprehensive marine research and monitoring in the sea off Binningup could provide a blueprint for similar studies at the State Government’s proposed major gas precinct near James Point in the Kimberley.
Water Minister Graham Jacobs said the research, undertaken by Murdoch and Curtin universities and Western Whale Research (WWR), would increase knowledge of the marine environment off the Binningup and Myalup coast and gauge effects of the Southern Seawater Desalination Project.
“Today’s announcement of new comprehensive marine research in the Binningup area will provide a vast amount of knowledge about sea life and will be supported by existing research already undertaken by Murdoch University during the past three years, in concert with Bunbury’s Dolphin Discovery Centre,” Dr Jacobs said.
“This gives the project access to additional dolphin population data to the south of the current project’s 30km research area between Binningup and Preston Beach.”
The project also draws on more than 10 years of data obtained by WWR and Curtin University’s Centre for Marine Science and Technology (CMST) on the presence and movement of whales in south-western Australia.
Murdoch University’s Cetacean Research Unit has started to obtain data on habitat use and the abundance of dolphins and the seasonal presence or absence of whales, penguins, seals, sea lions and turtles.
CMST has deployed a sea noise logger near the site of the proposed ocean outfall diffusers which will collect 200-second samples of sea noise every 15 minutes across two years.
WWR will co-ordinate an onshore community marine monitoring and training program using interested community members, trained to undertake long-term, land-based surveying.
“The combination of Murdoch and Curtin universities scientific activity, with community involvement through WWR, will establish clear baseline information to allow for future comparisons, which makes this project so worthwhile and why the Government views it as a forerunner for studies near James Point,” the Minister said.
Dr Jacobs said he was pleased the Water Corporation had initiated the research and monitoring program outside of the desalination project’s required environmental approvals process. He was confident the results would benefit the Kimberley.
“The scientific research will allow for a future comparison of data from before and after the implementation of the Southern Seawater Desalination Project and any impacts the project might have on a variety of sea creatures,” he said.
“Similar preliminary studies and information gathering will be needed as the Kimberley gas precinct progresses.”