Footprints on a shoreline

CSIRO’s a shore thing with marine science this summer

A Shore Thing

With summer almost here, many of us will be shaking out our beach towels, grabbing our boogie boards, and heading to the beach, or dishing up some seafood on the BBQ. But did you know that CSIRO is doing lots of work to keep the beach and your seafood safe, healthy and happy?

  • 26 November 2012 | Updated 25 January 2013

During summer, stories will be posted here about CSIRO’s marine science. You can also follow us on Twitter using #marinesci.


Photogenic Fishes

CSIRO scientists have produced a photographic guide to identify mid-water (mesopelagic) fishes of the southern Tasman Sea. Catches made during bioacoustic and net sampling between New Zealand and Tasmania provide the specimens for this visual identification tool that is aimed at researchers, students, commercial fishers and fisheries.

The guide shows striking images of specimens; provides an introduction to deep sea pelagic habitats in the southern Tasman Sea; and illustrates the extraordinary diversity of fishes in this zone. It will help fisheries observers to identify mesopelagic fishes, encourage standardisation in data collection and foster data sharing.

A road to recovery for the iconic Southern Bluefin Tuna

Southern Bluefin Tuna are majestic, temperate ocean dwellers, roaming across the oceans of the southern hemisphere. They are also highly prized on the Japanese sashimi market. Overfishing is the greatest recognised threat to the Southern Bluefin and they are currently classified as conservation dependent under Australia’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

CSIRO scientists have been heavily involved in the development of a strategy to rebuild populations of the Southern Bluefin Tuna. This strategy was adopted and used to set the global quota for fishing by the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna in 2012 – a first for an international tuna fishery! The implementation of this strategy allows our scientists to continue their research to understand the migration patterns and breeding capacity of the stock. However, even with the rebuilding strategy in place, recovery of the tuna will take a number of years.

Robocop maintains order in oil wells

CSIRO has developed an autonomous, self powering, energy efficient, wireless downhole robot to check that all is well down oil wells. The robot travels through all or part of an oil well, measuring important production variables such as temperature, pressure, flow rate at specific locations and times. This information is essential for petroleum companies to maximise their production and determine if there are any potential problems down the well. Amongst its many features, the robot also has its own smart energy system which allows it to be mostly self powering and operate on minimal energy.

World's biggest bandaid

A team of researchers from CSIRO and PETRONAS, Malaysia’s national oil and gas company, have invented a waterproof band-aid to patch up pipelines. PipeAssure is an adhesive material that can be wrapped around subsea oil and gas pipelines and similar structures. The highly durable material protects and repairs steel structures underwater that are damaged or are being corroded in extreme marine environments.

Taking the guess work out of oil spills

CSIRO has developed a hydrocarbon sensor array system that can locate and detect different types of hydrocarbons in marine waters. The sensors were originally used to explore for new oil and gas resources offshore, but are also being applied to study ocean changes, monitor our marine environments and measure the human impact on them. These sensors were used to monitor the extent of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. They have also been used to study natural oil and gas seeps, and for petroleum exploration in the Perth Basin.

Check out the photo album on our news@csiro blog to see the system in action.

Phantom fishing in the Gulf of Carpentaria

Ghostnets are a particular problem in Australia’s Gulf of Carpentaria, where the concentration of lost and abandoned fishing gear is among the highest recorded worldwide.

Just a splash away from a wash away [external link]

CSIRO researchers will be participating in the Witness King Tides activities over the summer with many snapping their local high tide in mid December or mid January.

Witness King Tides is a fun community photography project that helps us visualise the potential future impacts of sea level rise and current risks today. A ‘citizen science’ project run by GreenCross Australia, people in coastal communities around Australia are being asked to take a photo or two as part of the Witness King Tides project.

Message in a bottle [external link]

Recently a Perth teenager stumbled across a bottle on her local beach, containing a handwritten note and two US dollars. The bottle had travelled about 12,000kms and spent three years at sea, having been ‘sent’ by a couple from Vancouver, Canada, asking to be contacted when the bottle was found. The bottle was originally tossed overboard off the coast of Chile in South America. CSIRO oceanographer, Graham Symonds, was able to become part of the discussion, providing information about ocean currents and how fast they move.

View the ocean circulation animations.

One million jackpot!

One million ocean observation profiles was celebrated internationally in December 2012. The Argo observing network is a real turning point for science providing both real-time data and higher quality delayed mode data and analyses to underpin a new generation of ocean and climate services. Argo data is now also being widely used in operational services for the community, including weather and climate prediction and ocean forecasting for environmental emergency response, shipping, defence, and safety at sea.

To put this achievement in context, since the start of deep sea oceanography in the late 19th century, ships have collected just over 500,000 temperature and salinity profiles to a depth of 1km and only 200,000 to 2km. At the present rate of data collection Argo will take only eight years to collect its next million profiles.

Coasts and computers

Scientists have identified the estuarine and marine environments of the Derwent and Huon Rivers and around Bruny Island in Tasmania as a microcosm of the issues facing coastal development and management throughout Australia. They will study the region to develop a computer model that can be adapted for coastal communities around Australia, to assist them with issues like, how to proceed with urban development, through to addressing any effects of climate change.

Preparing for marine incidents [external link]

CSIRO has joined forces with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) to provide support for maritime environmental incidents, like oil spills and shipping accidents.

Our expertise and experience in maritime and marine science will serve AMSA’s need for immediate advice during an incident response to ensure timely decisions can be made that help minimise impact, and monitor Australia’s marine environment against oil spills, pollution or damage from a vessel collision or grounding.

(Coral) sex, drugs and gliders [external link]

Dive to the depths of Ningaloo Marine Park, explore the little known fringing reefs of the Kimberley - new discoveries, strange creatures from the deep, corals spawning, drugs from marine compounds, underwater “torpedos” that map the oceans and humpback whales in the Kimberley.

A waterfall that flows sideways? Amazing and true! All thanks to the unbelievable tides in the Kimberley - up to 11 metres! This “unconventional” waterfall (pictured) is caused by the incredible tidal flow of water between two gorges.

This extraordinary video takes you on a journey above and below the water to meet the passionate marine scientists trying to uncover the secrets of WA’s oceans.

Watch amazing documentary footage in A Voyage of Discovery [external link].

Our changing beaches and shoreline [external link]

CSIRO scientists are using a quad bike with computers onboard as well as a tower kitted out with a radar system, in-water current meters, pressure sensors and a video camera system to monitor wind, waves and currents, and their effect on a Perth beach, in order to predict changes in forthcoming decades.

The wave and current forecast can then be used by fisherman, surfers, search and rescue, and the Royal Australian Navy for amphibious landings.

Read more about the work at Secret Harbour.

Storm surge simulation [external link]

In preparation for storm season, Green Cross Australia has partnered with CSIRO to release a visualisation of a storm surge produced by a hypothetical cyclone hitting the coast of Townsville, Queensland. CSIRO researchers developed the model to show how quickly water can move and how soon it reaches both natural and man-made landscape features.

Read about CSIRO’s computer modelling of storm surges and tsunamis.


Scientists believe that fish ear bones or ‘otoliths’ can offer clues to the likely impacts of climate change in aquatic environments.
Their annual growth rings can be measured to estimate the age and growth rates of fish. Millions of otoliths are archived worldwide, with older samples dating as far back as the 1800s.

They are beginning to be used to predict ecological responses to ocean warming and climate change, including the impact on Australia’s fishes.

Where did it go? The un-discovery of Sandy Island [external link]

At the outer limits of the Coral Sea, some maps showed a 15 kilometre long island, which was named on the maps as Sandy Island. But, when scientist onboard Australia’s Marine National Facility research vessel, Southern Surveyor arrived at the location, there was no island to be found.

The island was shown on maps as halfway between Australia and French-governed New Caledonia, but when scientists on the ship arrived at the area, all they saw was 4,620 feet of deep ocean.

Northern Prawn Fishery [external link]

Did you know that the Northern Prawn Fishery (NPF) is the first tropical prawn fishery in the world to be certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council? CSIRO was instrumental in developing the NPF in the 1960s, and now banana, tiger and endeavour prawns from the NPF will carry the blue MSC marine ecolabel.

The NPF is also one of Australia’s most intensively studied fisheries, with a strong scientific basis to its management Australia's most valuable Commonwealth Fishery, worth about A$64 million in 2006-07.

From light globes to cigarette butts, you name it, they’ve probably found it! [external link]

With summer just around the corner, many of us will be shaking out our beach towels, grabbing our buckets and spades, and heading to the beach. But sand and surf may not be all you find at the beach this summer. Dr Denise Hardesty leads a team of scientists, school students and community members who have been working their way around the Australian coastline taking note of the garbage that has washed up on the beach.

She chatted live on CSIRO’s Ustream channel on 16 November about her research into marine debris and its impact on our coastal environments.

Oceans from Space [external link]

Satellite images are helping to develop products for determining water quality in the Great Barrier Reef. The eReefs project previewed some of its early products including the Marine Water Quality Dashboard which uses satellite images to generate timely and accurate water quality information.