OceanWatch Australia Update June 2010

Proud participants at the Tom Foster seniors group in Newtown.

Proud participants at the Tom Foster seniors group in Newtown.

OceanWatch Australia’s Tide to Table program was established in 2004 to find real ‘on-ground’ solutions to improve water quality, rehabilitate fish habitat and help build resilience in the marine environment.

The program was named Tide to Table as a reminder that actions on land influence our waterways, particularly in the estuarine zone which in turn affects the seafood that is available to Australians.

Without healthy, connected habitats of saltmarsh, mangroves and seagrass, marine life has nowhere to eat, breed or shelter. Shellfish harvest areas require good quality water so that aquaculture producers can supply high quality oysters, mussels, scallops and other shellfish to consumers.

Tide to Table not only focuses on the immediate actions to improve our environment, but also the long term goal of changing the behaviour and practices which have led to these problems. This is done by:

  • Running connectivity tours within catchments (groups on buses and boats out learning about the catchment and local industry)
  • Producing easy to understand signage that links behaviour to a response where an issue exists
  • Holding skills workshops for local government
  • Creating educational displays targeting seafood consumers and non-English speaking visitors to Sydney Fish Market
  • Creating displays which highlight how catchment land use affects downstream users, particularly the local seafood industry
"Fishy Tales 2009" (Sydney Metro Catchment Management Authority)

Fishy Tales 2009 (Sydney Metro Catchment Management Authority)

The Tide to Table program has recently acquired funding for five rehabilitation sites surrounding Sydney’s Georges River under a Commonwealth Government ‘Caring for our Country’ grant. ‘Caring for our Country’ is a federal government initiative that funds environmental management of natural resources. The grant aims to support communities, farmers and other land managers to protect Australia’s natural environment and sustainably produce food.

As well as on-the-ground rehabilitation projects, such as that on the Georges River, Tide to Table focuses on educational projects which address consumer behaviour and attitudes which impact marine habitat and water quality. One such example includes work that has recently been carried out with non-English speaking groups from around Sydney. Working with bilingual educators, the Tide to Table team has recently run short workshops discussing topics such as the requirements of healthy marine species, need for good water quality, impact of toxins, imported seafood vs. local produce, and dispelling myths associated with marine ecosystems and seafood consumption.

This culminated in an art exhibition named ‘Fishy Tales’ which took place in November 2009 and featured textile tapestries, watercolours and photographs provided by local artists. The exhibition included small cardboard fish that workshop participants decorated with messages of what they had learned, recipes and their thoughts on the subject of maintaining healthy marine ecosystems. Displayed in a giant mobile these are a reminder that we all have something to contribute. The Tide to Table team hope to host ‘Fishy Tales’ again next year and aim to double the number of participants who took part in this project.