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The Hon. Tanya Plibersek MP observing a White's seahorse at SIMS, Chowder Bay / Gooree. Credit: SIMS

New partnership to advance the restoration of Cockatoo Island's marine environment

The Harbour Trust and Sydney Institute of Marine Science (SIMS) have established a new partnership to advance the scientific study and restoration of the marine environment at Cockatoo Island / Wareamah.

This has been made possible by the much-needed funding allocated by the Australian Government last year to address critical repair work across the Harbour Trust's destinations on Sydney Harbour, which attract more than 2 million visitors per year.

As part of the Cockatoo Island / Wareamah marine restoration pilot project, SIMS conducted initial visual assessments of the marine environment. Using a drone submarine with remote video underwater, the ecological baseline study revealed diverse fish populations and robust kelp growth. Excitingly, a White’s seahorse, which is an endangered species of native seahorse, was discovered at Cockatoo Island / Wareamah for the very first time.

It is the furthest up Sydney Harbour that a White’s seahorse has been recorded and demonstrates the potential to explore targeted marine interventions, which could include introducing artificial structures to boost marine biodiversity.

On Friday 31 May, the Minister for Environment and Water, the Hon. Tanya Plibersek MP attended a private release of 100 White’s seahorses into Sydney’s Chowder Bay / Gooree to rejuvenate the White’s seahorse population. This event, hosted by SIMS, follows last year’s release of 300 White’s seahorses as part of a program by the institute to reintroduce the endangered species into Sydney Harbour.

Harbour Trust Executive Director Janet Carding said, ‘The Harbour Trust is proud to partner with SIMS on this pilot project to test the viability of fish habitats at Cockatoo Island / Wareamah and their potential to reinvigorate the western harbour. Little is known about its underwater environment and the impacts the island’s historical activities have had. Supporting and repairing biodiversity is as important below the waterline as it is on land. By collaborating with SIMS, we are opening the door for more possibilities in the future, since marine life is an essential part of the Sydney Harbour that connects all our destinations.’

A key action from the Cockatoo Island / Wareamah Draft Master Plan is to support Sydney Harbour biodiversity and enhance rehabilitation of the waters around Cockatoo Island / Wareamah. This will create new marine, interpretive and educational opportunities for visitors to learn about the life of the harbour. The Cockatoo Island / Wareamah Master Plan outlines a vision to reactivate and transform the island into the vibrant heart of Western Sydney Harbour and is due to be published mid-2024.


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Learn more about Cockatoo Island / Wareamah and Chowder Bay / Gooree.