The kelp is not getting enough cold, nutrient-rich water. credit: Mick Baron
There are fears Tasmania's giant kelp forests are almost extinct...
Once strewn all along the east coast of Tasmania, the kelp has now been completely wiped out in that area, according to dive tour operator Mick Baron.
Mr Baron was among a number of stakeholders who gave evidence at a Senate inquiry in Hobart on Tuesday.
He described the situation as the disappearance of a natural reserve.
"The devastation of the forest is I believe ... a national disaster," he said.
The Environment and Communications Reference Committee is examining the current and future impacts of climate change on Australia's marine fisheries and biodiversity.
Mr Baron, who has conducted dive tours off Eaglehawk Neck for 25 years, said climate change was destroying the kelp forests.
"Twenty-five years ago when we started the dive centre, there was kelp everywhere," he said.
"You took it for granted; now, as of the summer last year, we have none."
Listed as endangered in 2012, the kelp is the world's largest marine plant and thrives in cold, nutrient-rich water.
Scientists said east coast waters were warming at a rapid rate, among the world's top 20 fastest.
Dr Neville Barrett, from the Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies, offered a dismal prognosis.
"With that warming, the kelp have tipped over their upper-thermal limit and we've seen that major decline," he said.
Dr Barrett told the inquiry the last remaining forests were in the south and south-west of Tasmania.
"Off the bottom end of Bruny and further south, there are still kelp forests there, but even the major ones around the Actaeon Islands in the far south-east have declined, and seem to be staying at very low levels," he said.
Diver Mr Baron said he feared they would be lost in a few years too.
"I would say in another five to 10 years, it'll be disappearing from there as well," he said.
Mr Baron blamed climate change.
"It's not an assessment, it's a fact," he said.
He said the forests have suffered in the relatively warm, nutrient-poor East Australian Current while not getting a rejuvenating hit from the Southern Ocean during winter.
Mr Baron believed there was no coming back.
"In my opinion, they're gone forever", he said.
"There might be an occasional regeneration on a very small scale but the trend over all those years ... nutrient levels are just too low to maintain decent levels of growth."
Senators told 'it's just too late'
Senators asked Mr Baron and Dr Barrett whether the kelp's threatened status should be upgraded to critically endangered.
Both agreed it was too late.
"There's actually nothing we can do about it," Dr Barrett said.
"Sometimes we try to upgrade something to critical, I can name a species that's in the category at the moment, but there's not much point if really there's no management response that we can address."
For Mr Baron, diving trips to the kelp forest are now a thing a of the past.
"There's nothing we can do, the pressures on it are just too high, they're too big, the questions to improve the environment ... it's just too late," he said.
A committee report is expected in June.
Feb 20, 2017
original story HERE
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