Emergency dredging of the Ettalong Channel will go ahead before researchers figure out how to conserve a rare species in the waterway.
A study headed up by a University of Newcastle marine scientist to map ‘cauliflower coral’ is currently underway, which is funded by Central Coast Council’s Protection of the Environment Trust.
Several populations of the coral are thought to be in the water, including at the mouth of the channel, where machinery to pump out sand will be placed today.
It comes as its declining numbers at nearby Port Stephens is believed to be linked to the coral being covered in a build-up of stuff like sand, known as ‘sedimentation’.
Researchers have cautioned activity disrupting sediment would need a careful review.
In a statement to SeaFM, Terrigal MP, Adam Crouch has disputed there will be any negative effect.
“The Ettalong Channel has been dredged before,” he said.
“The material being removed is clean marine sand that has moved into the channel over the last 12 months, so no coral is at risk of being disturbed.”
Commercial fish like snapper and threatened seahorses are known to associate with the species.
The $650,000 emergency dredging works, which are expected to kick off today, have been much anticipated by the local business community and commuters looking to get to Sydney’s northern beaches.
The Peninsula’s $2 million tourism industry’s been put on hold after the cancellation of ferry services between Ettalong and Wagstaffe to Palm Beach due to tens of thousands of cubic metres of sand clogging up the channel.
Central Coast Council put in an application for 50-50 Rescuing Our Waterways funding earlier this year, in a bid to further clear it up.