Sunday, 23 February 2014

Large fish have disappeared from vast tracts of Australian coast, survey shows

Climate change looms as greatest of threats, which also include fishing and pollution, says survey co-founder

Vast tracts of Australia's coastline have been denuded of large fish, with marine life under pressure from climate change, over-fishing, pollution and invasive species, a year-long study has found.

The reef life survey, undertaken by volunteer divers along the entire Australian coastline, took in reefs up to 400 nautical miles out to sea, including remote areas not previously studied in detail. Starting and ending in Tasmania, researchers circumnavigated Australia, including a trip to areas of the Coral sea which have been set aside for a huge marine park.

Project co-founder Graham Edgar, of the University of Tasmania, told Guardian Australia the health of Australia's marine areas is decidedly mixed.

"We found very large areas of dead coral around the Montebello Islands, off northwest WA, which is a protected area," he said. "Previously, this area was very rich in coral but it looks like it has been impacted by heatwaves in that area.

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