Dr Richard Little
Research voyage out of Hobart to conduct a repeat survey of the biodiversity and habitats of the marine waters of south-east Australia.
The marine waters of southeast Australia are one of a series of global ocean-warming hotspots. In this region, the ocean surface is warming at a rate four times the global average and many species have extended their distributions southward, with apparent changes in local abundance. Projections show that these changes will continue for the next century.
Fishery and ecosystem assessments were last conducted in this region 25 years ago. This voyage, called the South-East Australian Marine Ecosystem Survey (SEA-MES), will repeat the surveys to document changes and establish a new biological and environmental baseline. The knowledge generated will be essential for better planning and managing current and emerging industries, and protecting important habitats and species throughout the region.
There are no other projects on this voyage.
The voyage has 33 science participants from 3 institutions (and 20 crew from ASP Ship Management).
The South-East Australian Marine Ecosystem Survey team led by Dr Rich Little acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the seas in which we are conducting this research. The research area includes Tasmanian, Victorian, New South Wales and Commonwealth waters. We pay our respects to elders past and present, and thank them for their continued stewardship over the lands, seas and skies in which we live, work and rest.
To safeguard the health and well-being of participants, strict COVID protocols apply to all activities on this voyage. This includes 2-phase PCR testing of all participants for COVID prior to boarding the vessel.
During this voyage, researchers mapped and sampled marine life from the marine waters of southeast Australia, including large areas of the Flinders and Freycinet Marine Parks. This included collecting imagery, environmental DNA and physical specimens to quantify the distribution and abundance of marine life in this region. Importantly, this data will be compared with data collected during the last major survey of this region conducted 25 years ago. Researchers also initiated an experiment to measure the rate of recovery due to bottom disturbance in marine parks in the region, and established a baseline dataset in the recently gazetted fisheries marine closures.
As a result of this voyage, we have a better understanding of how the southeast Australian marine ecosystem has changed over the past 30 years. From initial observations, researchers have identified that there are greater numbers of small pelagic fish species such as jack mackerel, and fur seals feeding on them, than previously recorded. They have also commenced a program pairing two established sampling methods (demersal trawl and deep towed video) with two methods of environmental DNA (eDNA) collection to provide a more comprehensive understanding of marine life in the region.
This voyage is part of a multi-voyage program to understand the impacts of changes to the marine ecosystem and prepare for the continued impending changes. The data and knowledge from this research will be used by fisheries, marine park and other conservation managers, industry and stakeholders including the renewable and non-renewable energy industries.
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