The tally: 108 transects at 52 sites, 226 species on M1, 128 on M2, a gold medal and a few minor bruises and scratches.
The biennial RLS monitoring of shallow reefs in the Lord Howe Island Marine Park (LHIMP) lived up to the successes of previous years, very much due to the incredible support of the local LHIMP team, the tireless hard work of all the RLS divers and assisted by a week of great weather at the start. Sallyann Gudge, Emma & Tim Henry, Caitlin Woods, Sophie Powell, Yanir Seroussi, Andrew Green, John Turnbull, Scott Ling and Rick hit the water for the 6th RLS monitoring campaign, with the continued generous support of Aaron from Pro Dive and Brian from Howea Divers.
The team added at least four new records of species in Lord Howe Island waters, including Ambon Puller (Chromis amboinensis), Blacksaddle Filefish (Paraluteres prionurus), Girdled Goby (Priolepis cincta)and Darkspotted Scorpionfish (Sebastapistes tinkhami). Also of interest was that the area previously affected by the Sea Lamington (Tripneustes gratilla) sea urchin boom seems to have continued its recovery, with only five individual Tripneustes recorded across all 108 transects, and none at the Keyhole site at the Admiralty Islands. There even appears to have been an increase in coral cover at Keyhole since the urchin boom has subsided, although the PQs from the last two surveys haven’t been analysed yet.
Among many achievements on the trip, the team continued a successful run at the Island’s Discovery Day carnival. In particular, Scott took out the slow bike race, becoming the first non-local in recent memory to take the gold medal for this event off the island (probably risking RLS being invited back).
More important than individual successes, or even the group achievements, this 6th survey campaign added to what has become a huge contribution by RLS, as an organisation, to the knowledge of the Lord Howe Island marine environment and its management. There have now been 27 divers put in at least 882 volunteer days (at considerable personal financial expense) to survey 642 transects. More than 643,000 individuals of 414 fish and 163 invertebrate species have been recorded, and >12,500 photoquadrats of coral and seaweed cover taken.
The continued support and effort put in from Sallyann and her team to make it all happen demonstrate how much the RLS efforts are valued for the management of the World Heritage Listed LHIMP. From the RLS perspective, it is always wonderful to know that an extraordinary team of committed and skilled divers (more than can be accommodated) will stick up their hands to contribute, every time.
As well as Sallyann, Emma, Tim and Caitlin, RLS thanks Aaron and Brian for invaluable local knowledge and generous assistance.