Sheridan works as the station assistant at Moreton Bay Research Station, looking after school groups – she gets to watch the eyes of young people light up as they see the Bay and learn about what’s under the water!
In this episode, we talked about her work at the station, but also about Sheridan’s own research: thinks that might not be known even by people who use Moreton Bay regularly…
A lot of folk don’t know we have these marine favourites in Moreton Bay, but we do – we’ve got plenty! Take a look at this beauty (returned safe and sound to the water):
Seahorses aren’t the best of swimmers, so they prefer shallower, calmer waters where they anchor themselves by wrapping their prehensile tail around something like coral rubble, seagrass or even mangroves.
Seagrass is habitat or food for a lot of the species we love in Moreton Bay. Dugongs and green turtles rely on it, and it is the nursery-home to oodles of fish species. Unfortunately, chronic poor water quality or unexpected events like floods of 2011 can have huge impact on the distribution and health of seagrass in the bay.
Seagrass is a flowering plant, but Caulerpa taxifolia that Sheridan mentioned is a seaweed which is actually algae. Caulerpa looks and feels a bit like plastic and it’s a bit more resilient than seagrass. When seagrass is lost, Caulerpa will often “move in” before the seagrass has a chance to regrow or recover, so the seagrass bed is lost for good.
This could be really bad news for our long-snouted friends, as seahorse prefer seagrass and will avoid Caulerpa where they have the option of both- so what happens if the seagrass is lost and there’s only seaweed? Sygnathids already have “an intermediate-to-low ability to resist or recover from disturbance or decline” so losing their seagrass homes could be devastating.
More reason to appreciate and look after our local seagrass (as if we didn’t have enough already!)
Women in fisheries
Sheridan’s also done some really interesting research around women in small-scale fisheries, and what she’s found is pretty thought-provoking.
About half of the world’s fisheries workforce is women, and they suffer disproportionately when their fisheries are depleted due to unsustainable business practices.
But they’re under represented in managing these resources, so they’re facing changes made by others, aren’t informed about why such changes are made, but they don’t have the opportunity to contribute their knowledge or build solutions that work for their families’ health and security.
This is clearly not ideal. Thankfully there are growing numbers of professionals who recognise that it’s essential to be more inclusionary in all marine conservation / management initiatives, around the world from small-island states to industrial nations.
I’m most intrigued by Sheridan’s response to the question of whether this situation is mirrored at all in Moreton Bay. Our fisheries are commercial and recreational rather than subsistence, but Sheridan suggested women’s experiences, expertise, and their catch might be as undervalued here as they are in the Solomon Islands, where she did her research.
I’d love to know your thoughts on this! Are you a woman who loves to fish? Or fishes for a living? What are your thoughts on how women’s knowledge is represented in the management of Moreton Bay?
Leave a comment below or on the Moreton Bay socials (Twitter or Facebook)!