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Reef Watch Reef Watch is a Victorian National Parks Association program | JULY 2013

Permanent protection for the Blue Groper! A

fter two years of temporary protection fisheries notices, the Blue Groper species (Achoerodus viridis and Achoerodus gouldii) is now fully protected in Victorian marine waters. Victoria is the first state to fully protect the species, unlike other states where the protection is limited to bag limits, protection from spear fishers or restricted in certain areas. Permanent protection will hopefully allow populations of both species to increase and thrive in the reefs along Victoria’s coast. Seven Eastern Blue Gropers were sighted at Beware Reef Marine Sanctuary during the 2012 Great Victorian Fish Count, with the Western Blue Groper once again sighted in the Barwon Bluff Marine Sanctuary in February 2013.

Beautiful Eastern Blue Groper at Beware Reef Marine Sancturary. Reef Watch and VNPA’s marine campaign played a key role in ensuring the friendliest fish in the sea can now swim free. Photo: Courtesy Friends of Beware Reef

Help defend our marine national parks A

ll Reef Watch supporters are urgently needed on deck for the next round of public consultation in September for the Victorian Environmental Assessment Council’s investigation into our network of marine protected areas. Your support for our marine national parks and sanctuaries is critical to ensure Victoria doesn’t go down the path of other states, which are winding back protection.

The investigation has been ongoing since 2012 and two rounds of public consultations have already happenedSubmissions from the marine and coastal community so far has been underwhelming compared with other groups such as fishers. For more information and to register your interest go to veac.vic. – the VNPA will be in touch closer to September with an update.



We join the Atlas of Living Australia


What is Reef Watch? Reef Watch is the Victorian National Parks Association’s marine monitoring program. Run with Museum Victoria we are always looking for more volunteer divers. To get involved email Wendy at or phone 03 8341 7446.


Great Victorian In Profile: Fish Count Reef Watch Newsletter Adrienne Meyer | July 2013 – 1

Rays used to ‘pretty up’ fish shop C

oncerned Reef Watch volunteer David Brand sent the image below to Reef Watch after noticing the two Fiddler Rays on display at a fishmonger’s shop. On enquiry, he was told “they are no good for eating, it was just a couple the boss caught the other day”. These wonderful creatures were being used to ‘pretty up’ the display and would be discarded at a later date. Although rays are not protected this is an unnecessary waste of marine life. It should be stopped. Please report such incidents to Reef Watch. Contact Reef Watch by emailing us at

Polycitor giganteus

Sycozoa murrayi

Herdmania grandis

Clavelina australis

Know what these creature features have in common?


Dead Southern Fiddler Rays. Photo: David Brand

Reef Watch Editor: Wendy Roberts.

hat do all these creatures have in common? If you said that they are all sea squirts (ascidians) then you’re correct. They come in a variety of colours, shapes and body forms (stalked, solitary, colonial). The common characteristic is that

they have no symmetry and two openings. Surprisingly they are closely related to vertebrates, as during their larval stage they have a primitive notochord. These beautiful animals can be found on jetty pilings, rocky reefs and shipwrecks.

Test your id skills!

Design: John Sampson. The Reef Watch newsletter is published every three months. To contribute stories please email Reef Watch Coordinator Wendy Roberts Address: GPO Box 666, Melbourne Museum, Melb 3001. Tel: 03 8341 7446. Web: Email: take a dive that counts! 2 – Reef Watch Newsletter | July 2013

Mystery Creature No 27 Clue: Eggs, algae, airsacs or parasites. Photo: Kim Wright

Mystery Creature No 26 You were looking at a baby Angler Fish. Photo: Glenys Greenwood

Reef Watch Victoria

Reef Watch joins Atlas of Living Australia Wendy Roberts Reef Watch Coordinator


new citizen science website ‘BowerBird’ will provide a home for the many marine images and records collected by Reef Watch volunteers. Developed by Dr Ken Walker (Museum Victoria) for the CSIRO’s Atlas of Living Australia, this exciting initiative will enable you to add a sighting, see it recognised, commented on and identified, or find that it contains unknown information about a species. You will then see your sighting become part of a larger picture for a species or ecosystem and finally have the sighting information integrated with national and international databases. Reef Watch projects that are now on BowerBird include ‘Buddy-up with a Blue Devil’, which encourages divers to buddy up with an individual Blue Devil fish and visit it on a regular basis. This is possible because Blue Devil fish are territorial and identifiable from photographs. Once you have uploaded your Blue Devil fish image with its location, if it has not been ‘buddied-up’ with another diver, then you are able to give it a name. This project will provide valuable information on the life history and populations of this poorly understood fish. If you are interested in becoming a ‘Blue Devil Buddy’ then visit

Two Bays Marine Calendar BowerBird will also be the home of an exciting new initiative, the Two Bays Marine Calendar. This will be the place to upload images of all the wonderful natural events that happen in our bays, such as spider crab aggregations, visiting humpbacks, brooding seastars or mating stinkfish to name just a few.

These stunning photos of a Blue Devil fish at Castle Rock were taken by Jan Carey and uploaded to the new BowerBird page ‘Buddy-up with Blue Devils’. Front, left and right angles will help identify this fish in the future.

also provide a baseline for monitoring changes to species and habitats overtime. Visit Two Bays Marine Calendar

Feral or in Peril

This Southern Blue-ringed Octopus features on the Two Bays Marine Calendar. Photo: Julian Finn

From these images we will be able to put a timeline together of the wonderful events that take place in our two bays during the year. It will

The Feral or in Peril project is also moving to BowerBird, all sighting records of introduced species and species of conservation concern to be registered and recorded. To join the BowerBird projects just go to the website and register, then choose the Reef Watch projects (or other marine projects) that you wish to participate in. Visit the new Feril or in Peril at Reef Watch Newsletter | July 2013 – 3

Great Victorian Fish Count – our best yet! S

ince the first annual count in 2005 the Great Victorian Fish Count has always been popular with divers and snorkellers, but this year’s count was the best yet! Over 350 divers and snorkellers surveyed reef fish at 26 sites along Victoria’s coast from Portland to Cape Conran. Running from 24 November to 9 December, the count was conducted at 12 sites in Port Phillip, three in Westernport, four along the Surf Coast, six in the south-west and one at Cape Conran in the east. Reef fish are a dominant component of reef ecosystems in both their biomass and their ecological functioning, and so can be useful indicators of environmental change. Fish surveyed during the count, range from roaming predators like the Saddled Wrasse and Banded Morwong to planktivores such as the Sea Sweep and herbivores like the Scalyfin and Herring Cale. Divers also recorded the environmental conditions at their selected reefs, including habitat structures, algal cover, depth, swell, visibility and temperature. The reefs vary from quiet and sheltered seagrass areas within the bays to open-ocean kelp forests, and the data collected indicates the types of habitats in which the fish are found.

Some of the highlights of the 2012 fish count were as follows • Within Port Phillip’s marine sanctuaries and elsewhere, we noted good-sized Dusky Morwongs, large congregations of Port Jackson Sharks and schools of Zebra Fish, plus healthy reefs and lots of other species not included in the count, such as Stingarees, Eagle Rays and Large Smooth Rays. • Pope’s Eye, the oldest section of Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park, was once again a standout with 41 Scalyfin and 75 Blue-throat Wrasse fish. 4 – Reef Watch Newsletter | July 2013

Happy Fish Counters from Ocean Divers.

• Beware Reef Marine Sanctuary in East Gippsland also shone, with seven Eastern Blue Gropers (a protected species), 77 Maori Wrasse and 28 Bastard Trumpeter. • The south-west reported healthy numbers of Long-snouted Boarfish, Seadragons in the marine sanctuaries and the Southern Blue Devil fish at two of the sites surveyed. • When crunching the data it was noted that once again the Blue Throat Wrasse was the most widely distributed fish, but unlike past years, it was the Zebra fish rather than the Six-spined Leatherjacket that was the main rival for this position. Reef Watch would like to thank its amazing partners and supporters, including Museum Victoria, Parks Victoria, numerous dive clubs and businesses, Friends and marine care groups, school groups and university dive clubs. Without your help and participation, the Fish Count wouldn’t get in the water! We’d also like to acknowledge the

Photo: Jess Becham (courtesy Ocean Divers)

new groups that joined the Fish Count this year: Friends of Port Phillip Heads MNP, Friends of the Merri MS, and Dive and Dive. We also like to acknowledge those who’ve never missed a Fish Count since they began in 2005: Marine Care Ricketts Point, Marine Care Jawbone MS, Friends of Barwon Bluff, Ocean Divers, Harbour Dive, Diveline, and Melbourne University Underwater Club. Thank you! Finally we greatly appreciate the wonderful donations made to our GVFC raffle, the proceeds of which went to subsidising the cost of running the event. So thanks very much Melbourne Aquarium, Dive Victoria, Daktari Surf and Dive, Academy of Scuba, All About Scuba, IMAX Melbourne, Polperro Dolphins, John Gaskell. Thanks to all other groups who participated! The 2013 fish count will be bigger than ever – we will give you all early warning in August. Reef Watch Victoria

Carl Johnston from Ocean Divers records a Seadragon at Flinders Pier.

Photo: Jane Bowman

Fish Count dive operator cleans up award W

hen Clean Up Australia Day put out a call for Australia’s most dedicated 2013 Site Supervisor they got a great response from around the country. One of the nominees who qualified by having participated in five prior Clean up Days as a site supervisor was Sharene Collett from Daktari Divers, Warrnambool. ...and she won!! Sharene has co-ordinated the Great Victorian Fish Count at three dive sites in the southwest from 2008-2012. In 2004, Sharene was part of a team assisting in cleaning up Tonsai Bay at Phi Phi Island in Thailand after the Tsunami. She cited this as her inspiration to ‘help in my own backyard’. In the past five years she has organised a team of divers to clean up at Portland, Port Fairy, Warrnambool and Port Campbell along the Great Ocean Road in Victoria. Over the years, Sharene has seen a

Sharene Collett (2nd bottom right) and her diving /clean up team at Port Fairy. Photo: Courtesy Clean Up Australia

vast improvement of sites as well as a marked attitude change in the divers who help to clean them. A positive change has also been observed in the attitude of the fisherman who use the wharves,

many of whom occasionally offer their assistance. Reef Watch congratulates Sharene and her divers on their wonderful stewardship of the marine environment. Reef Watch Newsletter | July 2013 – 5

New addition to Port Phillip marine life toolkit


f your surveys are any indication algae is the group that really stumps most Reef Watchers. Museum Victoria has updated the Port Phillip Marine Life toolkit with a large number of green, brown and red algae images and descriptions that will greatly assist you to identify the algae you see at your favourite reef.

Notice Board

The toolkit provides information, data, images and tools to help identify, document and monitor the rich marine life of Port Phillip Bay and nearby coastal waters. You can access the full marine life toolkit, including the algae section, at

Get involved Sea Science Seminars update You may have noticed that there has been a slight hiatus with our seminar program this year. This has been partially due to a new renovation at the aquarium and needing to seek additional funding to support the program. Reef Watch is currently planning a regional sea science seminar in Westernport to raise awareness and harness community interest in monitoring and caring for the protected San Remo Community (protected under the EPBC Act. 1999), an area known for its diversity of invertebrates. Stay tuned for details.

Melbourne Aquarium Discovery Lecture Series As part of its conservation initiatives, the Melbourne Aquarium is hosting a five part Marine Discovery Lecture Series with 100% of funds going towards its conservation projects. These include: • Turtle research, rehabilitation and tracking. • Shark reproduction research. • Seadragon breeding programs. • Antarctic penguin breeding program and assisting the Australian Antarctic Division penguin research. > Details at experiences/marine-discovery-lecture-series/

Books & websites Sponges: A Museum Victoria Marine Field Guide Sponges occur in all oceans of the world and have lived there for at least 600 million years. This new guide introduces naturalists, divers and biologists to sponge species commonly encountered in southern Australia - their identification, biology, defences and associations with other animals. Stunning colour photographs accompany species descriptions and line-art is used to illustrate the internal structures of different sponge groups. Authors: Lisa Goudie is a sponge consultant and works for both government and private organisations. Mark Norman is Head of Sciences at Museum Victoria and has published many books on marine invertebrates. Julian Finn is a Senior Curator at Museum Victoria and

6 – Reef Watch Newsletter | July 2013

Caulerpa, but which one? Photo: John Gaskell

has filmed underwater images for many international documentaries. Paperback RRP: $19.95, 144pp ISBN: 978-0-98038139-9 Ebook RRP: $12.99, 978-1-921833-15-1 For sales or review copies, contact Museum Victoria Publishing at or phone 03 83417576 / 8341 7370. ‘The Urban Sanctuary’, Algae and Marine Invertebrates of Ricketts Point Marine Sanctuary – Jessica Reeves and John Buckeridge This is an outstanding field guide to the marine algae and invertebrates of the Ricketts Point Marine Sanctuary, and other marine sanctuaries in Port Phillip. It is fully illustrated with colour photos as well as detailed descriptions of more than 200 species found in the marine sanctuary. This book makes an important contribution to building a legacy of appreciation for Port Phillip Bay’s marine life, and also the importance of having some protected areas to keep some of the bay’s marine habitats free from extractive activities and recognised as great places for learning about Victoria’s marine biodiversity. It was published both in hard copy and online with a view to making it available to community groups and schools in the region wanting further information or ID guides to the Marine Sanctuary. > Download The Urban Sanctuary from pdf/publi/otherpubli/243.%20The%20Urban%20 Sanctuary.pdf

New ‘Sea Search Manual’ for monitoring in Marine Protected Areas! Parks Victoria has recently completed a new Sea Search Manual, developed to assist volunteers and staff in monitoring within marine protected areas in Victoria. This is a guide to a wide range of monitoring activities all of which contribute to collecting useful information for improving understanding of park values and threats, or in assessing the benefits of management activities. > Get the manual online at au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/602279/Sea_Search_ Manual.pdf

Reef Watch Victoria

Giant Kelp endangered


he Giant Kelp forests of southeast Australia (Macrocystis pyrifera) have been listed as an Endangered community under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC). They are the first algal ecological community to be listed under the Commonwealth Act. Victoria’s Giant Kelp forests are in serious decline with many areas that once had extensive Giant Kelp, such as Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park and Barwon Bluff Marine Sanctuary, being severely depleted. A youtube clip of declining kelp forests illustrates how serious this loss is to marine biodiversity. You can watch the clip at

Giant Kelp at Pope’s Eye.

Photo: Mark Norman

Reef Watcher in Profile Each newsletter we will interview a Reef Watch volunteer to find out why they like to explore our temperate underwater world. Adrienne Meyer joined Reef Watch in 2010. Why did you join Reef Watch? I joined reef Watch to give purpose to my dives. Completing a survey after each dive helps me observe better what is there under the water as I am constantly counting the number of species of each type of marine life. After a dive my buddies and I discuss the creatures we saw and unusual habits we observed or I ask for information and ID of any new species I observed but cannot ID. We take our reference books to assist in any discussions. My knowledge of the species and habits has improved greatly over the last few years doing this. Lately I have challenged myself to learn to ID the seaweeds we all pass over as we swim. I have also greatly enjoyed and benefited from the monthly Reef Watch evening lectures.

Adrienne at her favourite dive site – Blairgowrie Yacht Squadron Pier. Favourite marine species/why? The Tasselled Angler is my favourite fish as it is so hard to see and a real highlight to my dive when I find one. I love the way they move and how well they disguise themselves on the pylons. Favourite dive site Blairgowrie Marina Pier. Most important marine conservation issue to you? I hate the thought of any marine creature being killed or lost through human neglect of our environment and would like to see a greater number of marine parks being created and the general public as well as divers looking after the interests of our marine environment. On the local scene I wonder why the

The Tasselled Angler is Adreinne’s favourite fish. Photo: Glenys Greenwood cuttlefish at Whyalla are no longer coming in to mate, why the sponges on the pylons and wall at Blairgowrie are dying and will they grow back and why our dive sites in the bay are changing. The condition of our bay is of concern. Blairgowrie has become much more tidal influenced and silty with the dips between the pylons emptying of marine life. Portsea is more difficult to dive with current and no beach for an easy exit and Rye seems to have less creatures hidden under rocks etc on the bottom. Back on land you ... work, play, listen to? I belong to a Victorian Nature Photography group, square dance seven times a week, study Spanish with U3A, exercise at the gym, take Gumnut Brownies and love holidaying at Flinders island.

Reef Watch Newsletter | July 2013 – 7

Nature Notes

Healthy numbers of Port Jackson Sharks at Ricketts Point. Photo: Kim Wright

Reef Watch surveys Thanks to all the volunteers who took the time to survey their favourite reef(s). Bayplay Adventures, Portsea Pier, 17/05/2013, Scuba, 60 mins,

14 degrees. Fish 6-20: Mosaic Leatherjacket, Globefish. 1-5: Scalyfin, Horseshoe Leatherjacket, Pygmy Leatherjacket, Smooth Stingray, Moonlighter, Blue Throat Wrasse. Invertebrates 6-20: Biscuit Seastar. 1-5: 11 Armed Seastar, Golfball Sponge. Plants (Density) Medium: Swan Grass, Stringkelp.

Huge numbers of 11 armed seastars were seen by David Brand and Greg Cook at Mornington Pier, a nice change from the usual masses of Northern Pacific Seastars. Photo: David Brand

8 – Reef Watch Newsletter | July 2013

Over 40 individual Seadragons were recorded by David Brand at Flinders during January, while Madeleine Heath spotted seven males with eggs at Portsea Pier. Photo: John Gaskell

Adrienne Meyer and Co, Flinders Pier, 10/6/2013, Scuba, 70 mins,

14 degrees. Fish 20+: Bulls Eye, Blue Weed Whiting, Scalyfin. 6-20: Common Seadragon, Blue-throat Wrasse, Blue-Lined Goatfish. 1-5: Magpie Perch, Dusky Morwong, Southern Sand Flathead, Globefish, Smooth Stingray, Silverbelly, Horseshoe Leatherjacket, Pot Bellied Seahorse, Globefish. Invertebrates Red Throat Seasquirt, Brain Sea Squirt, Purple Seastar. 20+: 6-20: 11 arm Seastar. 1-5: Blue Ringed Octopus, Short-tailed Nudibranch, Tulip Snail, Brittle Star, Pheasant snail.

Adrienne Meyer and Co discovered four Velvet fish at Blairgowrie Yacht Squadron, along with adult and juvenile Anglerfish, Short-snouted Seahorses and a variety of colourful nudibranchs. Photo: Mark Norman Reef Watch Victoria

Reef watch newsletter july 2013 web  

Reef Watch newsletter July 2013