Biodiversity | Subscribe News

Large fish have disappeared from vast tracts of Australian coast, survey shows

Coral Reefs in Australia

Reef life survey. Photograph: Jemima Stuart-Smith


Powered by article titled “Large fish have disappeared from vast tracts of Australian coast, survey shows” was written by Oliver Milman, for on Friday 21st February 2014 07.13 UTC

Vast tracts of Australia’s coastline have been denuded of large fish, with marine life under pressure from climate change, overfishing, pollution and invasive species, a year-long study has found.

The reef life survey, undertaken by volunteer divers along the entire Australian coastline, took in reefs up to 400 nautical miles out to sea, including remote areas not previously studied in detail. Starting and ending in Tasmania, researchers circumnavigated Australia, including a trip to areas of the Coral sea which have been set aside for a huge marine park.

Project co-founder Graham Edgar, of the University of Tasmania, told Guardian Australia the health of Australia’s marine areas is decidedly mixed.

“We found very large areas of dead coral around the Montebello Islands, off northwest WA, which is a protected area,” he said. “Previously, this area was very rich in coral but it looks like it has been impacted by heatwaves in that area.

“In the Coral sea, the fish life was good but the condition of the reefs themselves surprised me. I expected to see a lot more coral than there was, possibly because of the number of cyclones that have passed through there.”

Edgar and his team took counts of creatures such as lobsters, sea urchins and clams, noting there were fewer larger fish than expected, particularly near urban areas and ports.

“For those very large fish and lobsters, you need to go to more remote locations and marine protected areas,” he said. “In all it was a mixed bag – northwest WA is one of the best places in terms of large fish, for example, but the coral bleaching was bad there.”

Edgar said climate change, fishing pressure and pollution all posed threats to marine life. Introduced species and native species that have extended their range, a process fuelled by warming oceans, are also challenges faced by biodiversity.

“Over the next 50 to 100 years, climate change is the grand-daddy threat, no doubt,” Edgar said. “The east and west coasts of Australia have both seen an increase of water temperature, of around 1.5C in the last 50 years.

“What’s happening in the sea is out of sight but there are massive changes happening under the surface. There isn’t much information on the biology down there, which is why it’s invaluable to have this baseline data to measure against. There are massive changes taking place to the biology of the inshore system but no-one notices.”

The federal government is set to introduce new management plans for the marine reserves previously announced by Labor. The Coalition has argued that previous management plans are unfair to recreational fishers.

Research released earlier this month found that more than half of the world’s marine parks fail to protect underwater life any better than unguarded areas. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.


Comments are closed.

A sample text widget

Etiam pulvinar consectetur dolor sed malesuada. Ut convallis euismod dolor nec pretium. Nunc ut tristique massa.

Nam sodales mi vitae dolor ullamcorper et vulputate enim accumsan. Morbi orci magna, tincidunt vitae molestie nec, molestie at mi. Nulla nulla lorem, suscipit in posuere in, interdum non magna.