This year a team of eight dedicated RLS divers surveyed 31 long-term reef monitoring sites in the Ningaloo Marine Park and Muiron Islands. Eloise Ashworth, Harri Davies, Paul Day, Jen Hoskin, Ben Jones, Alicia McArdle and Kevin Smith joined Rick at the Murdoch University research station at Coral Bay. The team completed 76 transects along a 50km stretch of coast in the south, inside Exmouth Gulf and up at the Muiron Islands during the expedition.
Over 300 species of fish were recorded on transects, and 170 mobile invertebrate and cryptic fish species during method 2 surveys. These included a number of notable finds such as two species of undescribed nudibranch (pictured below), two undescribed species of coral goby never previously recorded in Australian waters and a humpback whale passing by off the end of one transect. Live coral cover was still considerably reduced at a number of sites following damage from cyclones prior to last year’s surveys, but plenty of new growth was evident at these sites.
The trip was part of a project funded by the State NRM Program and Royalties for Regions Program, which also supported the previous two Rottnest Island and last year’s Ningaloo surveys. A big thank you to Mike van Keulen and Frazer McGregor for support with the research station once again, which also makes the survey trip possible. Thanks also to the support of the Department of Parks and Wildlife WA and Ningaloo Reef Dive.