Understanding the Great Australian Bight

We're working with BP, the South Australian Research and Development Institute, University of Adelaide and Flinders University to unlock the mysteries of the Great Australian Bight's vast area of ocean and coast.

The Challenge

We need to know more about the Great Australian Bight

The Great Australian Bight is a unique environment that is home to a variety of iconic marine species and supports Australia's largest commercial fishery.

A wandering Albatross, Diomedia exulans flying over ocean waves.

The area also houses an abundance of marine resources and wealth which can be realised for the benefit of all Australians.

However, relatively little is known about this vast body of water and how it supports such diverse marine life. We have to know what is there and understand how the ocean system works to be able to predict and measure any environmental impact resulting from development.

Our Response

The Great Australian Bight research program

We're improving our understanding of the environmental, economic and social value of the Great Australian Bight through the largest whole-of ecosystem study ever undertaken in Australia.

The $20 million four-year project, which began in April 2013, has two major aims:

  • understand the unique marine environment and potential marine resources
  • provide the science to decision makers to support sustainable development in the region and monitor possible future impacts.

The project brings together multidisciplinary research teams organised around seven themes:

  • oceanography
  • open water (pelagic) ecosystem and environmental drivers
  • sea floor (benthic) biodiversity
  • ecology of apex predators
  • petroleum geology and geochemistry
  • socio-economic analysis
  • integration and modelling.

The research results will be made available for the benefit of stakeholders, such as Commonwealth and state regulators and governments and a diverse range of research, community and environmental groups.

The Great Australian Bight Research Program is a collaboration between BP, CSIRO, the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI), the University of Adelaide, and Flinders University

Check out this video of our researchers collecting samples in the Great Australian Bight.

A survey of the Great Australian Bight: CSIRO researchers collecting samples in the Great Australian Bight

Show transcript

[text on screen: CSIRO, BP and Marine Innovation Southern Australia Science collaboration – first voyage]

Voice over:

Hello, I'm Mark Lewis, I'm an equipment specialist for a research group at CSIRO.

On this voyage, which we happen to have particularly nice weather for, we a looking at hydrocarbons and the animals that live on the sea floor.

And here comes the CTD full of water samples. The little unit on the side is for collecting current data as well, as it goes up and down through the water column.

Here is the hydro chemist taking some water samples out of the unit. Carefully flushing out the little bottle to make sure the sample is going to be pure.

Geoff Cordell driving the winch that controls the instrumented corer platform.

And here it comes back up after a successful launch on the sea floor. It's been down about 2000 metres to collect samples for us.

And here is one of the samples. A beautiful core from about 2000 metres. He's capping it off to bring it inside for processing.

And here they are extracting micro-cores from the soft 15 centimetres and the rest of that layer will be sieved for the other little animals, we won't waste anything out of this platform.

Here is the surface net going over the side. It's for collecting plankton and everything else that gets in its way, so jelly fish, small fish even some flying fish

Another beautiful day out at sea.

The idea is for the net to just skim along the surface of the water, just collecting surface plankton.

The net is working beautifully there.

Hide transcript

Case studies

  • Mapping life on the deep sea floor

    We’re developing the first baseline picture of sea floor communities deep in the Great Australian Bight, so we can assess any potential future impacts of oil and gas exploration.

  • Understanding how the Bight’s ocean waters move

    We’re developing computer models of the ocean circulation and waves of the Great Australian Bight so we can understand the movements of pollutants, nutrients and marine life in the region.

  • Tagging Southern Bluefin Tuna in the Great Australian Bight

    CSIRO scientists recently deployed 125 archival tags into juvenile southern bluefin tuna in the Great Australian Bight. We rely on the cooperation of commercial and recreational fishers to return any tags found. The data from these tags will contribute to a larger dataset spanning 30 years.


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