It had been a few years since the Reef Life Survey crew completed surveys in Port Phillip Bay, so we were determined to make the most of it. Armed with 2 boats and 8 divers (including 3 shiny new trainees), we descended on Point Lonsdale for four days of intense diving!
Port Phillip Bay always proves to be a logically difficult trip. Sites need to be worked around the weather, number of divers, but most importantly, the tides! Thankfully we had the expertise of Victorian local guru and RLS diver, Don Love, as well as our other fabulous skipper (and chef extraordinaire), Paul Serbo, from Southend Dive Charters to help us maximise the number of sites we could get done over the four days.
We sent Don Love off in one direction, with his team of trained RLS divers, German Soler (Tas) and Jen Hoskin (Vic), while Paul Serbo took out Toni Cooper (RLS, Tas) and the new trainees: Paul Tinkler, Dan Ierodiaconou, Debbie Dalziel and Liza Zilberpriver (all Vic), in the other direction! The swell was considerably smaller than in previous years and although it was incredibly wet for the first few days, the weekend ended on a high with sunshine and low winds!
Over the four days the 2 teams successfully completed 39 surveys at 18 sites around the Bay – A stellar effort by all! On average, 16.3 species of fish were seen at each site, with the highest number of fish species recorded at Pope’s Eye and Cottage by the Sea.
Interestingly, Western blue groper (Achoerodus gouldii) were still only seen on the Portsea side of the Bay (around Pt Nepean and Pt Franklin). Cryptic species featured heavily on the Method 2 counts with Weedfish (Heteroclinus spp.) species were recorded at 10 of the 18 sites, as well as warty prowfish (Aetapcus maculatus) and weedy seadragons (Phyllopteryx taeniolatus).
By day four the team day recorded a total of 70 different species of fish and 77 different invertebrate species. Not only was the weekend a hugely successful one in terms of data collection, but we also welcome 3 new RLS divers to our Victorian contingent, which is GREAT! Congratulations to Paul, Dan and Debbie for doing such a fabulous job and for picking up the survey techniques so quickly – we look forward to seeing the Warrnambool data.
Humongous thanks again to Southend Dive Charters (Paul Serbo) and Don Love for their expert knowledge and for being great skippers. We look forward to seeing you all in the Bay again soon!