Most of us are familiar with the local birds who frequent our gardens and we can probably put a name to those visitor’s who fly in during summer and leave before winter begins. Well the story is the same in the sea.
Living amongst the soft sponge gardens, seagrass meadows or swaying algal forests is a marine wonderland of colourful reef fish, spiky urchins, seastars, crabs and shellfish. Many are resident all year, feeding and breeding within the habitat in which they live.
The cool ocean waters of Southern Australia are home to an estimated 12,000 species; over 85% are endemic and as such are not found anywhere else in the world.
Reef Watch volunteers have been recording the species they see at their favourite reefs for nearly 10 years, bringing to the surface data on the types and numbers of species found at reef sites along the Victorian coast and in our bays. Reef Watch Victoria is a project of the Victorian National Parks Association, funded by the Australian Government through Caring for Our Country and Supported by Museum Victoria.
Along the Surf Coast, groups such as the Friends of Point Addis National Park are involved in the programme and have been surveying the parks abundant fish life during the Great Victorian Fish Count, held in December each year. They have discovered Blue-Throated and Senator Wrasse, Sea Sweep, Banded and Magpie Morwongs, Southern Hulafish, Leatherjackets, Toadfish and Stingrays. The diversity of fish species paints a picture of a healthy reef providing for the different requirements of the fish.
For the past three years, Grade five and six students from Lorne-Aireys P-12, have also been involved in the Great Victorian Fish Count and have had fun surveying the fish under the Lorne Pier. They have been surprised to find there is quite a variety of fish living under the pier, including stripy Zebra fish, Old Wives and Six-spined Leatherjackets.
At the Ingoldsby Reef near Anglesea, divers are able to see an abundance of marine life. It is one of the longest shallow offshore reefs in Victorian waters and is home to over a hundred species of algae, as well as colourful ascidians, fanlike gorgonian corals and feathery hydroids.
Ocean visitors to the Surf Coast can occasionally be seen breaching the surface, including Humpback and Southern Right Whales, Bottlenose Dolphins and giant pelagic sunfish. Below the surface, Mulloway, Australian Salmon, Wobbegongs and School sharks move through the reefs on their way to breed in the bays and inlets or to follow the migratory path of their prey as they move with the seasons of the sea.
Reef Watch volunteers also monitor the marine life at their favourite reefs during the year, providing a seasonal snapshot of the species found. Species lists for each monitored site have been produced, providing a record of the marine biodiversity and complexity of reefs found along the coast.
For further information on Reef Watch Victoria visit
www.reefwatchvic.asn.au or to find out more about the Surf Coasts marine life and community groups, visit http://www.exploreunderwatervictoria.org.au/gallery-8/.