Algae bloom on Fraser Coast

algae

Algae bloom hot spot a fish feeding magnet

Fraser Coast seas have been identified as an algae bloom hot spot and fish-feeding magnet by researchers at the University of Southern Queensland and Griffith University.

Caused by ocean upwelling, a spectacle that involves the wind driving nutrient-rich water towards the ocean surface, the phenomenon plays a crucial role in the fishing industry by producing a readily available food source for yellowfin tuna and other marine species.

University of Southern Queensland Associate Professor in Climatology Joachim Ribbe, PhD research student Daniel Brieva and Griffith University scientists have been able to identify, document and name the ‘Southeast Fraser Island Upwelling System’ for the first time.

In their recently released academic paper titled ‘Is the East Australian Current causing a marine ecological hot-spot and important fisheries near K’gari (Fraser Island), Australia?’ the scientists show that the strengths and variability of the East Australian Current are the main cause of this upwelling system.

Dr Ribbe said that on average about eight algae blooms occurred each spring/summer season, occupying large areas of the continental shelf southeast of Fraser Island.

“They cover an area about the size of Hervey Bay or about 2000 to 3000 square kilometres. Each algae bloom lasts about one week.

“Algae only bloom if nutrients and light are available. Usually, the surface ocean is low in nutrients but ocean upwelling delivers nutrient-rich water from deeper parts of the ocean back to the surface.

“Basically, ocean upwelling is fertilising the surface ocean and consequently algae start to grow and become available to the ocean food chain.”

 

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Key ecological area

Dr Ribbe said the high marine productivity appears to support a valuable fisheries area.

“This key ecological area located southeast of Fraser Island is one of eight along the east coast of Australia.

“The surface ocean waters to the east of Australia are usually characterised by very low marine productivity. The supply of nutrients in very distinct regions leads to very high marine productivity.”

Dr Ribbe said more work was needed to investigate the biodiversity of the region and the overall impact the algae blooms were having on the ocean environment.

A hot spot for fishing

A push to market Fraser Coast as Australia’s home of fishing took a step forward in February 2015 when USQ  Associate Professor in Climatology Joachim Ribbe met with Fraser Coast Opportunities acting Tourism Manager Tas Webber.

Associate Professor Ribbe, PhD research student Daniel Brieva and Griffith University scientists recently identified the seas near Fraser Island as an algae bloom hotspot and fish-feeding magnet.

Caused by the ocean upwelling, the formation of algae blooms plays a crucial role in the fishing industry by producing a readily available food source for yellowfin tuna and other marine species.

Mr Webber said Fraser Coast Opportunities already had a recreational fishing strategy in place that proposed to market the region as Australia’s home of fishing.

“The research by Joachim and his fellow scientists gives the credentials for this region to back itself as Australia’s home of fishing,” Mr Webber said.

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