The South Australian RLS volunteers kicked off the annual Fleurieu training trip in early February and were blessed with excellent dive conditions over the four days with 15-20m visibility every day. As a result of the exceptional visibility the ability for divers to “see more” on the survey transects was apparent, making cryptic fish a highlight on this trip with Leafy Seadragons (Phycodurus eques), Velvetfish (Apoloactisoma milesii), Warty Prowfish (Aetapcus maculatus), Silver Spots, Kelpfish and Goblinfish (Glyptauchen panduratus) all found. Colourful nudibranchs, Southern Rock Lobsters (Jasus edwardsii), Giant Cuttlefish (Sepia apama), Southern Fiddler Rays (Trygonorrhina dumerilii), catsharks and even two charismatic Australian Sea Lions (Neophoca cinerea) were also seen and added to the excitement.
Over four days, 12 divers conducted 32 surveys at Rapid Head, Carrickalinga and Second Valley, which contribute to the long term reef monitoring sites for the Adelaide Mount Lofty Ranges Natural Resource Management Board subtidal reef program and Encounter Marine Park. Over 16,000 marine fish and invertebrates were counted with 52 fish species counted on Method 1 and 74 species (50 invertebrates and 24 cryptic fish) counted on Method 2.
The expedition was supported by local Fleurieu dive operator, Dave Gordon from Underwater Sports Diving. This trip was particularly special as newly accredited South Australian RLS volunteer divers Alexandra Lea and Emma-Louise Daly collected official RLS data for the first time with trainer Danny Brock and co-ordinator Jamie Hicks. Other volunteer divers who were trained on the trip were: Tom Stewart, Ian McArdle, Anthony Newbery, Gail Jackman, Flora Jennifer, Fiona McQueen, Sophie Rendina and Anthony Brady.
The group dynamics were awesome and possibly the nerdiest bunch of volunteer divers we have seen to date dedicated to learning all of the species with dedicated rhymes and songs! A few divers we dubbed as “cryptic queens” as they needed to be forced to cease their very long and fruitful M2 searches so they didn’t run out of air, whilst other volunteers demonstrated their sharp eyes by discovering tiny sygnathids and nudibranchs the size of a five cent coin. Other trip highlights include a slightly competitive photo competition ran by trainer Danny Brock, several failed attempts at funny underwater group shots and the appearance of local underwater superhero “Kelpman”… his mission is to count all fish and survey a reef near you!
With such awesome dive conditions, a great group of divers and good vibes it was an incredibly memorable weekend of diving. We are looking forward to our next RLS trip next week to Kangaroo Island to continue with the banter and fun! We would like to thank all the volunteers on this trip for dedicating their time and sharing their passion for the marine environment; Dave Gordon and the Underwater Sports Diving crew for looking after us and Stefan Andrews from Ocean Imaging for capturing this bunch of “salties” surveying up a storm. Natural Resources AMLR with DEW provide continued funding and support for this important volunteer reef health program. Stay tuned for some exciting media highlights from this trip!