Flinders University launch mission to protect Coffin Bay’s water quality

Flinders University heads new research to ensure Coffin Bay water quality for SA oyster farming and fisheries.

Coffin Bay, a gem on South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula, is a scenic tourist haven and a hub for high-quality oysters and marine products. This idyllic setting is now the focus of a significant research initiative led by Flinders University, aimed at preserving its water quality, which is crucial for the area’s flourishing oyster farming and fisheries.

The project, backed by the Australian Research Council (ARC) funding (LP230100230), is a collaborative effort bringing together a multidisciplinary team of nationally acclaimed marine and freshwater sciences experts.

This team, including Flinders University, Charles Darwin University, and Griffith University specialists, is complemented by industry leaders in water, land, and aquaculture management. The initiative, with a budget of $359,977 spread over three years, seeks to delve into the environmental conditions of Coffin Bay that underpin its lucrative aquaculture industry.

Professor Adrian Werner, the project lead from Flinders University, has emphasised the significance of this research.

‘The overarching objective of the project is to assist decision-makers to understand the factors that impact the bay’s water quality, and to optimise the deployment of protective measures for mitigating nutrient and sediment influxes to the bay’, says Professor Werner, who completed an ARC Future Fellowship on coastal hydrogeology.

‘We will use innovative techniques to better understand the complexities of the Coffin Bay system and its catchment, including microbiological source tracking, chemical signature analysis and novel ocean-groundwater-catchment modelling.’

According to Professor Werner, this research is pivotal—not just for Coffin Bay but also for managing and monitoring other Australian bays and estuaries. These water bodies require stable water quality to protect their sensitive ecosystems, along with economically important tourism, aquaculture and fishing industries.

Key collaborators in this endeavour include the Environmental Protection Authority, Lower Eyre Council, Eyre Peninsula Landscape Board, SA Oyster Research Council, and Department for Environment and Water. Flinders University’s own Professor Sabine Dittmann, Associate Professor Graziela Miot da Silva, and Associate Professor Stewart Walker join the ranks as chief investigators, alongside Professor Karen Gibb from CDU and Professor Matthew Currell from Griffith.

This initiative symbolises a concerted effort to preserve the natural beauty and economic vitality of Coffin Bay, ensuring that its waters continue to nurture not only rich marine life but also the communities that depend on them.

For more information on Coffin Bay, click here.

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