white and blue vessel in ocean in front of green island

Inshore water quality monitoring recommences in the Fitzroy region

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12 February 2021

The AIMS water quality team have recommenced field sampling in the coastal waters of the Fitzroy region in the southern Great Barrier Reef, in partnership with the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.

The Fitzroy Basin Marine Monitoring Program for Inshore Water Quality will provide valuable information on the condition and trend of water quality in the high-priority area.

AIMS oceanographer Dr Renee Gruber said given the Fitzroy was the largest basin on Australia’s east coast, the Program was important to understanding the whole story of water quality on the Great Barrier Reef.

“AIMS has monitored water quality on the inshore Great Barrier Reef for 15 years. We measure regularly and over long periods of time to understand the short and long-term changes in coastal waters.

“Our water quality team will monitor several sites between the Fitzroy River mouth and North Keppel Island to track the condition and trend of inshore water quality.

“The team will collect water samples, as well as use a network of underwater loggers to measure sediment and nutrients in coastal waters and other important factors such as water clarity to understand the conditions experienced by seagrasses and corals in the area.”

Instrument technician preparing Fitzroy mooring on ship
Oceanographic instrument technician John Luetchford preparing the brand new Fitzroy River mooring for installation

Great Barrier Reef Foundation Managing Director Anna Marsden said, “Our Reef is an irreplaceable ecosystem, but poorer water quality is one of a growing combination of threats to its health.

“Previous monitoring has highlighted that the Fitzroy is a high priority catchment for water quality improvement as it is a major source of excess sediment to local inshore waters which can have a negative impact to the marine life,” Ms Marsden said.

“A healthy Reef needs healthy water, so it’s critical that we’re monitoring water quality in this area.

“Right now, graziers and land managers in the Fitzroy region are helping us to keep 50,000 tonnes of sediment from running off into the Reef’s waters every year, through our $19.6 million regional water quality improvement program.

“By reinstating this monitoring program, we’ll be able to see exactly how our investments into gully control and streambank rehabilitation already underway through our program in the Fitzroy are helping to improve the quality of water in the area and to reach the targets set out by the Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan.”

The Fitzroy Basin Program will deliver information to the separate, but complementary Great Barrier Reef Marine Monitoring Program (MMP) – Inshore Water Quality. The MMP – Inshore Water Quality monitors other regions of the inshore Great Barrier Reef and is conducted in partnership between the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, AIMS, James Cook University, and the Cape York Water Monitoring Partnership.

The Fitzroy Basin Marine Monitoring Program for Inshore Water Quality is funded by the partnership between the Australian Government’s Reef Trust and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, and AIMS.

Feature image: AIMS’ RV Cape Ferguson operating in coastal waters surrounding the Keppel Islands, which lie to the north of the Fitzroy River mouth.