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Blairgowrie Pier site of world’s largest marine sponge transplant ever attempted

This Big-Belly Seahorse was photographed loitering below the Blairgowrie Pier by our new ReefWatch co-ordinator Kade Mills.

This Big-Belly Seahorse was caught loitering below the Blairgowrie Pier by our new ReefWatch coordinator Kade Mills.

 

Published 22 July 2016

Victoria's diving community is launching what is believed to be the largest attempt to safely transplant an entire marine sponge community the world has ever seen.

Blairgowrie Pier is one of Melbourne's favourite dive sites and home to more than 300 square metres of colourful marine sponges.

 

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"The walled section that protects Blairgowrie Pier from incoming waves is riddled with shipworm and has to be replaced to protect the marina," says Nicole Morton, a co-ordinator with the operation and co-owner of Dive2U, the driving force behind the project.

"Usually the huge vertical gardens of sponge life that blanket the underwater walls would end up at the tip along with the old timber panels. This time volunteer divers will brave the chilly waters of Port Phillip Bay to scrape sponges and ascidians from the old section and carefully relocate them to a new section using Coral Glue."

The operation is planned for Saturday, 30 July (weather permitting) and will run over two months. It is a joint venture between Ægir Divers, the commercial team replacing the wall, and Blairgowrie Yacht Squadron.

 

World first

The Victorian National Parks Association's new ReefWatch co-ordinator, Kade Mills, will make sure divers armed with cameras fully monitor the operation.

"As far as we know moving an entire community of marine sponges at this scale has never been attempted anywhere else in the world," he says.

"If the operation is successful Victoria may be able to provide a template that can be used to save thousands of amazing dive sites around the world."

The photos and information gathered by these 'citizen scientists' will measure the success of the project and document the techniques used to transplant the sponges, and could be used to help save other unique marine communities in the bay when their homes need upgrading.

 

Live streaming

The launch is plannef for 10am, Saturday 30 July and will include a sausage sizzle put on by the Blairgowrie Yacht Squadron to raise money for the glue required to stick the sponges on to their new homes.

For non-divers there will be a live touch tank and demonstrations on the pier as well as a roving underwater camera streaming to the surface so they can watch the divers work.