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Program 3 - Torres Strait: Status, Use and Trends

Research facilities available for hire at Yorke Island, Torres Strait

(3 May 2011) Facilities at Yorke Island (Masig) are available for scientists, researchers and program managers looking to conduct projects in the Torres Strait region.  Facilities include dive boats, SCUBA equipment and accommodation.

Kailag Enterprises Ltd is a not-for-profit Indigenous organisation based at Yorke Island.  The company manages an aquaculture venture producing bath sponges at an approved marine farm, and currently employs eight Indigenous staff experienced in diving and scientific work with scientists.  Kailag staff can also assist in the provision of services for projects, including boat drivers (coxswains) and experienced SCUBA divers. 

Kailag can offer the facilities and staff on a negotiated contractual basis to organisations interested in marine based research projects, surveys and field programs at or near the Yorke Island group.

For further information, download the Kailag flyer and/or contact Kailag Enterprises CEO Philippa Bauer on 0457 809 007.

Program Leader:  Mr Vic McGrath, Torres Strait Regional Authority

Program 3 will focus on identifying key issues in Torres Strait that should lead to the development of indicators to be incorporated into a Data Integration and Synthesis process that will assist development of environmental reporting for the Torres Strait region and incorporation into the e-Atlas

Indicators will align with broad 'Land and Sea Program' issues to assist management decision making through the provision of precise information on environmental condition and trends of the region. The issues and indicators described above will be identified through a process of engaging with stakeholders in Torres Strait, including Torres Strait Regional Authority Executive Members, the Community Liaison Officer, and relevant management agencies.  The engagement will include explanation of what has been learned from the work of CRC Torres Strait in relation to the 'health of the marine ecosystem', and facilitate dialogue about the linkages between research and management approaches in the Torres Strait region.

The intent is to then evaluate the identified key issues (and in discussion and interaction with the stakeholders of Torres Strait), with the following aims:

  • To identify existing management objectives associated with them;

  • To identify conceptual models of the processes surrounding those key issues; 

  • To identify potential indicators and thresholds of status and trends in each issue;

  • To identify, prioritise and undertake the research needed to develop those indicators with thresholds of concern, limits and implied actions, and to develop systems to measure and report on them, and link them into the overall report card; and

  • To contribute to the development of Data Integration and Synthesis process for reporting the ecosystem health of Torres Strait.

The primary objective of work undertaken in the first two years of the Program was to identify appropriate areas were future research is required in the Torres Strait region.  Climate change, ecological assessment of wild commercial sponges, investigation of co-management for hand collectable fisheries and the repatriation of knowledge will be key areas for research in the third year of the Program. 

Previous work under the CRC Torres Strait has identified the potential of bath sponge aquaculture in Torres Strait.  Through this program an assessment of the distribution and abundance of wild commercial sponge species in Torres Strait, identification of elements of environmental risk (evidence of disease, sedimentation), and establishment of an ecologically sustainable strategy for seed stock harvest will be established.  The outcomes from this research will provide fundamental information for the support of a sustainable bath sponge aquaculture industry.

Climate change issues in the Torres Strait region has been raised in response to the inundation events experienced on several of the islands over recent years. Climate change impacts likely to be experienced in the coming years include less predictable winds and currents that will affect traditional and commercial fishing practices, an increase in disease vectors (e.g. mosquitoes carrying dengue), cultural impacts from flooded heritage sites (e.g. grave yards) and reduced fresh water resources.  The primary goal of this project is to establish ways to increase community resilience to environmental change in the Torres Strait Islands by integrating scientific and socio-economic assessments to develop recommendations for climate change resilience and adaptation and planning in Torres Strait.

Management agencies are interested in trialing adaptive co-management of fishery resources in the Torres Strait.  The project will prototype methods of assessing the social, economic, cultural and ecological benefits resulting from co-management using the hand collectables fisheries (beche de mer and trochus) as a case study.  It would also develop the role for communities to contribute to reporting initiatives being developed through Program 3.

Community feedback has indicated that not all past and present research activities in the Torres Strait region have been appropriately disseminated to communities.  As part of MTSRF Theme 5, a proposal has been submitted to develop appropriate format and delivery mechanisms of scientific research in the Torres Strait Islands, the information gained through this process will help the assessment of future research investment in the region.

Further Information

Ms Mellissa Jess
Torres Strait Program Research Manager
Reef and Rainforest Research Centre Limited
Tel: (07) 4050 7400


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