Rocky Cape Lighthouse. Photo: Rick Stuart-Smith
Over the past 25 years, scientists from UTAS have regularly surveyed 30 shallow rocky reef sites along the Cradle Coast region’s coastline.
Led by Dr Neville Barrett, the team detected changes in reef ecosystems which they believe are due to fishing pressure, climate change, and improvement in water quality (because of reduced industrial emissions near Burnie).
Increases were observed in species that prefer warm water, mirroring the 0.4°C rise in average sea surface temperature. These included Herring Cale, Zebra Fish, Horseshoe Leatherjacket and Victorian Scalyfin.
There were declines in the size and abundance of commonly harvested fish species like Banded Morwong, Bastard Trumpeter, Black-lip Abalone and Rock Lobster.
Giant Kelp has been completely lost from the study sites, as it has been across much of Tasmania.
Other algae species have increased their cover slightly, probably because of reduced water pollution. However, the signs of recovery were not as great as expected.
To continue monitoring the health of the Cradle Coast region’s rocky reefs, the citizen science organisation, Reef Life Survey (RLS), has established survey sites at Rocky Cape.
Specially trained divers volunteer their time for RLS, and together, they have so far surveyed 3,300 sites across 54 countries. RLS has just logged survey number 12,000, which is equivalent to more than 60,000 hours of volunteered time!
This March, Rocky Cape RLS volunteers gathered for their fourth annual monitoring trip.
Over four days, and despite some stormy weather, the survey team completed 11 surveys at 8 sites, and recorded 3,971 individual animals of 61 species.
Read the full report here
You can read an excellent trip report by Ella Clausius at https://reeflifesurvey.com/rocky-cape-2019/.