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Brisbane Airport has a rather fishy problem

December 15, 2020 Airport No Comments

A report by Simple Flying’s Andrew Curran says that inside the air-conditioned confines of Brisbane Airport’s terminals, the only thing you usually have to dodge are hordes of other travellers.

But outside, it’s another story, with the airport covering 2,000 hectares bounded in the east by Moreton Bay, south by the Brisbane River, and to the west by mangroves and coastal wetlands, with as a result, a wide range of wildlife likes to call Brisbane Airport home.

Recently, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) has reported extensively on some of the challenges the wildlife presents Brisbane Airport with in a recent interview Jackson Ring, wildlife manager at the airport said over the years, they’ve had problems with feral pigs, wasps, birds, snakes, turtles, crabs, and now meter-long grouper fish are causing headaches, adding, “We’ve got a drainage system that connects to Serpentine Inlet and Moreton Bay, with a number of grouper have gotten through the security grate when they were smaller fish and an the incoming tide, they sit at the grate and feed on schools of fish coming in,” adding, “They’ve gotten that big, they are about a meter in size at the moment, and they can’t get back out.”

He said, “We’re coordinating a bit of a rescue operation at the moment with SeaWorld.”  “They’re going to give us a hand to relocate these fish.” “They’re healthy specimens and looking great, but we’d like to see them living somewhere else other than our drainage network.”

He added, “It’s not just groupers currently hanging around the airport,” saying, “The airport’s drains are home to cod, mangrove jacks, and mud crabs….frankly, it sounds like a pretty decent Sunday lunch.”

Smaller than gropers but more problematic for aircraft was an issue with exotic keyhole wasps nesting in aircraft pitot probes at the airport, with over the last 15 years, a number of issues with airspeed discrepancies have seen take-offs aborted and aircraft return to the airport, with later inspections finding wasp related debris, including mud, in pitot probes.

A study found keyhole wasps can build a single cell mud nest in the time it takes an aircraft to land, get serviced, and turn around. Knowing this, Brisbane Airport and the airlines that fly there can steps to deter the pest.

Unlike wasps, gropers aren’t going to interfere with a plane, but significant numbers of meter-long fish trapped behind grates can potentially block drains and cause flooding during Brisbane’s typically torrential summer downpours.

Lizards, turtles, crabs, birds, and snakes also appear on runways and taxiways and birds are a perennial problem. “They’ve come across all sorts of stuff,” says Jackson Ring referring to his team conducting inspections around the airport -“the odd crab, the occasional turtle trying to cross the taxiway.”

With the rainy season upon the airport, “With any rainfall event, we do see an increase in wildlife activity. Birdlife is attracted to the ponding water – things like that,” said Mr Ring, adding, “All the vegetation around the airport is selected to have as minimal wildlife attractiveness as possible, with even the way we manage and maintain the grass around the airport is done in a way to try to deter birds and other wildlife. We try to make the airfield as unattractive to wildlife as possible.”

There’s also an ex-police dog that helps out as most wildlife don’t like dogs, says Mr Ring, describing the male German Shepherd, Ozzie, as “loveable”, saying he flunked his police test, adding, “He wasn’t quite aggressive enough for what the Queensland Police Service were looking for in a potential canine candidate…“But to a bird, he is quite intimidating.”

An edited report from Simple Flying by John Alwyn-Jones

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