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Deep dive to new ocean frontiers

Victoria’s new data-rich marine ecosystem maps and models have revealed important patterns in the dynamics of Southern Rock Lobster and Blacklip Abalone fisheries, which will improve management of these high-value species.

Article originally published by Gio Braidotti for FRDC

What lies beneath . . . a composite image of Deakin University researchers on the water, with ocean floor mapping overlaid on the right-hand side of the image. Photo: Deakin University

The amount of sunlight a landscape receives, the shape of the hills and valleys – even the flow of wind – all have clear implications for the vegetation that grows and the animals it supports. It’s a similar story for marine environments, although there are different factors at play.

To better understand what those factors are, the interplay between them and the implications for fish populations, researchers have developed complex models that produce detailed maps of the ocean floor overlaid with myriad physical, biological, and oceanographic information.

This process has been completed recently for Victorian waters as part of an FRDC-funded project focusing specifically on the dynamics of Blacklip Abalone (Haliotis rubra rubra) and Southern Rock Lobster (Jasus edwardsii) fisheries. However, research leader Daniel Ierodiaconou, at Deakin University, says the work can be adapted for many other species.

“There is still a lot of work that needs to be done, but to our knowledge no one before has mapped an ecosystem the way we did and at a state-wide scale – a first in Australia,” Daniel Ierodiaconou says. “Our aim was to understand the primary drivers of productivity on local geographical scales, the resilience of fishing stocks, and threats associated with environmental change.”

The project mapped 2512 kilometres of Victorian coast and inshore waters – about 12,000 square kilometres of water out to three nautical miles – to produce highly detailed, localised and dynamic marine maps. This kind of approach requires expertise from a broad spectrum of disciplines to integrate the many different kinds of data used.

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