Just like Melbourne loves to steal big sporting events, musicals and exhibitions from other Australian capital cities, now it seems we'd also steal a big fish!
For years I have been sitting in my office in the marine biology area of the museum discretely listening in to my office buddy’s phone calls. There is always something going on but this past week things have gotten more interesting than usual.
“...Another one? ... Where this time? ... Did they give you a photo?... Wow-ee!”
Apparently there have been a number of sightings of Blue Gropers in waters in and around Port Phillip Bay. Once a popular target for spearfishers in the mid 1900s, they are now considered one of the more elusive fish in our waters.
Eastern Blue Groper, Achoerodus viridis.
Source: Used under Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 from Saspotato
We are thought to have only the Eastern Blue Groper in Victoria (Achoerodus viridis), but that is where the mystery widens.
If the western sightings turn out to be the Western Blue Groper (Achoerodus gouldii), then that would be exciting, because even though some guide books list the species in western Victoria, the museum has no verified records that I could find. Effectively, it would be the first offical indication that we have of the Western Blue Groper extending its range from Western Australia and South Australia into Victorian waters.
Being passionate about all things mariney, I have listened to these recent phone calls more keenly than most because regardless of the exact species, Eastern or Western, they suggest that this iconic giant is back in significant numbers. Perhaps this means marine parks and sanctuaries are helping blue groper populations to increase.
Anyway, I’m heading out next weekend to get wet and see if I can further fuel the enthusiasm in here. Join me and get diving or snorkelling, if you see a groper emerge out of the bay haze, snap a photo and help us solve this mystery.
A male Eastern Blue Groper (Achoerodus viridis) escorted by juvenile Silver Trevally (Pseudocaranx dentex). Shelly Beach, Manly, NSW.
Image: Richard Ling
Source: Used under Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 from rling
Oh and if you’re interested...
Blue Gropers are large, slow-growing fishes, that reach a metre or thereabouts – gentle giants if you like. They hang around rocky reefs. Funnily enough, their name is misleading because they are not always blue. Sometimes they are green, sometimes grey, sometimes inbetween. They start life as females and turn into males when about half a metre long, about a ten-year wait to manhood. They are more closely related to wrasses and parrotfishes than to the tropical groper commonly seen by divers on reefs in northern Australia. They are now more sought after for viewing on a spectacular dive rather than for dinner. Reef Watch Victoria monitors blue gropers and other marine life along our coasts.
Australian Museum Eastern Blue Groper video
Fishes of Australia's Southern Coast
Coastlinks Victoria - marine reserves, parks and sanctuaries