Sonar research maps local reefs

FOR the first time, deep ocean reefs at depths of between 25 and 70 metres have been mapped in the Solitary Islands Marine Park using nationally significant sonar research.

Swath acoustic data, or multi beam sonar frequencies, has allowed researchers to more accurately map seabeds in the marine park determining the form and make-up of offshore reefs.

In the past, scientists have relied solely on aerial photography.

But what this breakthrough has found is that there may exist in the marine park more sub-tidal reef, on which corals grows, than previously thought.

In helping to form the draft review, the Marine Park Authority has also conducted underwater video surveys monitoring fish species congregating around baits dropped on the sea floor.

Scientific researcher Hamish Malcolm has conducted much of the mapping and fish stock research over the past nine years.

“Twenty five per cent of the sea bed contained in the Solitary Island Marine Park has been mapped at this point,” Mr Malcolm said.

“We have also been able to study what fish species are found in different areas ranging from deep sea reef habitats to soft sediment assemblages such as sand bottoms,” he said.

The marine studies are offering a greater insight into reef and sea floor ecosystems, habitat and more importantly the health of fish stocks.



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