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Estuary Science

An estuaries program is being developed with the vision of delivering  A complete, ‘whole-of-system’ management and planning guide for supporting healthy estuaries and the sustainable development of their catchments throughout WA, based on leading-indicator knowledge of estuarine response to any environmental or development scenario across the catchment-freshwater-estuarine-coastal continuum and an integrated assessment of estuarine function, use and governance.

Collaborating for our estuaries: workshop report

Estuaries pose complex management problems worldwide. Many of our estuaries here in Western Australia are under pressure, especially in the southwest of the state, and without better-informed management could quickly reach tipping points beyond which community, economic and environmental values will be compromised.

However, despite the increasing urgency, there’s evidence of an ongoing disconnect between researchers and managers about the priority knowledge needed to inform decision-making about Western Australia’s estuaries.

“We’ve got some big challenges ahead of us and really only a limited number of people focussing on estuary research in WA,” said Malcolm Robb, Manager of Aquatic Science at the WA Department of Water. “We need a cooperative approach to research, and well-targeted investment in priority areas if we’re going to avoid serious problems in the future.”

WAMSI’s here to help. In partnership with the Swan River Trust and Department of Water, we hosted a workshop in Perth on 25 September 2014, at which 60 people - half from research and half from management organisations - made important steps towards agreement about critical knowledge gaps and a more collaborative way forward.

“WAMSI has a lot of experience in facilitating collaboration and managing science so that it leads to better decisions in the marine realm, and we’re happy to start taking advantage of that for the benefit of WA’s estuarine systems and stakeholders too,” added Malcolm.

Workshop attendees listened to Tom Hatton and Malcolm Robb discusses challenges to estuaries and estuary research, and then the attendees’ workshopped the knowledge needs for six priority southwest estuarine systems: the Swan-Canning, Peel-Harvey, Leschenault, Hardy, Wilson and Wellstead.

“It was great,” said Patrick Seares, WAMSI’s CEO. “I enjoyed the frank debate around the tables, but importantly we always ended up landing on agreed priorities and a better understanding of different points of view through good discussion.”

The workshop is part of a longer-term process.  A survey was completed by over 20 organisations to help compile the discussion paper for this workshop.  A draft report will now be developed in consultation with local, national and international experts on estuary management. Encouragingly, a post-workshop survey showed over 90% of attendees thought it was valuable and everyone wanted to stay involved.

“Ultimately we’ll provide a report that outlines priorities for research and monitoring agreed by both researchers and managers, and also a commitment to collaborate on this research,” said Patrick. “I think this will be a very strong business case for investing in important estuaries research in our southwest.”