Grade five and six students from Lorne Airey’s P-12 are donning snorkelling gear and heading to the Lorne Pier to take part in the Great Victorian Fish Count (GVFC).
The annual event sees hundreds of volunteer divers and snorkelers plunge into Victoria’s marine waters every December to help survey and monitor important reef sites.
Watch this YouTube clip about the GVFC.
Video: Roger Fenwick
Lorne Airey’s P-12 teacher Suzie Reeves said staff and students were excited to be part of the event, which helps to discover which fish species live in Victoria’s temperate coastal waters.
“It’s a great experience for the students and it’s important they learn to appreciate and take stewardship of the local marine environment.”
“It’s a great experience for the students and it’s important they learn to appreciate and take stewardship of the local marine environment.
“We are the first school to initiate a site, initiating the Lorne Pier site in 2009 in conjunction with Eco-Logic, the Department of Sustainability and Environment and the Great Ocean Road Coast Committee,” she said
Ms. Reeves said the students would be working in pairs with a qualified snorkelling instructor to count fish using underwater slates to record species and numbers.
“By logging our results on the Reef Watch website, we will have an estimation of the structure of fish communities at that time, which can then be compared to future fish counts at the same time each year,” she said.
Reef Watch Coordinator Wendy Roberts said the project, which is run as part of the Victorian National Parks Association’s Reef Watch Program, is the largest community-led ocean monitoring program in Victoria.
“Last years fish count lured more than 400 divers across 22 locations and we expect this year’s event to be even better.
“The volunteers that make the project possible are very important because they bring to the surface information on the fish species that can be found along Victoria’s coasts,” said Ms. Roberts.
Ms. Roberts said Victoria’s marine environment was incredibly unique, with more than 85 per cent of species living in our southern waters are not found anywhere else on earth.
“The waters around Victoria are so rich in marine life they rival the Great Barrier Reef for biological diversity.
“This underwater world is facing mounting pressures from threats such as overfishing, pollution and invasive species.
“Take the Blue Groper for example, which was recently placed under temporary protection in 2011, divers in the GVFC this year will be on the look out to see what numbers are out there,” she said.
Event organisers welcome anyone interested in diving, snorkelling, marine ecology or conservation to get involved and are always looking for more volunteer divers and snorkelers.
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
The Eagle Rock Marine Sanctuary is regularly frequented by a group of local snorkelers from Anglesea and Aireys Inlet. Some 12 months ago, this informal group identified that, while the Friends of Point Addis group encompasses Eagle Rock, there was certainly room to establish a standalone friends group.
With Eagle Rock right on the snorkelers’ doorsteps, the group recognised the importance of the sanctuary to the local community – who share a sense of pride in it – and to the snorkeling/diving community (several times a year, it produces conditions for snorkeling and scuba diving that would be hard to beat anywhere in the world).
In addition, members felt that the sanctuary itself would benefit from an organisation that provided opportunities for the general public to engage with it in more meaningful ways (e.g. monitoring, stewardship, training).
Consequently, the Friends of Eagle Rock Marine Sanctuary group was created to work on projects specific to the sanctuary.
Noticing that the Eagle Rock Marine Sanctuary Management Plan (which is incorporated within the Point Addis Management Plan) recommends regular monitoring to compare locations inside and outside of the sanctuary’s boundary, several group members have since put up their hands to bring this monitoring to life.
The group will work with Reef Watch, Sea Search, the Great Victorian Fish Count and Eco-Logic to engage local and visiting school groups, and members of the public in the monitoring project. Plans are also afoot to create an interactive website to educate and engage sanctuary visitors. This would include underwater footage, monitoring data, visitor information and the like.
As the Marine Parks and Sanctuary system is still relatively new, the group is also interested in the management plans for these parks, including how recommendations should be addressed to make the pending review of these documents worthwhile. With questions around the role and importance of marine parks and sanctuaries on the political agenda, the group believes a true understanding of their economic, ecological and social values is yet to be determined.
While still early days, the establishment of the Friends of Eagle Rock Marine Sanctuary group illustrates:
the value of people who enjoy a common interest joining together to share their passion with others
how identifying an existing shortfall can create new opportunities
the benefits of taking the initiative on an issue rather than waiting for someone else to take action, and
the importance of putting something back into the community or environment rather than taking it for granted.
Story by Andy Gray, Director, Eco-Logic Education and Environment Services