Scientists have revealed spectacular reefs with colourful sponge gardens, corals and abundant fish species off Victoria for the first time.
They used a ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) to map and record the marine life in Wilsons Promontory Marine National Park from 30 metres to 100 metres deep.
Here’s some of the footage from the robot survey:
Steffan Howe, Parks Victoria marine science manager, says the area is famous for its stunning landscapes, but what lives deep beneath the sea has previously been unknown.
“The exciting discoveries follow previous research that mapped the park’s sea floor in detail,” he says.
Those maps identified underwater structures very deep beneath the ocean but didn’t show what sort of marine life was there.
“The resulting footage shows that the deep reef habitats are teeming with life and are home to rich and abundant marine ecosystems that are comparable to Australia’s better-known tropical reef areas,” Howe says.
He says the extent and abundance of spectacular sponge gardens and corals is a particularly exciting find.
“It is important for us to have a comprehensive understanding of the habitats and inhabitants in Wilsons Promontory Marine National Park to help guide how we manage this important area in the future,” says Howe.
Highlights of the discovery and mapping expeditions include: massive coral fans, large sea whips and colourful sponge gardens beyond scientists expectations, extensive walls, house-sized boulders, ridges and caverns with a diverse range of colourful sponges, hard and soft corals and abundant fish life.
The survey also brought back images of 90 metre deep holes with big schools of deep sea perch, and complex underwater dune systems, including one about 30 metres high and 2 km long.
Some of the fish species are of conservation significance as they are rare at the state level, such as Australian barracuda (Sphyraena novaehollandiae) and Longsnout Boarfish (Pentaceropsis recurvirostris).