Mother Nature put on perfect weather for the 5thannual Rottnest Island survey weekend and blue skies and calm seas were a welcome change from last year’s winds and swell.
The weekend was a huge success with a large number of sites surveyed by fantastic crew, including 2 new trainees. One of the great things about the annual Rottnest Island survey weekend is the ability to be able to accommodate a large group of volunteers and maximise survey output over the four day weekend. We had a hard core team of veterans this year; Paul Day, Wendy Hutchison and Kevin Smith made up the WA contingent, while a number of south eastern Australians made the trip over for the weekend; Don Love, Jen Hoskin, Tom Davis and Nicola Davis and Toni Cooper and Liz Oh from the RLS headquarters in Hobart! In addition we had two new WA trainees; Harri Davies and Amanda Willmott join the RLS team – proving they were more than capable of handling Reef Life Survey’s high quality, scientific data collection protocols.
134 different species of fishes and 78 different macro-invertebrates were recorded over the weekend; these numbers were up from last year with 123 different fish species and 64 different macro-invertebrate species recorded in 2011. Of these fishes recorded, 33 species were tropicals – 7 more than was recorded during the 2011 surveys. As seen in previous years, the most common fish species seen were; Chromis westaustralis (West Australian puller), Trachinops brauni (blue-lined hulafish), Coris auricularis (western king wrasse) and Pempheris klunzingeri (blackhead puller). Similarly, there were no shocks that Centrostephanus tenuispinus, Fromia polyporaand Turbo torquatus were most common macro-invertebrate species.
The Rottnest weekend was funded by a Coastwest grant from the Western Australian Department for Planning and Infrastructure and Caring for our Country and was part of the Community-assisted assessment and monitoring of Western Australian Marine Protected Areas’ project. Chris Lukes, the Coastal Zone Management Coordinator for Coastwest came and met the RLS team and was able to see the crew in action.
Apart from the fabulous team of volunteers who put in hours of fish identification, data entry, photo cataloguing and diving – we must also thank Wendy and Chris for their super efforts with the UEC vessel. It made a real difference having a large, comfortable boat to dive from and to be able to get out to the offshore sites such as West End, Jackson Rocks, Swirl Reef and Roe Reef – some of which haven’t been re-surveyed in the last 2 years due to weather and accessibility.
The trip would not have been possible without the support of the Rottnest Island Authority who provided ferry tickets, the research station, tank fills and vehicle use. Helen Shortland-Jones, as always, did an amazing job sorting out all the on-island logistics.
Over the last 5 years RLS has collected high quality, standardised data from 23 sites around Rottnest Island, equating to a massive 201 surveys. These data feed directly back into the long term monitoring and management of Rottnest Island by the Rottnest Island Authority as well as contributing to the RLS database. We are looking forward to making next year the 6th consecutive year of data collection from our Rottnest Island monitoring sites.