What’s the state of Sydney Harbour at the moment? Is it healthy?
Like any urban harbour with millions of people around it there are some issues but I’m pleased to say Sydney Harbour is one of the finest examples of a working harbour that actually has biodiversity. In spite of pressures with stormwater, sewage run-off, dredging and seawalls it’s doing pretty well at least in the water column. If you dig into the sediment there are some issues there of course, with the past use of heavy metals and dioxins so we have to be very careful to not release those, but as it stands it’s in surprisingly good shape.
What are some of the threats to marine life in our harbour?
There are a gamut of threats that could potentially affect the harbour. One of the big ones at the moment is global warming, which is one of the results of human-caused climate change. In Sydney Harbour and Sydney surrounds the winter and summer temperatures are a little bit warmer than they used to be. Sea level rise and fresh water input are additional other climate change effects. We’ve done a lot of cleaning up of Sydney Harbour but there’s still a long way to go with threats from previous industrialisation and human pressures like stormwater runoff and, to a certain degree, overfishing.
Why is it important to help the small fish?
We would like to think using our modern knowledge and technology we can actually redress some of the imbalances from the past. Sydney Harbour, as you can imagine hundreds of years ago, was a natural harbour with mangroves and natural shorelines and that has been gradually replaced by artificial shorelines. Even though the project doesn’t return it to nature, it redresses the balance a little bit and enhances the near-shore biodiversity.
If successful what do you hope this project will achieve?
Onsite we’re hoping it attracts fish that probably were here naturally but may not use the rock walls. I’d like to think it’s a model for other areas too so we can produce something that’s viable and interesting enough to people that they use it elsewhere around the world. There are lots of urban harbours that this could be applied to.