Seagrass pioneer awarded medal
An Albany man’s dedication to the study and restoration of seagrass over more than 30 years was recognised with a prestigious accolade last week.
Geoff Bastyan received the coveted Great Southern Development Commission Medal on Friday.
The sterling silver medal and $12,000 research grant celebrates best practice in natural resource management in the Great Southern region.
Mr Bastyan started self-funded seagrass monitoring in 1981, after noticing a substantial decline in Oyster Harbour.
His commitment to document the disappearance of seagrass meadows and ground-breaking trials to successfully transplant the posidonia australis species has been internationally recognised.
His painstaking efforts to reintroduce seagrass in the 1990s disproved the popular belief that degraded seagrass could not be restored, with 97 per cent survival rates over an area of about 2.5ha.
Seagrass benefits the health of marine ecosystems by providing fish habitat and food, preventing coastal erosion by stabilising sediments and protecting shorelines from large swells, and storing nutrients and carbon.
Mr Bastyan said he was surprised and humbled by the award.
“I was a little overwhelmed,” he said.
“It is great because funding is extremely difficult to come by, so now I have the opportunity to util- ise the $12,000 to attempt to reintroduce another (seagrass) species into Princess Royal Harbour.”
Mr Bastyan said the grant would also be used to complete aerial documentation of the recovery of seagrass in Oyster Harbour over time.
“It has never been recorded to have returned to the degree it has in Oyster Harbour anywhere in the world,” he said.
“That needs to be recognised to show it is possible — it all comes down to environmental planning and promoting best landcare practices.”
Mr Bastyan’s work also earned him the 2014 Southseas Oceans Hero Award from UWA’s Oceans Institute, which recognises marine conservation.
Work restoring seagrass to Albany's harbours earned Geoff Bastyan the 2016 Great Southern Development Commission Medal.