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‘Labrador of the Sea’ re-discovered in marine sanctuary for the first time in ten years

Thursday 2 January, 2014

A maturing Blue Groper has been discovered in Barwon Bluff Marine Sanctuary off Victoria’s southern coast — the first sighting in the area for more than ten years.

The protected fish was one of a number identified during Reef Watch Victoria’s Great Victorian Fish Count run by Parks Victoria staff and Friends of the Bluff in early December.

Parks Victoria Marine and Coasts Program Leader, Mark Rodrigue said that the observation was particularly exciting because the fish seen is likely to have been a Western Blue Groper (Achoerodus gouldii) that was only noted as a Victorian fish species in 2011.

“The closely related Eastern Blue Groper (A.viridis) is well known in Victoria, but the Western Blue Groper was only confirmed in this state recently. Both species are now protected in most states including Victoria,” he said.

“Blue Groper populations have been reduced around Australia and it is really exciting to find a species that has not been noted in the local area for more a decade.

“The fact that this species has now re-emerged in a marine protected area is an encouraging sign that without fishing pressure, these fish populations may be restored,” he said.

Mr Rodrigue said the Blue Groper sightings also highlight the value of ‘citizen science’.

“It is the observations of divers and snorkelers during events such as the fish count and other surveys that have improved awareness of these fish and their distribution.  This highlights the value of getting the community involved in monitoring and helping to care for our wonderfully rich marine areas and their inhabitants,” he said.

The large size and ‘friendly’ and inquisitive character of the Blue Groper has helped them to be described as ‘the Labradors of the sea’ and to endear them to the public. These charismatic fish are a delight for snorkelers and divers and play a key role as a high order predator in reef ecosystems.

Western Blue Groper are the largest carnivorous bony fish species found in southern Australia, can live for up to 70 years and grow up to 1.4 metres long with weights of up to 40 kilograms.

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