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Condition of marine ecosystem health

Key finding

Queensland’s marine environments vary significantly in condition. Some are in good to very good condition while others do not meet standards for water quality.

Queensland

Queensland’s marine environments are in varying condition.

Monitoring of marine ecosystem health focuses predominantly on the east coast of Queensland where the majority of Queensland’s population live.

Open marine environments are in generally ‘good’ condition as any pollutants are flushed out into the ocean. Many closed marine environments are being heavily impacted by pollutants that flow from catchments and rivers.

The pollutants result from historic land uses, development and poor land management practices.

We need to protect marine environments while we work to rehabilitate and restore degraded areas.

Healthy Land and Water South East Queensland report card

The Healthy Land and Water South East Queensland Report Card reports on indicators of marine health across several zones within Moreton Bay, Pumicestone Passage and the Broadwater on the Gold Coast.

Queensland Government scientists collect data to measure a range of water quality indicators. Other indicators such as fish, corals and seagrass are aspects of a marine ecosystem that can be measured to help assess the overall condition of the marine environment.

The report card grades vary from ‘good’ in the western marine areas to ‘excellent’ in the east. Moreton Bay shows positive signs of recovery after the impact of floodwaters from the region’s rivers between 2009 and 2013. Seagrass was growing at greater depths due to improved water clarity in 2017: seagrass meadows are currently estimated at 160km² in Moreton Bay. This recovery is related to less sediment entering the bay from catchments in recent years.

Historic and current land management practices have caused substantial erosion in South East Queensland catchments. Erosion leads to sediment or mud entering waterways. This can smother seagrass and reduce water clarity, affecting animal and plant life.

Overall the report card shows that sediment and the long-term loss of riparian or riverbank vegetation are the major pressures affecting marine condition in SEQ.

More information:

    Great Barrier Reef report card

    The Great Barrier Reef report cards document progress toward meeting water quality and catchment indicator targets set through the Reef Water Quality Protection Plan from 2009 to 2017 and will subsequently be set through the Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan in 2018. The report card documents the Great Barrier Reef’s inshore marine condition based on the results from monitoring and/or modelling indicators of ecosystem health and resilience (i.e. water quality, seagrass and coral health). Trends in these indicators are used to evaluate the Reef’s overall health, as well as assessing progress towards improving water quality through changes in land management practices.

    The 2009 report card provided the baseline of the inshore marine condition. Subsequent report cards have shown change over time. The most recent report cards (2015-2016) indicate:

    • Inshore marine water quality is moderate
    • Inshore coral reefs have improved from a poor to moderate condition
    • Inshore seagrass habitats show signs of recovery in some regions but remain in poor condition overall.

    Marine condition takes a long time to respond to changes in land management practices and is strongly influenced by severe weather, such as tropical cyclones and floods, which have impacted the region in recent years. Water quality improvements are expected in the long-term, provided land management practice reforms continue.

    More information:

      Fitzroy Basin report card

      The Fitzroy Partnership for River Health report card reports on freshwater and estuarine health of the catchments within the Fitzroy Basin. Marine condition presented as part of the regional report card directly uses the Great Barrier Reef Report Card Fitzroy region grade.

      This is produced using data from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s Marine Monitoring Program. It assesses inshore water quality, seagrass and coral health.

      • The overall marine condition remained ‘poor’ in 2015-2016.
      • Inshore seagrass was ‘very poor’ in 2014-2015 and improved in 2015-2016 to ‘poor’ condition.
      • Coral reefs have improved from ‘very poor’ to ‘poor’ condition since 2013-2014.
      • Water quality was ‘moderate’ in 2015-2016.

      The Great Barrier Reef Report Card Fitzroy area incorporates more than just the Fitzroy Basin.

      Although the Great Barrier Reef Report Card found the Fitzroy marine zone to be in ‘poor’ condition, the Fitzroy Basin report card found water quality to be in ‘good’ condition based on scores for the region’s freshwater catchments.

      More information:

        Gladstone Harbour report card

        Marine areas in the Gladstone Harbour report card are separated into inner harbour, mid harbour and outer harbour. The report card for 2016 assigned an overall D score to all, down on the previous year’s scores.

        • The inner harbour had very good water quality (A) however the extent of seagrass scored E.
        • Mid harbour scored A for water quality and D for habitat (measuring both seagrass and coral).
        • The outer harbour scored B for water quality and E for habitat (coral).

        The overall seagrass condition for the 2015-2016 year was ‘poor’.  Seagrass meadows provide important ecosystem functions including sediment stabilisation, nutrient cycling and carbon sequestration as well as being a nursery for juvenile fish and foraging area for dugongs, turtles and large fish.

        Coral communities in Gladstone Harbour are in ‘very poor’ condition however harbour-wide mean density of juvenile corals increased between the 2015 and 2016 surveys, suggesting positive signs of recovery since flooding in 2013.

        More information:

          Mackay–Whitsunday report card

          The marine results for Mackay-Whitsundays are separated into offshore marine and 4 inshore marine areas: inshore North, inshore Whitsunday, inshore Central and inshore Southern.

          In both 2015 and 2016, offshore marine scored  B overall (comprised of A for water quality and C for coral).

          The inshore marine scores were:

          • Inshore North: 2015 D, and 2016 C overall (no data for water quality and C for coral and seagrass)
          • Inshore Whitsunday: 2015 D, and 2016 C overall (D for water quality, B for coral and C for seagrass)
          • Inshore Central: 2015 C and 2016 C overall (C for water quality, D for coral and C for seagrass)
          • Inshore Southern 2015 and 2016 no data.

          More information:

            Wet Tropics report card

            The Wet Tropics report card details the health of the region’s waterways including its major rivers, estuaries, inshore and offshore reefs.

            Most Wet Tropics waterways were graded as ‘moderate’ (C) in the pilot 2015 report card.

            An overall score of A (‘very good’) was given to the offshore marine zone in the 2017 report card, comprising:

            • water quality — A
            • coral — B.

            Water quality in the offshore zone is less affected by plumes of sediments, nutrients and pesticides from river discharge than the inshore zones due to its distance from the land.

            The offshore zone includes numerous coral reefs, 15 of which are included in the report card surveys. These reefs provide habitats for an immense diversity of life.

            The Wet Tropics has 4 inshore marine reporting zones: North, Central, South, and Palm Island. Here, coral reefs often occur in shallow fringing waters of continental islands. Inshore marine health is assessed on water quality, coral, seagrass and fish.

            The 2017 report card provided varied inshore grades: ‘moderate’ for the North, Central and South zones and ‘good’ for the Palm Island zone.

            • The score for the Central zone has decreased from ‘good’ to ‘moderate’ since 2014-2015.
            • Scores for all other zones have increased since 2014-2015.

            More information:

              Condamine Catchment report card

              Marine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

              More information:

              QCatchment Bulloo

              Marine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

              More information:

              QCatchment Paroo

              Marine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

              More information:

              QCatchment Warrego

              Marine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

              More information:

              QCatchment Nebine

              Marine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

              More information:

              QCatchment Lake Eyre

              Marine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

              More information:

              QCatchment Archer

              Marine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

              More information:

              QCatchment Coleman

              Marine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

              More information:

              QCatchment Ducie

              Marine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

              More information:

              QCatchment Endeavour

              Marine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

              More information:

              QCatchment Holroyd

              Marine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

              More information:

              QCatchment Jacky Jacky

              Marine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

              More information:

              QCatchment Jardine

              Marine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

              More information:

              QCatchment Jeannie

              Marine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

              More information:

              QCatchment Lockhart

              Marine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

              More information:

              QCatchment Normanby

              Marine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

              More information:

              QCatchment Olive–Pascoe

              Marine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

              More information:

              QCatchment Stewart

              Marine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

              More information:

              QCatchment Wenlock

              Marine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

              More information:

              Indicator: Condition of marine ecosystem health

              Condition of marine ecosystem health identified in various water quality report card areas across Queensland.

              Great Barrier Reef report card

              See also: Estuarine and marine ecosystems assessment summary.

              Healthy Land and Water South East Queensland report card

              Report card does not provide an overall grade.

              See also: Estuarine and marine ecosystems assessment summary.

              Fitzroy Partnership for River Health report card

              Overall grade applies to freshwater and estuarine ecosystem health only.

              See also: Estuarine and marine ecosystems assessment summary.

              Gladstone Harbour report card

              Overall grade applies to estuarine and marine ecosystem health only.

              See also: Estuarine and marine ecosystems assessment summary.

              Mackay–Whitsunday Healthy Rivers to Reef Partnership report card

              Report card does not provide an overall grade.

              See also: Estuarine and marine ecosystems assessment summary.

              Condamine Catchment report card

              Marine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

              See also: Estuarine and marine ecosystems assessment summary.

              QCatchment Bulloo

              Marine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

              See also: Estuarine and marine ecosystems assessment summary.

              QCatchment Paroo

              Marine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

              See also: Estuarine and marine ecosystems assessment summary.

              QCatchment Warrego

              Marine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

              See also: Estuarine and marine ecosystems assessment summary.

              QCatchment Nebine

              Marine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

              See also: Estuarine and marine ecosystems assessment summary.

              Wet Tropics Healthy Waterways Partnership report card

              Marine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

              See also: Estuarine and marine ecosystems assessment summary.

              QCatchment Lake Eyre

              Marine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

              See also: Estuarine and marine ecosystems assessment summary.

              QCatchment Archer

              Marine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

              See also: Estuarine and marine ecosystems assessment summary.

              QCatchment Coleman

              Marine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

              See also: Estuarine and marine ecosystems assessment summary.

              QCatchment Ducie

              Marine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

              See also: Estuarine and marine ecosystems assessment summary.

              QCatchment Endeavour

              Marine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

              See also: Estuarine and marine ecosystems assessment summary.

              QCatchment Holroyd

              Marine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

              See also: Estuarine and marine ecosystems assessment summary.

              QCatchment Jacky Jacky

              Marine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

              See also: Estuarine and marine ecosystems assessment summary.

              QCatchment Jardine

              Marine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

              See also: Estuarine and marine ecosystems assessment summary.

              QCatchment Jeannie

              Marine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

              See also: Estuarine and marine ecosystems assessment summary.

              QCatchment Lockhart

              Marine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

              See also: Estuarine and marine ecosystems assessment summary.

              QCatchment Normanby

              Marine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

              See also: Estuarine and marine ecosystems assessment summary.

              QCatchment Olive–Pascoe

              Marine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

              See also: Estuarine and marine ecosystems assessment summary.

              QCatchment Stewart

              Marine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

              See also: Estuarine and marine ecosystems assessment summary.

              QCatchment Wenlock

              Marine ecosystems not analysed in report card publication.

              See also: Estuarine and marine ecosystems assessment summary.

              Download data from Queensland Government data

              Last updated 8 January 2019

              Assessment summary

              See an overview of gradings for estuarine and marine ecosystems in the assessment summary.