Baited camera research mark II – exploring one of Victoria’s tourist hotspots

Camera rig ready for the drop

Camera rig ready for the drop – the orange poles in the background serve as holders for the bait bags

Earlier this year I took part in one of the Deakin research projects dropping baited camera rigs in and near marine protected areas off the coast of Warrnambool, Victoria. It was a great experience – seeing how the dual-camera rigs are set up and deployed and then later viewing some of the footage of gummy sharks, seals and leatherjackets chewing at the bait bags – here’s a clip from the uni’s Youtube channel:

Yesterday was the first chance I’d had to get back on the boat, this time to the tourist-friendly area near the 12 Apostles and about 40 minutes by boat from Port Campbell. Richard, whose PhD revolves around the baited camera drops and counting, identifying and measuring the video-captured species, picked up two other students and I in the uni truck at 630am and we were on the water by 8.

While my earlier experience involved a lot of waiting, there was no time for hanging around on this trip – we had to make four drops of six camera rigs throughout the day, in slowly building swell with a cold front approaching. The 15kg rigs were also trickier to pull back into the boat from depths of 30-50m, as this charter outfit had a less powerful winch than previously used.

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Richard checking drop sites on his all-weather laptop

With a crew of six on board though, baiting and preparing the rigs was quicker and we were able to make the 24 drops in one day despite a few getting snagged temporarily while being winched up. Species we expect to see on the resulting footage include snapper, gummy sharks, flathead and leatherjacket, depending on the depth and location.

It will be very interesting to see how the biomass varies between drop locations inside and outside the marine park. Cray fishing operators often drop pots metres outside the marine park border, knowing the density of crays inside the park is greater than the heavily exploited sites further up and down the coast. And fishing boats steer clear of the reefs near the border, which should allow fish living in those areas to thrive.

More information on the Parks Victoria-funded research is available here.

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A new addition to the trips – Deakin flag identifies our boat to Fisheries officers, helicopter patrols and fishing boats

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The boat winch is necessary, as boat ramps aren’t an easy addition on this section of coastline boasting some of Victoria’s lagest sea cliffs

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About oceanicexplorer

https://oceanicexplorer.wordpress.com

Posted on December 14, 2012, in boating, exploration, fishing, Great Ocean Road, photography, research, science, tourism, Twelve Apostles and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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