Discovering 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 for southern bluefin tuna.
The area also houses an abundance of marine resources and wealth which can be realised for the benefit of all Australians.
More than 85 per cent of known species in the region are found nowhere else in the world. However, until now, relatively little was 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.
The Great Australian Bight research program
Through a $20 million, four-year project, we conducted studies to transform the deep ecosystems of the Great Australian Bight from one of Australia's least studied environments to one of the most well-known, to improve our understanding of the environmental, economic and social value of the Great Australian Bight.
Conducted from 2013-2017, the project brought together multidisciplinary research teams comprising more than 100 scientists and technical staff.
New scientific knowledge has been developed for:
- Improved understanding of the oceans processes underpinning the ecosystem.
- New insights into what drives productivity in the open ocean.
- Greater awareness of the region's biodiversity, especially in the deep ocean beyond the continental shelf.
- Identification of at least 277 species that are new to science, and 887 species not previously reported in the Great Australian Bight.
- Improved understanding of the biology and ecology of the region's marine mammals, seabirds and sharks.
- Improved understanding of the migratory and foraging patterns of southern bluefin tuna.
- Collation of historical information on seismic activity in the Great Australian Bight.
- Confirmation of oil and gas characteristics in the Great Australian Bight.
- Improved understanding of the values and priorities of people living in the Great Australian Bight's coastal townships.
This Program has provided new scientific tools and a benchmark for future scientific studies, monitoring programs and management advice.
The results have been provided for the benefit of stakeholders, such as Commonwealth and state regulators and governments, and a diverse range of research, community and environmental groups.
Check out this video of our researchers collecting samples in the Great Australian Bight.