Cockburn Sound, West Australia, Indian Ocean

Cockburn Sound is a large marine embayment, over 110 sqkm, and is located some 20 km south of the Perth-Fremantle area, Western Australia, Indian Ocean.
Accessibility in all weather, unique natural assets and proximity to transport routes, industry and port infrastructure has resulted in Cockburn Sound becoming one of the busiest and most popular marine water bodies in Western Australia. Cockburn Sound has had an intense history of industrial, commercial, urban and recreational development and use. Development and use of the shores and waters has been ongoing since colonial settlement in 1829 and has resulted in substantial economic benefit to all Western Australians. However, these benefits have increasingly put pressure on the environment, which needs careful management, especially as all types of use are expected to intensify.
In the late 1960's to early 1970's most of the seagrass meadows in Cockburn Sound were severely degraded as a result of nutrient enrichment of the waters of the Sound. Degradation was enhanced by reduced flushing (up to 40%) caused by the construction of a causeway linking Garden Island to the mainland in the mid 1970s. Sediments, water and biota were also contaminated with toxicants and pathogens. These impacts were attributed to waste discharges to these waters since the mid-1950's. Since the 1970's the Western Australian state government, in partnership with industry, local government and the community, has worked to improve the environmental values of Cockburn Sound. Through this effort the water and sediment quality within the Sound has improved substantially. However, issues still remain in regard to tributyltin (TBT) contaminated sediment and biota at Careening Bay and Northern Harbour and nutrient enrichment and pathogen transport via groundwater and stormwater surface flow from the catchment. Seagrass, while never expected to return to pre-1970 levels, has had a slight increase in area. It is estimated seagrass coverage is now approximately 15-20% of historical levels.
The partnerships formed over a number of years through the effort to improve the environment of Cockburn Sound, and continuing community concern about the state of the marine environment and the need for better coordination resulted in the formation of the Cockburn Sound Management Council in 2000. The Cockburn Sound Management Council's purpose is to coordinate environmental planning and management of Cockburn Sound and its catchment http://csmc.environment.wa.gov.au).
In response to increasing pressures on the Sound, the Western Australian Government released the State Environmental (Cockburn Sound) Policy 2005 which outlines the environmental objectives and criteria for the management of Cockburn Sound and its catchment. Under the SEP the Cockburn Sound Management Council is required to report to the Minister for the Environment on the state of Cockburn Sound each year. This report is to include annual performance and monitoring reporting and is to be tabled once a year in Parliament.
Cockburn Sound is now a major recreational resource for water-based activities such as pleasure boating, fishing, diving, swimming, kite surfing, windsurfing and appears to have reached an improved water quality state compared to the 1970s and 1980s. However, seagrasses have not returned and current and future developments combined with existing and growing user pressure need to be carefully assessed and managed to prevent any further degradation to the system.

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