Blue gropers, blue devils and weedy seadragons the stars of 2015 fish count
The recent summer season started with a splash, as divers and snorkellers took to the water for the 2015 Great Victorian Fish Count. Tilly Reynolds reports.
It was the eleventh year of the count, which ran from 21 November to 6 December last year. Some 350 participants from 23 separate groups were involved and a highly impressive 44 different sites surveyed.
What turned up
The 2015 Great Victorian Fish Count report summarises the results of the fish count and provides a snapshot of the unique marine life found in Victorian waters.
It was encouraging to note that a number of species of conservation interest were observed throughout the survey period.
- Two juvenile Eastern Blue Gropers (a protected species) were recorded at Mushroom Reef Marine Sanctuary. One fish count participant reported that 20 juveniles were observed a few days later at the same site, indicating successful breeding in the area and a promising future for this once over-fished species.
- Western Blue Gropers (also a protected species) continued to show up since their rediscovery in Victoria during the 2011 Great Victorian Fish Count. This year it was recorded at Portsea Pier, Wilsons Promontory, and Popes Eye in Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park.
- The unique Southern Blue Devil was recorded at two survey sites in Port Phillip Bay (Castle Rock and Popes Eye), as well as at Cape Woolamai and Wilsons Promontory.
- The Common (or Weedy) Seadragon, Victoria's marine emblem, was observed in encouraging numbers at several sites including Flinders and Portsea piers, Warrnambool Breakwater, Merri Marine Sanctuary, Cape Woolamai and Castle Rock.
The most common species observed were:
Fish on the move
The theme of the 2015 count was 'Fish on the Move'. Divers and snorkellers were encouraged to keep a sharp lookout for well-known locals as well as species that might be new or unusual to an area.
A survey with local dive operator Ocean Divers at Blairgowrie Pier included an exciting discovery that marine scientists at Museum Victoria have since identified it as a Spinycoat Anglerfish, which was in unusually shallow waters.
The sighting has since been logged with Redmap, a new partner for the 2015 Great Victorian Fish Count. Redmap is a national 'citizen science' program that captures data and maps marine species that may be extending their range in Australia in response to changes in the marine environment.
We would like to thank our project partners Parks Victoria, Coastcare Victoria, Museum Victoria and Redmap Victoria, who gave invaluable support in helping to facilitate and promote the event.
We'd also like to say a huge thank you to all participating dive operators, dive clubs, Friends and marine care groups, university and school groups, and the many volunteers who joined them in the water.
Several groups took part in the dive for the first time. We'd like to acknowledge RMIT Underwater Club, Sea All Dolphin Swims, Warrnambool Sub Aqua Club and the Victorian Sub Aqua Club.
We're very pleased with the success of the Great Victorian Fish Count, which continues to be enthusiastically embraced by the marine monitoring community.
It's a wonderful opportunity for everyone to learn together and allows scientists, marine managers, divers, snorkellers and community members to share their knowledge of local marine environments.
With all of these pooled skills, knowledge and experience, we can gain a better understanding of what is in Victoria's coastal waters and how we can work together to ensure its adequate protection.