What is the current status of reef health in Port Phillip Bay? How many sea urchins are there? Are sea urchins a problem in all parts of Port Phillip or just some? These are the questions we set out to answer by conducting a survey of reefs across Port Phillip Bay.
Completing this Bay-wide survey required the use of 5 m2 transects to explore 7 regions across the bay, each with multiple reefs and subsites, A total of 756 transects were carried out by a large team of scientific research divers, from The National Centre for Coasts and Climate (NCCC) at the University of Melbourne and the Blue Carbon Lab at Deakin University.
Between November 2019 and February 2020, the D-Mac and Lady Bay research vessels transported divers around the entirety of Port Phillip Bay. Dive teams were led by Tristan Graham, a PhD Candidate at the NCCC, and Dr Paul Carnell from Deakin University.
“This work has given me a chance to explore many reefs I have never visited before. I can better appreciate the diversity of reefs across the Bay in terms of substrate and algal assemblage, even the morphology of common algae.” remarked Tristan, “I was particularly struck by the sudden changes on some reefs between thick algal canopy and bare rock.”
“While I have dived in many parts of the Bay previously, this was a unique opportunity to gain a complete picture of the health of the reefs in Port Phillip Bay, and how sea urchin’s fit into this story. Dr Carnell remarked. “The data from these surveys will inform how to best manage reefs and sea urchins in the Bay.”
The data from the surveys is being prepared into a draft report. The document will be used to t discuss effective management strategies for sea urchin and reefs in Port Phillip Bay by the Victoria Fisheries Authority (VFA), sea urchin fishers and the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP).
Stay tuned for more information about the project “Optimal Management of overabundant Sea Urchins in Victoria”, including these results from the Port Phillip Bay reef survey.
The Port Phillip Reef Health Check has been funded by the Victorian Government’s Biodiversity Response Planning program, which is helping ensure that Victoria’s biodiversity is healthy, valued and actively cared for. This project is aligned with the implementation of Protecting Victoria’s Environment – Biodiversity 2037. Biodiversity Response Planning is a new area-based planning approach to biodiversity conservation in Victoria. It is designed to strengthen alignment, collaboration and participation between government agencies, traditional owners, non-government agencies and the community. For more information on the program or to learn about the suite of projects funded through Biodiversity Response Planning visit www.environment.vic.gov.au/brp