Sea World Called To Remove Fish From Brisbane Airport Drainage System

Inside the air-conditioned confines of Brisbane Airport’s terminals, the only thing you usually have to dodge are hordes of other travelers. But outside, it’s another story. The airport covers 2,000 hectares bounded in the east by Moreton Bay, south by the Brisbane River, and to the west by mangroves and coastal wetlands. As a result, a wide range of wildlife likes to call Brisbane Airport home.

Brisbane Airport has a problem with meter-long grouper fish. Photo: Brisbane Airport Corporation

Meter-long fish in Brisbane Airport’s drains

Recently, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) has reported extensively on some of the challenges the wildlife presents Brisbane Airport. In an ABC interview in November, 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.

“We’ve got a drainage system that connects to Serpentine Inlet and Moreton Bay. A number of grouper have gotten through the security grate when they were smaller fish. On the incoming tide, they sit at the grate and feed on schools of fish coming in. They’ve gotten that big, they are about a meter in size at the moment, and they can’t get back out.

“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.”

Sea World is a major marine park located at The Spit, just an hour’s drive south of Brisbane Airport.

It’s not just groupers currently hanging around the airport. Mr Ring says the airport’s drains are home to cod, mangrove jacks, and mud crabs. Frankly, it sounds like a pretty decent Sunday lunch.

A sizeable grouper at a drain grate at Brisbane Airport. Photo: Brisbane Airport Corporation

Exotic wasps make themselves at home at  Brisbane Airport

Brisbane Airport has been hitting the news recently regarding wildlife in and around the airport. Smaller than gropers but more problematic for aircraft was an issue with exotic keyhole wasps nesting in aircraft pitot probes at the airport.

Over the last 15 years, a number of issues with airspeed discrepancies have seen take-offs aborted and aircraft return to the airport. Later inspections found 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.

A lizard sunning him/herself on a Brisbane Airport apron. Photo: Brisbane Airport Corporation

Turtles, crabs, birds, and snakes also appear on runways and taxiways

In addition to wasps and fish, birds are a perennial problem. Turtles, crabs, and snakes also make an appearance on the airfield from time to time.

“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.”

Brisbane is moving into its sub-tropical summer this month. Typically, around half of Brisbane’s annual rainfall happens over the summer months.

Hello, and welcome to Brisbane says the red belly black snake. Photo: Brisbane Airport Corporation

“With any rainfall event, we do see an increase in wildlife activity. Birdlife is attracted to the ponding water – things like that,” the wildlife manager says.

“All the vegetation around the airport is selected to have as minimal wildlife attractiveness as possible. 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. Most wildlife don’t like dogs, says Mr Ring. Fair point. He describes the male German Shepherd, Ozzie, as “loveable”, saying he flunked his police test

“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.”