Calling all divers & snorkellers: Great Victorian Fish Count underway

Divers and snorkellers in the waters off southern Australia are being invited to participate in the Great Victorian Fish Count to help monitor the area’s coastal ecology.

The “biggest citizen science event on the marine calendar” is now in its 11th year with divers and snorkellers of all abilities encouraged to take part. Participants in the two-week event are asked to look out for local species, as well as any new or unusual sightings, and then log their sightings in Redmap.org.au.

Eastern Blue Groper.

Eastern Blue Groper. Image by Sylke Rohrlach / CC BY-SA 2.0

Organiser Mark Rodrigue told the ABC that past events had resulted in some surprising sightings. "One of the things the fish count is quite proud of in its history, is that it discovered a large bony fish in Victoria, that grows 1.4m’, he said. The western blue groper is well known in other parts of Australia, but was not thought to live in the waters off Victoria until it was discovered by fish counters in one of the early events.

Moray eel.

Moray eel. Image by Thomas Quine / CC BY 2.0

One consistent theme of the fish count over the years has been to observe the effects of climate change, which has seen a number of species moving into southern waters from their traditional habitats. "Already there are quite significant shifts in things like temperature, strengthening of the east Australian current, and this is what's contributing to some of the species we're interested it," Mr Rodrigue explained.

Weedy Seadragon.

Weedy Seadragon. Image by Tim Sackton / CC BY-SA 2.0

The Great Victorian Fish Count runs until 6 December and taps into a growing trend in the scientific community to utilise the increasing number of locals and travellers interested in participating in wildlife conservation.

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