Abstract:

Rocky reefs form an important habitat on Australia’s continental shelf and are recognised as a Key Ecological Feature (KEF) in the Marine Bioregional Plans of which developing the Australian Marine Parks was one objective. Despite the national significance of rocky habitat on Australia’s continental shelf, very little is known about these systems beyond their value to the fishing industry.

The Hunter Marine Park (HMP) located in the Temperate East management zone is situated between Port Stephens and Foster in New South Wales. The HMP is unique in that it borders the State-managed Port Stephens – Great Lakes Marine Park (PSGLMP), with the HMP extending from the state waters boundary at 3 nm offshore to across the continental shelf. Earlier research has revealed areas of reef in 80-100 m of water (mesophotic zone), within the HMP, although very little is known about the fish assemblages that inhabits reefs at these depths in this region.

Stereo baited remote underwater video (stereo-BRUV) was used to sample the fish assemblages and benthic habitats on rocky reefs within the HMP and PSGLMP. To date we have completed three of the four intended surveys from 2016 to 2018. Preliminary results have shown that the fish assemblages of mesophotic rocky reefs are different to those which were recorded on shallower reefs in the PSGLMP. Despite this significant difference there were some similarities. This included a similar relative abundance of fishery-targeted species in the HMP when compared to the shallower sites within the PSGLMP.

This milestone report outlines the surveys undertaken in the HMP and adjacent reefs in the PSGLMP in 2016 and 2017.

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