After the number of tropical low pressure systems over Sydney in the lead up to this year’s trip, everyone had been closely watching the weather forecasts with fingers crossed hoping we would not have a repeat of Sydney 2011.
Local RLS divers Elaine Kwee, Martin Mueller and Thierry Rakotoarivelo were joined by Rick Stuart Smith and a contingent from the Hunter: Ashley Smith, Kate Tinson, Margo Smith, Nicola Davis, Tom Davis and new recruit, David Atkinson for the four days. UTas database guru, Just Berkhout, was also there and provided very helpful data assistance.
Friday’s weather was perfect and most of the team split up to tick off the more exposed sites around the eastern beaches, while Tom and Nicola headed a little further south to Oak Park. Saturday and Sunday’s dives were predominantly boat dives inside Sydney Harbour, re-surveying the high priority sites around Middle, North and South Heads. Unfortunately strong southerlies and big swell restricted access to sites outside and around the Heads. Shore sites at Camp Cove and Shelly Beach were surveyed on Monday.
In total, 33 transects were completed at 15 sites. There were substantially fewer fish species recorded this year than last: 118 species, down from 187 from the same number of transects and sites in 2011. The difference was noticeable in fewer juveniles of tropical and sub-tropical species, presumably linked to cooler water temperatures than during the surveys last year.
The more unusual species included Batrachomoeus dubius (eastern frogfish) and a juvenile Lethrinus genivittatus (long spine emperor). Rick found an old friend, photographing a large Achoerodus viridus(eastern blue groper) at Camp Cove – The markings/scars confirming the same individual at that site for the last three years! We look forward to seeing him next year….
Thank you to all this year’s participants and the Bondi Dive Centre for fills and equipment hire. Also to the crew of Omega II, Pete and Guv, for sterling boat service and gourmet surface interval refreshments, hot cross buns and melting moments!