Saltmarsh under threat

News article |

Nationally Threatened coastal saltmarsh habitat is slowly being degraded by people with vehicles and machinery such as bobcats modifying the environment to create areas for riding motorbikes in the Whyalla area.

The incoming Eyre Peninsula Landscape Board will be working hard in coming years to protect these fragile saltmarshes on the Eyre Peninsula as part of the Saltmarsh Threat Abatement and Recovery project (STAR). The project is supported by funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.

Local staff member Tim Breuer has been involved with the project for almost 12 months and wants the public to understand the importance of the coastal saltmarsh in the area and to help protect it.

“Our saltmarshes play critical roles in the local environment, from providing an important nursery habitat for juvenile marine life - including fish, prawns and sea birds - to filtering terrestrial water runoff before it reaches the open ocean," Mr Breuer said.

“As a society, we are becoming much more aware of the importance of these complex ecosystems, which are highly productive ecosystems at feeding ocean food webs.

“Unfortunately we have seen some disturbing incidents recently, particularly involving motorbikes and earth moving machinery, being used irresponsibly in saltmarshes around Whyalla.

“These incidents don’t go unnoticed and it’s a shame that some individuals are treating our sensitive environment in this manner. The damage can take many years to recover and in some cases the saltmarsh may never fully recover.”

Department for Environment and Water Crown Lands Officer Barry Fryar said he was concerned about the use of vehicles and heavy machinery to modify Crown Land without lawful authority.

“It is an offence under section 61 of the Crown Land Management Act for a person without lawful authority to drive vehicles on crown land, other than on established roads or tracks or in circumstances prescribed by regulation, or to excavate, interfere with or damage crown land, or carry out unauthorised activities. People engaging in these acts could attract a penalty of up to $20,000,” Mr Fryer said.

Mr Breuer said it was important to shake off the ‘wasteland’ tag historically associated with saltmarshes.

“We want to continue working with the community to protect these important areas and discuss how we collectively want to see them looking into the future,” he said.

“The saltmarsh is a fascinating and beautiful environment for us all to enjoy but we need to be responsible in the way we enjoy this sensitive ecological community.”

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