Audit traces marine life


Marine creatures off Rye delight divers. Pictures: Supplied/Liz Cameron

AN audit of marine life under Rye pier on Saturday 10 February aimed at charting the area’s sea life in a scientific format.

Marine biologist Fam Charko and 12 regular Rye divers spent about two hours conducting what they believe is the first audit of species around the reefs and pier. Those marine animals found will be identified and catalogued and used as baseline data. More audits are planned, including a night dive as more species come out at night.

The audit aims to help protect the myriad plants, animals and fish threatened by dredging works or the building of the jetty near the boat ramp. Seahorses, sea cucumbers, banjo sharks and rays live in what’s described by enthusiasts as a “marine wonderland that most people don’t even know about”.

Recent works on pier pylons by Parks Victoria are believed to have adversely impacted on the seahorse population at Rye. Members of the diving community are concerned at the effect of the works, particularly on juvenile seahorses. One was found dead on the pier.

Rye Community Group Alliance’s Mechelle Cheers said they hoped the ‘citizen-science project’ would lead to the pier area becoming a mini-marine sanctuary.

“It could be enjoyed by all – including the diverse range of creatures living there,” she said.

“Rye pier is a very popular dive spot: not just with locals but a significant number of international tourists who come to Rye to dive.”

Ms Charko interviewed Ms Cheers on her 3CR radio program ‘Out of the Blue’ on Sunday 4 February. “We feel the focus for Port Phillip Bay is often above the water, or on what can be taken home for food,” Ms Cheers said.

“The marine environment underwater is often ‘out of sight, out of mind’ so people don’t appreciate and embrace our unique marine treasures.”

Ms Cheers said it was “upsetting to discover that during the week the big old Maori octopus, nicknamed Voldemort by beachgoers, had been killed by a pier fisherman.

First published in the Southern Peninsula News – 20 February 2018


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