MEDIA RELEASE:  18 November 2017

This weekend hundreds of snorkel-clad, keen-eyed citizen-scientists will take to the water for the start of the annual Great Victorian Fish Count, with stingrays the focus of the event.

During the fish count people from across the state band together to collect important information on the distribution and relative abundance of some of Victoria’s unique marine life.

This year local dive operators, schools and community groups will keep their eyes peeled for 10 relatively common sharks and rays that have been added to the Great Victorian Fish Count, now in its thirteenth year.

The count is organised by the Victorian National Parks Association and supported by Parks Victoria, Museums Victoria, Redmap Australia and Coastcare Victoria.

It will run over five weekends, from Saturday November 18 until Sunday December 17, and cover at least 26 sites along the Victorian coastline.

“In previous years divers and snorkelers have said the highlight of their time underwater has been encounters with stingrays and sharks in their natural environment,” said Kade Mills, ReefWatch coordinator for the Victorian National Parks Association.

“We want to harness that enthusiasm and learn more about rays and sharks, many of which remain very much a mystery, unless of course they are of commercial value.”

Caption: – Underwater photos are available for use by the media. Please phone John Sampson on 0411 294 293 for a download link.
– The fish count will offer some great photo and media opportunities close to Melbourne. Phone Kade Mills on 0407 363 719.

Stingrays are cartilaginous fish (i.e. made of the stuff in your nose and ears) and use a finely-tuned sensory system to find food on the sea floor. The disturbances they create while searching for food may be important for other organisms that live in and on the sea floor.

“Museums Victoria and Redmap are delighted to see sharks and rays now included in the Great Victorian Fish Count,” said Redmap Australia Program Leader for Victoria, Dianne Bray.

“The data collected by the dive community’s citizen scientists during the fish count will add to our knowledge and understanding of these fishes – especially of rays or ‘flatsharks’ in particular, which are often overlooked, despite their importance to marine ecosystems.”

Information gathered during the fish count will also be used to investigate changes in the composition and size of species at locations throughout coastal waters, and will be added to a biodiversity database of more than 67 million records.

“The opportunity to get together for the Great Victorian Fish Count, learn from each other and contribute to the collection of knowledge about fascinating yet little-known species is particularly rewarding and Coastcare encourages all volunteers to join in the fun,” said Coastcare Statewide Coordinator, Evelyn Nicholson.

Parks Victoria will work with local community groups to host snorkel surveys in many of Victoria’s marine national parks and sanctuaries.

“Parks Victoria is a strong supporter of the Great Victorian Fish Count and values this exciting citizen science project as a great way for people to contribute to a better understanding of Victoria’s marine biodiversity while getting into the water in many of our outstanding marine protected areas,” said Mark Rodrigue, Program Leader Marine and Coasts with Parks Victoria.

“The programs occurring in parks are exemplary examples that contribute to our philosophy of encouraging both healthy parks and healthy people.”

Details of participating groups and a complete list of survey sites can be found on the Victorian National Parks Association website or phone (03) 9341 6500.

For comment

  • Kade Mills, ReefWatch Coordinator, Victorian National Parks Association – 0407 363 719.
  • Mark Rodrigue, Program Leader Marine and Coasts, Parks Victoria – 0429 350 971.
  • Dianne Bray, Senior Collections Manager, Vertebrate Zoology, Sciences Department, Museums Victoria – 0405 717 210.
  • Evelyn Nicholson, Statewide Coordinator, Coastcare Victoria – 0429 153 816.

 

Photo and media opportunities

The fish count will offer some great photo and media opportunities close to Melbourne, including at Ricketts Point Marine Sanctuary at Beaumaris, Rye Pier  and Barwon Bluff Marine Sanctuary at Barwon Heads.

High quality imagery will also be available for use by the media. Please contact the Victorian National Parks Association on (03) 9341 6500.

Great opportunities for photos of local groups participating in the Great Victorian Fish Count:

Rye Pier

  • Opportunity: Photo op, also able to speak to media and have a spokesperson.
    Organisation: Victorian National Parks Association and Dive2U.
    Date: 18 November.
    Time: 10am.
    Contact: Kade Mills, 0407 363 719 or [email protected]

Ricketts Point Marine Sanctuary

  • Opportunity: Photo op, also able to speak to media and have a spokesperson.
    Organisation: Marine Care Ricketts Point.
    Date: 18 November.
    Time: 9am.
    Contact: Gayle Kiteley, 0434 433 207 or [email protected]

Blairgowrie Pier

  • Opportunity: Photo op, also able to speak to media and have a spokesperson.
    Organisation: Ocean Divers.
    Date: 9 December
    Time: 9:30am.
    Contact: Liz Harper, Ph: (03) 9579 2600 or [email protected]

Stingray Bay, Merri Marine Sanctuary and Warrnambool Breakwater

  • Opportunity: Photo op, also able to speak to media and have spokesperson.
    Organisation: Daktari Surf and Dive.
    Date: 3 and 10 December.
    Time: 10am.
    Contact: Sharene Collett, 0433 755 553 or [email protected]

Mornington Pier

  • Opportunity: Photo op, also able to speak to media and have a spokesperson.
    Organisation: Harbour Dive.
    Date: 18 November.
    Time: 1pm.
    Contact: Melanie Warren, (03) 5973 5356 or [email protected]

Barwon Bluff Marine Sanctuary, Barwon Heads

  • Opportunity: Photo op, also able to speak to media and have a spokesperson.
    Organisation: Barwon Bluff Marine Sanctuary and Parks Victoria.
    Date: 10 December.
    Time: 10.30am.
    Contact: Stephen Tuohy, M: 0400 612 198 or [email protected]