The University of Newcastle will lead the New South Wales rollout of an interactive reporting website encouraging the community to log uncommon catches or unusual sightings of marine life.
Redmap* (Range Extension Database and Mapping project) has been operating in Tasmania since 2009 and is now being introduced Australia-wide to better track marine movement.
Coordinator of Redmap NSW Associate Professor Natalie Moltschaniwskyj, a marine ecologist at the University of Newcastle, said Redmap would tap into the marine knowledge of the 3.5 million Australians who go fishing or diving at least once a year.
“Redmap encourages the community to submit sightings of all marine life including fish, turtles, sharks, rays, crayfish, corals, seaweeds, urchins and prawns,” Professor Moltschaniwskyj said.
“Due to ocean warming, we’ve noticed more warm-water fish venturing away from their usual homes. For example, tropical species usually seen in southern Queensland are being seen in Port Stephens and as far south as Sydney Harbour.”
“Gathering sightings over time will show if these fish are here to stay, one-off visitors or just seasonal migrants.”
Redmap founder and marine biologist Dr Gretta Pecl, from the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) at the University of Tasmania, said photos and data submitted would be reviewed by a network of marine scientists across the country.
“Each sighting is a piece of the puzzle that over time will reveal which species or regions may be experiencing greater changes in marine distributions,” Dr Pecl said. “Some seas along the coast of Australia are warming at two to four times the global average and while some species may adapt to changing water conditions, others may even disappear.”
Dr Alan Jordan from the NSW Department of Primary Industries said Redmap’s community observations would provide an early indication of marine shifts, allowing management and research to be better channelled into the key regions.
“This information will alert the marine community to new fish arrivals and minimise the risk for those fisheries or regions that may be more impacted by species on the move,” Dr Jordan said.
For interviews: Associate Professor Natalie Moltschaniwskyj on 0417 509 463 or email Natalie.Moltschaniwskyj@newcastle.edu.au
Dr Gretta Pecl, Redmap Australia’s principal investigator, Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) at the University of Tasmania, on 0408 626 792 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
* Redmap NSW is supported logistically and financially by The University of Newcastle, NSW Department of Primary Industries, Southern Rivers CMA, Community Environment Network, Central Coast Marine Discovery Centre, and C2O Fisheries Consulting; it also receives support from many fishing, diving and community groups around the country. Redmap Australia is hosted by IMAS at the University of Tasmania. The expansion of Redmap nationally was made possible with funding from an Australian Government Inspiring Australia grant, the Australian National Data Service (ANDS) and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF).