Rottnest Island survey weekend 20th-23rd May
July 18, 2011 by Toni
The fourth annual RLS Rottnest Island survey weekend proved yet another success, with the majority of sites surveyed by an excellent group of RLS divers, all with much appreciated help from the Rottnest Island Authority.
The survey weekend was slow to kick off as a nasty front brought winds up to 50kts and large swells. Despite this, not a single one of the divers decided to come over a day later, instead choosing to brave the conditions and do a shore dive in the choppy seas on the Friday, when the boats were unable to get across to the island for the planned dives. Saturday saw an improvement in weather, with the Dive Frontiers RIB and the RLS ducky arriving, but some lingering poor visibility. All came together for some incredible dives on Sunday and Monday though, with the team reporting visibility in excess of 25m and loads of fish!
The trend on the east coast of Australia this Autumn was also evident in the west – unusually warm waters, and numerous tropical species. A total of 113 fish species was recorded by the team of 10, which included local marine gurus Karen Crawley, Paul Day, Wendy Hutchison, Cheryl Petty, Marjon Phur, Kevin Smith and Rusty Stevens (who was actually not rusty at all), with easterners Jen Hoskin, Don Love and Martin Mueller. Of the fishes recorded, 33 were tropicals (and sub-tropicals) – up from 23 tropicals (and sub-tropicals) recorded from all surveys at Rotto over the last 3 years (out of approx. 150 fishes). The significance of this is more evident when survey effort is compared: 36 transects were surveyed this year, compared to 115 surveyed all up previous to this.
Unfortunately the weather didn’t allow the West End grey nurses to be surveyed, but large baldchin grouper, blue groper, dhufish and kingfish featured at a few of the team’s favourite sites: Kingston Reef, Crystal Palace, Roe Reef and the Count. The Duck Rock site also impressed those divers that had not previously surveyed it and pretty much everyone was raving about excellent dives with lots of marine life on Sunday and Monday afternoons. Russ was particularly proud, having recorded possibly the first confirmed record of Nembrotha milleri in Australia!
One other highlight that has to be mentioned was Cheryl’s 50th Birthday (Oops, I mean 40th!) on Saturday. Marjon somehow carefully managed to sneak a magnificent marine cake across on the ferry and everyone enjoyed celebrating Cheryl’s milestone with a lovely chocolate cake! Happy birthday Cheryl!
We would like to give a massive thanks to Helen Shortland-Jones at the Rottnest Island Authority, who as Rusty has done in the last couple of years, provided ferry tickets, accommodation at the research station, arranged all the tanks and fills, boat pens and provided enormous logistical support in general. The Rotto survey weekend simply could not go ahead without this enormous support from the RIA – and given how much everyone loves the Rotto survey weekend, I’m sure we speak for all the divers in thanking Helen and the RIA. A big thanks also to our skipper Phil Fox (a hardy Tasmanian himself) and Dive Frontiers – the RIB was perfect again and well skippered. Paul and Wendy also deserve thanks for putting in a lot of extra time and effort to ensure we had the ducky, which essentially doubles the number of sites that can be surveyed and allows the bigger group.
Let’s hope for another good one next year, which will mark the 5th straight year of RLS Rotto surveys!