Our eyes and ears in the north are checking up on the possible effects of one of the world’s biggest copper mines on the health of the Torres Strait and the Great Barrier Reef
The Australian Government’s National Environmental Science Program (NESP) Tropical Water Quality Hub has invested into research to determine the impact of discharge from the Fly River in Papua New Guinea (which receives the tailings from major mining activities upstream) on the water quality of the northern Torres Strait.
The Torres Strait Regional Authority (TSRA) is a key partner in this research effort, providing on-water capability and expertise through its Land and Sea Rangers.
Under the project Identifying the water quality and ecosystem health threats to the high diversity Torres Strait and Far Northern GBR from runoff from the Fly River, 24 TSRA Land and Sea Rangers were provided with modern salinity monitoring equipment and trained in their use. They carried out salinity testing weekly at Saibai, Boigu, Erub, Masig, Iama, Poruma and Warrior Islands as a way to validate satellite and ocean modelling of the dispersal of the Fly River flood plume into the Torres Strait, amongst other lines of evidence.
Gathered water quality data was uploaded using the TSRA’s Fulcrum system, enabling the scientists to easily download the relevant data in collated spreadsheets.
This training and experience in modern standard environmental data collection represents an increase in capacity for the Land and Sea Rangers, who are all community members of their respective islands. Their role provides vital ecosystem management services in the region for long-term environmental and economic benefits.
TSRA’s Land and Sea Management Unit (LSMU) is the Natural Resource Management (NRM) organisation for the Torres Strait responsible for delivering the National Landcare Program and managing their Indigenous Protected Areas.
The salinity monitoring training has been updated and refresher courses have been provided to the TRSA ranger team to ensure skills retention for the follow-up project: Identifying the water quality and ecosystem health threats to the Torres Strait from the Fly River runoff.
Monitoring of discharge from the Fly River continues.
Photo: Jane Waterhouse