A community briefing on a contentious seaweed-farming proposal off Augusta was cancelled this week amid concerns around COVID-19. Residents in the Leeuwin area say they remain in the dark about the proposal, which needs Department of Fisheries approval, with a new community survey showing the project has weak support in Augusta. Last month, the Times reported east-coast operator Coastal Farms had lodged an application for two potential sites in Flinders Bay where horizontal growing beds would farm seaweed and shellfish without use of fertilisers and what the proponent described as limited environmental risks. Stakeholder consultation has closed on the project, but Augusta Community Development Association co-ordinator Chris Collins said the application was still not finalised because of changes to Fisheries’ development assessment policies. The ACDA survey showed the majority of residents only heard about the proposal through word-of-mouth. Almost half of the 120 people surveyed flat-out opposed the project, while about the same number supported it if positioned somewhere other than the two proposed locations. Just eight people gave it unconditional backing. The survey also found mixed support for any aquaculture industries near Augusta, with just 37 people supportive, and 28 wanting such projects run by residents. About 80 per cent of respondents had now read the proposal and the majority voiced concerns about the potential introduction of outside marine species, effects on annual whale migrations, as well as perceived risks to whales and sharks from the project facility. Nutrient changes affecting native sea grasses, and negative consequences for local boaties and use of the Deere Reef all rated strong mentions. Also, more than 97 per cent of respondents wanted direct community consultation on any projects affecting the reef or Flinders Bay. Coastal Farms proponent Paul English told the Times a drone survey planned for April would allow residents a “virtual tour” of the site, which when built, would be underwater and not visible from land. “At this stage we are only applying for a research licence and will be conducting over $200,000 of environmental surveys on the proposed location before we apply for a commercial licence,” he said. “We are modelling our business on an already successful aquaculture model called greenwave. “This is a very regenerative farming industry where there will be only positive impact for the community.” The Times understands part of the project was in partnership with Curtin University, with doctoral students evaluating the model.