Redmap will track whether more tropical fish, like the blackback butterflyfish (Chaetodon melannotus) (pictured), are heading into NSW waters (Photo: Erik Schlogl)
By Yvette Barry
Have you ever seen a fish or marine species that you are pretty sure doesn’t usually live along your stretch of the New South Wales coastline? With the launch of Redmap Australia, a website where citizen scientists collect information on our changing seas, you’ll be able to log your unusual sighting at www.redmap.org.au.
Redmap was first launched in Tasmania in December 2009 to track which marine species might be ‘moving house’ south – or shifting their distribution – in search of cooer waters as some Tasmanian seas warm at 3 to 4 times the global rate.
So far, Tasmanian fishers and divers have logged hundreds of sightings on Redmap of more than 70 species. This includes sightings of white-ear (Parma microlepis), gloomy octopus (Octopus tetricus) and eastern rock lobster (Jasus verreauxi), species traditionally found off the NSW coast.
With such a positive response it’s no surprise Redmap was launched onto the national stage.
Redmap NSW is keen for sightings and photos of any uncommon marine life at your local fishing, diving or swimming spots. And not just fish, but also turtles, crabs, lobster, seaweed, shellfish and prawns, to name a few. Photos are verified by a team of marine scientists to identify the fish species and to confirm they’re away from their usual marine postcode. This ensures higher quality data is collected.
Associate Professor Natalie Moltschaniwskyj, a marine ecologist in the School of Environmental & Life Sciences at the University of Newcastle, is the driving force behind Redmap NSW. She and her team are interested in community sightings of tropical species that may be heading down the coast from Queensland. Redmap NSW will track about 60 species including butterfly fish, painted crayfish, coral trout and tropical wrasses.
“Anecdotally we are getting tropical species down in Sydney like damselfish and angelfish in the summer but they die off in the winter,” said Moltschaniwskyj.
If more adult fish make it through a winter, it could mean they’re starting to shift their usual home further south and could be there to stay.
“We’re predicting a mixed reaction to warming seas,” Associate Professor Moltschaniwskyj said. “While some species may adapt to the balmy new conditions, others will shift into new areas in search of their preferred marine climate or may dissappear from an area.”
Moltschaniwskyj is not the only one excited that Redmap has come to the state. The Southern Coastal Management Authority has secured some funding for Redmap in southern NSW. Scientists, as well as DPI fisheries groups, have provided photos and information on the fish that may be shifting their ranges in the state.
Over time, and with many sightings, Redmap’s community data will help detect if marine species are really setting up shop elsewhere; or whether they are just one-off or seasonal visitors into NSW coastal waters. This information will help to focus research and inform management about those species and regions that are experiencing more range shifts with a changing marine climate.
Redmap also engages people with their marine environment and the issue of climate change. The website encourages members to share their sighting photos and anecdotes. It also has information and news on fishing, diving and the marine environment. Everyone can comment on the latest sightings and a smart phone application will be up and running in 2013 to make logging an unusual fish that much easier.
Redmap lets Australians collect, share, learn and comment on information about their local seas. And all whilst doing the things they love: diving, fishing and swimming!
Check out the marine biota that Redmap NSW will be tracking along the coast: Redmap NSW species
Redmap is a large collaborative project lead by the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) at the University of Tasmania, and involving the University of Newscastle, James Cook University, the Government of South Australia Primary Industries and Regions SA (PIRSA), Museum Victoria, the Western Australia Department of Fisheries, the University of Adelaide and the South East Australia Program (SEAP).
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) . Redmap Tasmania started with funding from the Tasmanian Community Fund and Redmap Australia also receives support from Mures Tasmania and many fishing, diving and community groups around the country. And the website would not have been possible without the innovation and patience of Ionata Web Solutions and graphic designer Holly Webber.