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Redmapper profile: NSW diver, student and photographer

Yvette Barry, 01 Dec 2015.

Ben Stewart loves to freedive in the pristine waters of Forster on the NSW mid-north coast. He’s been lucky enough to photograph a vast number of tropical vagrants that hitch a ride south each summer. And Redmap's lucky he logged his uncommon photos of butterflyfish, rockcod and wrasse on the Redmap app!

  • A White's seahorse spotted by Ben. This sighting is not out of its usual range but makes for a great photo! (click on photo to enlarge). Also, such sighting help scientists map where this seahorse usually lives.

  • A Jansen's wrasse spotted south of its usual home range near Forster. This fish is considered out of its usual distribution if spotted south of Coffs Harbour.

  • A juvenile saddle butterflyfish spotted near Forster, well south of its usual home in Queensland waters (Photo: Ben Stewart)

How long have you been diving and freediving? 11 years

What’s your favourite dive spot in NSW?  Seal Rocks (just south of Forster). This area has great marine biodiversity. Through the months of summer and autumn a great range of tropical species can be found here!

What do you when you’re not underwater? A Master’s degree in marine science and management at Southern Cross University.

Which warm-water species have you logged on Redmap? Jansen’s wrasse, butterflyfish, White’s seahorses and purple rockcod (see his sighting here).

Do any of those sightings stand out in your mind? A lot of the tropical species that I log on Redmap pop up each year around Forster. White’s seahorse are habitat particular and I often find them in pairs in the same area with the same substrate and vegetation. Yellow boxfish are usually secretive and found in caves and overhangs, especially tiny juveniles, which can make photographing them a bit tricky. Jansen’s wrasse are one of the more uncommon tropical vagrants around Forster. They are quick moving and cover a lot of ground. Sitting on the bottom and waiting for the fish to swim past your field of view is easier than trying to chase it down for a photo!

Have you seen more of these tropical species over time? Some tropical species may be abundant one season and absent the next couple of seasons. However, I have noticed more tropical species surviving through the winter and spring months and reaching large sizes. Some butterflyfish, such as threadfins, duskys, and Gunthers, are commonly surviving through to the next season. Some Serranids like the purple rockcod have made it through to the next season and attained a large size.

Do you have any other hobbies than diving? Underwater photography and videography!

See all of Ben's sightings on his Redmap profile page.

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