Bait worming is expanding into Dugong feeding grounds

The Ormiston seagrass monitoring team have just reported back from their recent seagrass survey.  Concerns were raised that bait worming has now extended into the Ormiston area near the mouth of Tingalpa Creek.

The team for OR4 first noted extensive Dugong trails at Ormiston in 2003. The matter was reported to Marine Parks and this information provided guidance to the government on a range matters. The most notable was a Marine Park permit sought to conduct an offshore explosion for a movie. At the time, the selected site was Ormiston which would have put Dugongs at risk. Had it not been for the seagrass monitoring team’s local knowledge, the explosions would have likely been initiated.

While the Dugongs were saved from the potential impacts of  the movie’s stunts a new potential threat has appeared, bait worming.

Until 2009 bait worming was a small commercial industry chiefly confined to Fisherman Island. After 2009 the State Government opened up more areas for bait worming and as a consequence important seagrass meadows are now being dug up to supply recreational fish bait – bloodworms.

The harvesting of bloodworms, Polychaeta: Marphysa spp in Moreton Bay for use as recreational fishing bait occurs in the intertidal Zostera muelleri ssp. capricorni seagrass beds.  Bloodworms are a burrowing animal and therefore harvesting involves the turn-over of the top 20-50cm of sediment and seagrass.

The results of bait worming are shown below.

Dugongs rely on seagrass as it’s their chief source of food.  Seagrass is also the nursery ground for many commercial fish species. We hope that the supply of bait for a hobby is not more important than protecting seagrass for species like the vulnerable Dugongs and Green Turtles.



bait worming - OR4 - 2

bait worming OR4


3 thoughts on “Bait worming is expanding into Dugong feeding grounds

  1. there is a similar problem at sandstone Point, just round the headland south of Bribie Bridge near the Seagrass survey site DB3 with regular wormer digging up the seagrass and NOT returning the seagrass upright, the way they EASILY could do.

    • Hi Brian.
      thanks for the email Brian.
      Prior to changes to the Marine Parks (Moreton Bay) Zoning Plan 1997 commercial harvesting of blood worms (bait worming) was confined to four defined locations totaling 373ha of intertidal habitat (Skilleter, 2004). However, since 2009 harvesting has expanded into the General Use (46%) and Habitat Protection zones (30%) within the Marine Park, this represents 76% (340,000 ha) of the Marine Park area (DERM, 2010). This change in the legally harvestable area equates to a nine fold increase and much of this area incorporates intertidal seagrass meadows never before exploited.

      We have asked the department before for clarification and if they have improved the control of bait worming. We recommend you and others contact the minister as we have yet to receive a response from the department.
      Hon Dr Steven Miles
      Minister for Environment and Heritage Protection and Minister for National Parks and the Great Barrier Reef:

      DERM (Department of Environment and Resource Management) 2010. Accessed at Viewed on Tuesday, November 12, 2013.
      SKILLETER, G. A., 2004, ‘Assessment of the impacts associated with the harvesting of marine benthic invertebrates for use as bait by recreational anglers’. FRDC, Deakin, A. C. T.(Australia). 287, vol., pp. 287.

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