MEDIA RELEASE 12 November 2021 |
It’s that time of the year when hundreds of Victorians put on their bathers, rashies and wetsuits and swarm to our coastal waters to count fish for our state’s largest marine citizen science event, the Great Victorian Fish Count.
For a month starting this Saturday, divers and snorkelers along Victoria’s coast will jump in the water to survey their salty local dive spots. Stretching from Portland in the West to Cape Conran in the East – these sites have one thing in common – they are all a part of an incredible biodiversity hotspot, the Great Southern Reef.
Decorated with Golden Kelp and home to the likes of Weedy Seadragons and Port Jackson Sharks, the Great Southern Reef fringes over 8000 km of Southern Australia, with 85% of species that call it home found nowhere else on earth.
This year’s theme ‘Across our Great Southern Reef’ celebrates the inter-connected reefs and habitats along Victoria’s coast and the value nature-lovers find in spending time exploring and documenting this unique underwater world.
As Victoria becomes one again and people can freely travel to the sea (in a COVID-safe way), marine enthusiasts across the state will hit the water to collect information on the distribution and relative abundance of the unique marine life that call the Great Southern Reef home.
“Almost two years of lockdowns have heightened our desire to re-connect with nature, and the Great Victorian Fish Count is an opportunity for people to blow the cobwebs out of their snorkel and get back underwater with friends,” says Kade Mills, ReefWatch Coordinator at the Victorian National Parks Association.
The ‘face’ of the Great Victorian Fish Count in 2021 is the Senator Wrasse (Pictilabrus laticlavius). This species is sexually dimorphic, meaning that males and females look quite different. Amazingly, females undergo a sex change after two to five years, changing gender and appearance. You’ll find this species darting amongst the kelp at varying depths (3-40 metres). They’re good at concealing themselves, so those hoping to spot one will need to keep their eyes peeled!
The Great Victorian Fish Count provides ongoing information to support the conservation of marine life along our coast. Community groups, dive clubs and tour operators have been taking part in the Great Victorian Fish Count for 17 years – contributing data critical to enhance our understanding of our marine ecosystems.
This year the event will run over 5 weekends, from Saturday 13 November until Sunday 12 December at multiple sites across the Victorian coastline. “People of all skill levels are welcome to participate and if you would like to join in the fun at a local count, visit www.vnpa.org.au/fish-count and contact your nearest group” Kade says.
This year’s confirmed survey sites include: Barwon Bluff Marine Sanctuary, Flinders Pier, Ricketts Point Marine Sanctuary, Rye Pier, Frankston Pier, Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park, Eagle Rock Marine Sanctuary (Aireys Inlet), Portland, Port Campbell, Beware Reef (Cape Conran).
Registrations to run a Great Victorian Fish Count event are still open to dive clubs, tour operators and community groups. For further information, and to see the reports from previous years, visit www.vnpa.org.au/fish-count.
The Great Victorian Fish Count is organised by the Victorian National Parks Association (VNPA) in partnership with participating groups and supported by Parks Victoria, Coastcare Victoria, and Museums Victoria along with Redmap Australia.
- For a full list of events and contacts see www.vnpa.org.au/fish-count (events can change due to weather conditions).
- Images of Senator Wrasse, Weedy Seadragons and more.