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Subtidal reef monitoring

Published 8 September 2023 Surveying the marine life of rocky reefs of the Greater Sydney area.
content image A baited remote underwater video system to gather data on the size, diversity and abundance of fishes on subtidal reefs. Photo by: Nathan Knott.


Why is this project important?

Coastal reefs and underwater rock formations are important marine habitats. They support a wide variety of animals and plants, including many fish species targeted by recreational and commercial fishers.

In NSW these habitats are under increasing pressure from a range of threats including water pollution, coastal development and climate change.

Monitoring the health of these habitats is critical to identify impacts and guide activities to manage the threats.

We are working to better understand life on coastal reefs and deep rocky reefs in the Greater Sydney Region (from Newcastle to Shell Harbour).  To do this we are surveying the rocky reefs across the area to determine:

  • the different types, numbers and size of fish in these areas
  • the distribution of key habitat species, such as kelp and sponge gardens.

These surveys are being conducted using baited remote underwater video surveys (BRUVS). You can see some footage from our BRUVS by clicking on the link on the right.

We are also undertaking remotely operated vehicle surveys of the biodiversity of the coastal reefs in our NSW aquatic reserves.

Project results will provide managers with new scientific information to support and inform management of these important coastal reefs systems. Project data will also contribute to the Marine Integrated Monitoring Program.

What have we achieved so far?

  • We have conducted surveys on over 450 sites for reef fishes and habitats using baited remote underwater videos in the Greater Sydney region. Surveys were done in 2019 and 2022.
  • Biodiversity surveys in 10 Aquatic Reserves using a remotely operated vehicle.

Maps of juvenile and adult snapper distributions have been published in the journal – Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science.


Greater Sydney region coastline from Newcastle in the north to Shellharbour in the south

Local government areas - Statewide

Lead agency

  • Department of Primary Industries – Fisheries

More information

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