Image: Chris Hayward
Source: Parks Victoria
Scientists from Museum Victoria, Deakin University and Parks Victoria have revealed previously unseen marine life through a comprehensive biological survey undertaken in the wild seas below the iconic Twelve Apostles.
The underwater Bioscan surveyed 20 kilometres of coastline, extending from the Twelve Apostles Marine National Park to the Arches Marine Sanctuary; revealing rare sightings of hundreds of species including rich fish life, crayfish, slumbering Port Jackson sharks and colourful coral gardens. Scientists documented this diverse underwater world with thousands of images and hundreds of hours of spectacular video footage.
"Bioscans such as this one allow us to study the large number of species present as well as investigating recent pest and climate change arrivals," said Dr Mark Norman, Museum Victoria's Head of Science.
"The spectacular cliff lines and Southern Ocean swell make diving in this area difficult. You have to pick the gaps between the wild winter seas. To date, this has meant insights into this underwater world have been limited," said Dr Norman.
"Developments in technology are constantly changing the way we conduct our science research. The incredibly high quality underwater cameras we now use, for instance, help us record life that previously we haven't been able to".
In areas too deep to dive, Deakin University scientists dropped more than 100 baited video cameras to attract and film deeper-water species. This revealed a rich fish life of snapper, leatherjackets, squid and an impressive range of sharks and giant sting rays.
"These baited cameras draw in animals too timid to approach a diver, or reach depths too deep for divers to venture to, giving us a rare opportunity to see them up close for the first time," said Deakin PhD student Richard Zavalas."We will combine the data collected with detailed sonar pictures of the seafloor to better understand the fish-habitat relationships."
For Dr Steffan Howe of Parks Victoria, the biological survey has relevance both locally and further afield.
"These stone cathedrals and their wonderful residents are one of the special habitat types protected in the state's marine national park system. The parks provide critical reference areas protected from fishing and other extractive activities." Dr Howe said.
"The Twelve Apostles have tremendous cultural significance to Australia. It's important for us to have a comprehensive understanding of the habitats and inhabitants around them to help inform management of these areas and also to be able to showcase these riches to the 1.5 million visitors who come to this coastline each year."
Dr Norman was pleased with the findings, "The habitats and residents within the Parks seemed healthy and there were no signs of introduced or invasive marine animals or seaweeds."
The Twelve Apostles Bioscan is just one of a series conducted by Museum Victoria and Parks Victoria, including a survey last year of the Grampians National Park and the Bunurong Marine National Park and another scheduled for alpine Victoria later in 2013.
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