Study to tackle reef ‘sludge’ issue

Jacinta CantatoreHarvey-Waroona Reporter

Two Binningup fishermen are relieved a major university has widened the scope of a study into the health of the Binningup reef.

Murdoch University’s Marine and Freshwater Laboratories will investigate the possible causes behind a grime-like “sludge” covering the reef.

Commissioned by the Southern Ports Authority, the study will now not only investigate the dredging campaigns at Bunbury Port, but other nearby water inputs such as the Harvey River diversion drain, the Southern Seawater Desalination Plant, Collie Power Station and Cristal Pigments.

Recreational fishers Ron Nayler and Gary Davy said the bolstered study was “all they could have wished for”. “It is really heartening that the study will be so comprehensive,” Mr Nayler said.

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Mr Nayler and Mr Davy first noticed the “sludge” about five years ago when they found their cray pots repeatedly covered in it.

They realised there could be wide-ranging effects and took their concerns to politicians, scientists, private companies and local residents.

“The reef is dying,” Mr Nayler said.

“Anywhere else in Australia if the ocean is polluted like it is here, you would think someone would be doing something.”

The pair believe the sludge is worse after the Bunbury Port dumps its dredging spoil out to sea, the ocean current pushing sediments and oils from the port’s basin onto the reef.

But this is where the water becomes murkier.

The dredge spoil dumping point is about 2km offshore in a “no-man’s-land” between State and Federal responsibilities, becoming what Mr Nayler termed a “game of hot potato”.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s State or Federal, it’s about the pollution in the ocean,” he said.

Forrest MHR Nola Marino confirmed her office had acted on Mr Nayler’s concerns.

“We have raised this issue with the Department of Environment and Energy and we are waiting for a response,” she said.

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