Sea­grass pioneer awarded medal

Albany Advertiser - - BUSINESS - Lisa Mor­ri­son

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.

Pic­ture: Lau­rie Ben­son

Work restor­ing sea­grass to Al­bany's har­bours earned Geoff Bastyan the 2016 Great South­ern De­vel­op­ment Com­mis­sion Medal.

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