Marine life Society of South Australia Inc

2006 Journal

Number 16

December 2006



Are you interested in any aspect of marine life? Do you want to learn more about the underwater world? Are you concerned about pollution of our oceans and destruction of reefs and seagrass beds? If so MLSSA is for you.


Our motto is “--- understanding, enjoying and caring for our oceans ---”. These few words summarise our aims. Members seek to understand our ocean, derive enjoyment from observations of marine life and are committed to protection of the marine environment.


Become a Society member and enjoy contact with others with similar interests. Our members include divers, marine aquarists and naturalists.


Our activities include:-

-Studying our local marine environment

-Community Education

-Underwater photography


Established in 1976, MLSSA holds monthly meetings and occasional field trips. We produce various informative and educational publications including a monthly Newsletter, an Annual Journal and a beautifully illustrated Calendar showing only South Australian marine life. Our library is a source of helpful information for marine enthusiasts.


Through our affiliation with other organisations (eg Conservation Council of SA and  the Scuba Divers Federation of SA) we are kept up to date with relevant issues of interest. MLSSA also has close ties with appropriate Government organisations, e.g. various museums, universities and libraries.


Everyone is welcome to attend our General Meetings which are held on the third Wednesday of every month (except December) at the Conservation Centre, 120 Wakefield Street, Adelaide. We begin with a guest speaker. After a short break there is the general business meeting and this may be followed by a slide show if time permits. The atmosphere is friendly and informal.


We welcome new members. We have subscription levels for students, individuals, families and organisations. We invite you to complete the membership subscription form on our website at:-

Or you may wish to write to the Society for a form, or to complete the one inside the rear cover of this Journal (or a photocopy) and send it with your payment to MLSSA.


The postal address of the Society is:-



120 Wakefield Street,

ADELAIDE     5000.



The MLSSA logo features a Leafy Seadragon which is unique to southern Australian waters. The Leafy is South Australia’s first totally protected fish and is the State marine emblem. Its beauty surpasses that of any creature found in tropical waters and, once seen by divers, is amongst the most remembered of their diving experiences.

















Photograph courtesy of MLSSA member David Muirhead.



Three fouling bryozoans species in Adelaide Waters      Brian J. Brock

The Marine Life at Port Noarlunga Reef                           Steve Reynolds     

Sepia apama, the giant Australian cuttlefish,

in Whyalla, S.A.                                                                 Evan John

Fossil Cave/Green Waterhole Cave (5l81)

Bone Retrieval Dives                                                          Peter Horne

What You Should Know About Great White Sharks        Phil Kemp

The Western Blue Groper                                                  Scoresby Shepherd

The Flora and Fauna of Piccaninnie Ponds

and Ewens Ponds                                                                Steve Reynolds

Patagonian Tooth-fish – why all the fuss?                         Evan John

Save Ewens Ponds!                                                             Gerard Carmody





Welcome to the 2006 edition of the MLSSA Journal. As usual, this replaces the December monthly Newsletter.

This edition of the Journal is the largest we have produced and my thanks go the authors who so willingly gave of their time to create such a wide diversity of interesting and informative articles.

Members, ex-members and people only remotely connected with MLSSA have made this edition possible.

A wide variety of topics are covered and you should find something here to interest and intrigue you.

Good reading and a safe and happy Christmas and New Year to you all.




The opinions expressed by authors of material published in this Journal are not necessarily those of the Society.



EDITING:                       Philip Hall

PRINTING:                     Phill McPeake

CONTRIBUTORS:             Brian Brock

                                                             Steve Reynolds

                                                             Evan John

                                                             Peter Horne/Dave Albano

                                                             Phil Kemp

                                                             Scoresby Shepherd

                                                             Gerard Carmody

PHOTOGRAPHY:              Philip Hall

                                                             Ron Hardman

                                                             David Muirhead

                                                             Neville Skinner

                                                             Peter Horne

                                                             Mike Hammer

                                                             Paul Macdonald

                                                             Gerard Carmody

                                                             Kath Moores

                                                             Rudie Kuiter


Evidence for the occurrence of the three fouling bryozoan species Tricellaria porteri (MacGillivray, 1889), Tricellaria occidentalis (Trask, 1857) and Scruparia ambigua (d’Orbigny, 1841), in Adelaide Waters


by Brian J Brock


Bryozoans are colonial marine or freshwater organisms. The colony is made up of a few or many thousands of individuals, each in a little box, cup-like, or tube-like chamber, which may be more or less calcified. When feeding, a ring of tentacles is protruded from the protective chamber. Cilia along the tentacles beat in such a way that food organisms or particles are swept towards the base of the tentacle bell. When the mouth opens and the pharynx dilates, the food is forced into the top end of the U-shaped gut by water pressure. Some colonies look like plants, others are heavily calcified and might be mistaken for coral. Others form delicate incrustations or branching sculptures on brown or red algae or marine flowering plants. Living bryozoans are common on most submerged surfaces; look for them on boat bottoms, pontoons, buoys, jetty piles, rocks, mangrove pneumatophores and waterlogged branches, hulks, etc. Fossil species are common in limestone cliffs along the Murray River or around our coasts and in Mount Gambier limestone.

If living colonies are put in fresh seawater (for marine species) the feeding currents and tentacle bells might be seen. A hand lens will help. Following a sea snake to see living bryozoans on its tail is not recommended.

From mid 1975 until February 1977, I carried out settlement experiments at Outer Harbour and Angas Inlet. The latter site is warmed by effluent from the Torrens Island Power Station. My settlement tiles for the longest term experiment, were dark grey cement aggregate window-sill tiles suspended horizontally, 50cms below water, beneath pontoon platforms. Pairs of tiles were immersed for a month at each site, new tiles being put in every fortnight, Tiles were raised after a month, preserved in 10% formalin seawater, and ancestrulae or young colonies of each fouling bryozoan were counted under a microscope.







Tricellaria only occurred at Outer Harbour, the colder water site. Its seasonal abundance is shown in the histogram (fig. 1). Figure 2, shows a 6-spined ancestrula of the Tricellaria species and some other details of the young colony. Old colonies were not found despite regular sampling of pontoon foulers. My settlement tiles could have been seeded by propagule from some of the fouled yachts or other harbour installations or mooring facilities. Vessels moored for a long time became heavily fouled with bryozoans and other benthic invertebrates and algae etc.

On June 7th 1889, a paper by P. H. MacGillivray titled “On some South Australian Polyzoa”, was read to the Royal Society of South Australia.

Menifera Porteri, was one of four new species described and illustrated (Plate11, figs. 1-1b). This is the species later known as Tricellaria porteri (MacGillivray). MacGillivray described and illustrated the ooecia as “large, rounded, with a row of foraminera along the upper edge”. The ancestrula is not described, but I believe this is the species that settled on my Outer Harbour tiles in 1976. Specimens MacGillivray saw, grew on algae. I have not seen ovicellate specimens.




Contrast the 6-spine count for the ancestrula of T. porteri (MacGillivray), with the 10-spine count for an ancestrula collected from a Tricellaria band just above Low Water Spring Tide level on a Glenelg jetty pile on 27/3/06. This appears to be an ancestrula of Tricellaria occidentalis. See my Fig. 3. It accords with Mawatari (1951, figs 1A & fig. 7 for T. occidentalis & Anna Occhipinti Ambrogi & J.L. d’Hondt’s (1994) fig. 2 p141 for Tricellaria inopinata. The 1994 paper deals with the invasion of Venice Lagoon by a Tricellaria species. Gordon & Mawatari (1992) considered T. inopinata and Menipea Porteri MacGillivray, 1889, to fall within the range of variations for T. occidentalis.


Anna Occhipinti Ambrogi (1991) says of her T. inopinata in Venice Lagoon, Tricellaria “was never found deeper than the Low Water Spring Tide”. This applies for my T. occidentalis on Glenelg jetty piles. If I could find colonies of Tricellaria conforming to MacGillivray’s description, below Low Water Spring Tide level on Glenelg jetty piles, it would be fairly convincing proof that we do have two different species of Tricellaria in Adelaide waters. Ancestrulae & ovicellate colonies would be helpful. A settlement tile I fastened to a pile on 27/2/06 disappeared. It was KESAB week.



Fig 9.15(c) of Bock (1982) shows ovicells of Tricellaria porteri with several scattered foramina. Such an arrangement is more characteristic of occidentalis as shown in Mawatari (1951) figs 1E & 1H, Nielsen (1985) fig 3, & Gordon & Mawatari 1992 plate 6F. See also my fig 4b. Flexible joints at the base of the branches are shown in my fig 5. Brock (1985) has illustrated several South Australian fouling bryozoans, including T. porteri (MacGillivray, 1889) but ovicells & ancestrulae of Tricellaria were not shown.



The third fouling bryozoan found recently, was Scruparia ambigua (d’Orbigny). The specimens were growing on drift red alga (Ceramium) from Osborne Beach south of North Haven marina on 6/8/06. A single line of adherent zooids buds off erect monoserial branches of zooids some of which might terminate in brood chambers. See my figs. 6 & 7, Ryland (1965) pp22 & 23, & Ryland & Hayward (1977) pp 50 & 51. The brood chambers have two valves and look a bit like a Moroccan gate archway, or bishop’s mitre. The line where the valves join each other can be seen in the frontal view of the supporting zooid (my fig. 6).

Scruparia ambigua and Scruparia chelata (Linnaeus) used to be confused, but in the latter species, the erect branches bud from swollen parts of an adherent stolon (Ryland & Hayward, 1977 pp 52 & 53). Scruparia species are common enough as foulers of ships and on settlement plates, but because of their weak habit, are not particularly troublesome. They are often found on other more robust foulers (Gordon & Mawatari, 1992, p17).





Bock P.E. (1982) Bryozoans. Chapter 9 of S.A. Shepherd & I.M. Thomas (Eds.) Marine Invertebrates of Southern Australia Part I (S.A. Govt. Printer).

Brock B.J. (1985) South Australian fouling Bryozoans. In: C. Nielsen & G.P. Larwood (Eds.) Bryozoa: Ordovician to Recent pp 45-49. (Olsen & Olsen).

Gordon D.P. & Mawatari S.F. (1992) Atlas of Marine Fouling Bryozoa of New Zealand Ports & Harbours. (Miscellaneous Publications of the New Zealand Oceanographic Institute No. 107.)

MacGillivray P.H. (1889) On some South Australian Polyzoa. Transactions & Proceeding & Report of the Royal Society of South Australia vol.12 for 1888-89 pp 24-30 & Plate II.

Mawatari S. (1951) On Tricellaria occidentalis (Trask), one of the fouling Bryozoans of Japan. (Miscellaneous Reports of the Research Institute for Natural Resources Tokyo No. 22 pp 9-16).

Nielsen C. (1985) Ovicell formation in Tegella & four cellularioids (Bryozoa, Cheilostomata). In: C. Nielsen & G.P. Larwood (Eds.) Bryozoa: Ordovician to Recent (Olsen & Olsen) pp 213-220.

Occhipinti Ambrogi (1991) The spread of Tricellaria inopinata into the Lagoon of Venice: an ecological hypothesis. In: Bigey F.P. (Ed.) Bryozaires Actuels et Fossiles: Bryozoa Living & Fossil (Bull. Soc. Sci. Nat. Ouest Fr., Mem. H.S.1) pp. 299-308.

Occhipinti Ambrogi & J-L d’Hondt (1994) The invasion ecology of Tricellaria inopinata into the Lagoon of Venice: morphological notes on the larva & ancestrula. In P.J. Hayward, J.S. Ryland & P.D. Taylor (Eds.) Biology & Palaeobiology of Bryozoans (Olsen & Olsen) pp139-144.

Ryland J.S. (1965) Catalogue of Main Marine Fouling Organisms vol. 2 Polyzoa. (O.E.C.D. Paris).

Ryland J.S. & Hayward P.J. (1977) British Anascan Bryozoans (Academic Press).



The Marine Life at Port Noarlunga Reef

by Steve Reynolds



The History of the Port Noarlunga Reef Aquatic Reserve

The Port Noarlunga reef (and Onkaparinga estuary) was named as one of six Aquatic Reserves established in South Australia on 30th November 1971. The six reserves were declared under the SA Fisheries Act 1971. The Barker Inlet was declared as SA’s seventh Aquatic Reserve in 1973. The seven aquatic reserves were created in order to retain the natural animal and plant communities on some reefs, and in some estuarine mangroves and seagrass areas. More Aquatic Reserves were declared in December 1980 and others followed later on.

The reasons given for establishing marine aquatic reserves were to: -

Have sanctuaries where aquatic fauna and flora may flourish with minimal human interference and predation.

Provide recreational areas where natural marine communities can be readily examined, appreciated and photographed.

Maintain marine communities in an untouched state so that they can be scientifically examined and studied over extended periods.

Establish breeding reservoirs for certain species of reef fish for repopulating areas outside the reserves where spearfishing takes place.

The Port Noarlunga reef had been protected against spearfishing since 1965.


My Own Diving Experience at The Reef

I did my very first scuba dive at Port Noarlunga reef to complete my basic scuba certificate on 4th February 1978. It was more a dive under the jetty. My instructor and I merely swam to the reef and back along the jetty once or twice. After that, most of my dives were made with fellow members of the Marine Aquarium Research Institute of Australia (SA Branch), or MARIA SA. Since the main purpose of our diving back then was to collect specimens for our temperate marine aquariums, I wasn’t very interested in diving at Port Noarlunga reef because it was an Aquatic Reserve. I did, however, manage to do a dive there at the end of that same year. I dived with fellow MARIA member, Gavin Roberts. My dive logbook does not show any other details and I don’t have any recollection of the dive at all.

I continued to do most of my diving with fellow MARIA members at sites where we could collect aquarium specimens. We did manage to dive at the Aldinga dropoff, however, in 1981. It was almost three years before I returned to the reef for another dive.

In October 1981 nine MARIA members conducted a survey dive at the Port Noarlunga reef. Phill McPeake, as our Diving Officer at the time, wrote a brief report about the dive in our November 1981 Newsletter (No.54). Our two Research Officers at the time were the organizers of the survey. They issued each of the nine divers with an underwater slate, split them into four teams and gave each team a designated area for them to record all of their marine life sightings.

According to my dive logbook, we enjoyed excellent conditions for the day. The weather was sunny, the tide was low and the sea was calm. I estimated the visibility to be about 20’ (6m).

I was teamed up with the DO for the dive. We were instructed to swim north along the inside of the reef and then to return to the jetty on the outside of the reef. I enjoyed our dive which was only marred by the loss of the DO’s underwater slate. We could only jog his memory about some of the creatures that he had seen.

Back at the jetty we rejoined the rest of the divers who had returned from their designated areas. All of the slates were handed over to the Research Officers. They later transferred the details into our club dive logbook. To the best of my knowledge, the details have not been published in any form to date.

I did a night dive with several MARIA members at Port Noarlunga early in 1982. As our Publications Officer at the time, I wrote a report about this dive for our March 1982 Newsletter (No.58).

I didn’t return to Port Noarlunga until early 1985 when I did another night dive with fellow (now MLSSA) members. This dive was reported in our February 1985 Newsletter (No.92). Our dive started after 10.30pm and lasted until well after midnight. It was almost two years before I returned to Port Noarlunga reef again. I had done some 79 other dives during those two years. Clearly, Port Noarlunga reef was not high on my list of preferred dive sites at this time. I had managed only six dives there in nine years. And that’s the way that my diving continued, just an occasional dive at Port Noarlunga reef. I can’t take all of the responsibility for that, however, since most dives were with a buddy.

In the 1990s I managed to go almost six years without a dive at Port Noarlunga. Then everything changed all of a sudden. At the end of 1997 I gained a new dive buddy and since then we have often dived together at Port Noarlunga. Despite not diving regularly, I have managed to do some 30 dives there since then (not all with the same buddy). I now realize that I would have missed out on a lot by not diving there much in the earlier years.

And what are my best memories of dives at Port Noarlunga? I love seeing Rainbow Fish, Blue Devils, large stony corals (Plesiastrea versipora) and Black Cowry (Cypraea friendii thersites) there. I have seen several species of nudibranchs and the opisthobranch Bat-wing Sea Slug, Sagaminopteron ornatum. I have seen Western Cleaner Clingfish, fish cleaning stations, a sea mouse, Port Jackson sharks and stingrays.

The most memorable dive at present is the most recent one. In November 2005 we saw a congregation of about 20 large Port Jackson sharks out from the outer-side of the reef. We dived on the outside first, then we swam through the gap to the inside. We saw some of my favourite creatures including Castlenau’s Wrasse, large Senator Fish, a large spider crab, sea pen and two large Ceratosoma brevicaudatum nudibranchs. I also managed to swim through two swim-throughs. All very exciting!

But the most exhilarating moment for me was when I first jumped off of the reef to dive the outside. A ‘shadow’ rushed towards me and my heart skipped a beat but I soon realized that a large seal was swimming all around me. We are often surrounded by schools of fish under the jetty close to the reef.

In an article titled “Fish Recorded at Port Noarlunga Reef” which was published in our December 1987 Newsletter (No.125) I suggested that “The biggest danger from fish may be whilst ‘handfeeding’ large Leatherjackets”. My dive buddy on 4th December 1999 had obviously not read my article because he proceeded to feed cockles to the fish under the jetty and was bitten on the forehead by leatherjackets. The 21°C water numbed the bites a little at the time but when he exited from the water his family wondered why he was bleeding from the forehead.

Society members did transect dives, led by Kevin Smith, at the reef in October 2004. During a reconnaissance dive before the transect dives, Kevin found a Sawtooth Pipefish, Maroubra perserrata. I have only ever seen two before.



Flabellina species of nudibranch sighted at Port Noarlunga reef in 2006

(Paul Macdonald)



Reports About Port Noarlunga’s Marine Life

Whilst working for the SA Department of Agriculture and Fisheries in 1975, Dr Hank Duyverman wrote a paper titled “Ecological Surveys of the South Australian Aquatic Reserves”. One small part of this report was titled “A Brief Ecological Survey of the Port Noarlunga Reef”. (Much of Duyverman’s work at Port Noarlunga was done at the southern end of the reef.)

In 1987 I wrote the article titled “Fish Recorded at Port Noarlunga Reef” which was published in our December 1987 Newsletter (No.125). In that article I wrote that “More than 60 species of fish have been sighted around Port Noarlunga reef and most of these are fairly common. The commonest species seen here are sweep, bullseyes, coralfish, leatherjackets, drummer, Dusky Morwong, Magpie Perch, Red Mullet, Sand Mullet, Scaly Fin, trachinops, cardinalfish, and weedfish. Most of these fish are resident reef dwellers and they make excellent photographic subjects for divers and snorkellers with underwater cameras. Many species of invertebrates such as sponges, anemones, shells, crustaceans and starfish are also common around the reef which is one of the natural wonders of our coastline”.

The article included a list of 64 species of fish that have been recorded at the reef by our members. Much of these details came both from Hank Duyverman’s report “A Brief Ecological Survey of the Port Noarlunga Reef” and Denise Warren’s article “The Fish of Noarlunga Reef” in our MARIA Journal (No.1), October 1979.

Both of these are included in our library. “A Brief Ecological Survey of the Port Noarlunga Reef” is item mlssa 2002. MARIA Journal No.1, which includes the article “The Fish of Noarlunga Reef”, is in our Journal folder.

Both included fish and plant and invertebrate lists. We can now add both Western Cleaner Clingfish and Sawtooth Pipefish to the list of fish species recorded there.

The plants and invertebrates list from Duyverman’s report was reproduced in Warren’s article, although it was said to be “a more extensive list of plants and creatures”. The only obvious additions to the list were the murex shell Pterynotus triformis, the helmet shell Cassis fimbriata and “numerous scallops and brachiopods”.

Both lists had some errors and some errors occurred during the re-writing for Warren’s article. Many of the details in the lists are now out of date due to scientific changes.

Our second Journal, MARIA Journal Vol.1, No.2, November 1979 included some comments on the list by one of our Research Officers, Evan John. He felt that common names should be listed first if they are to be of “value to the average person interested in marine biology”. He also discussed several other points. Some errors occurred in the publication of these comments. Some errors have also occurred in reference books that I have used.

In this article I have attempted to update both lists (now three lists), without making any errors, taking Evan John’s comments into account.


Many thanks go to Hank Duyverman, Bob Baldock, Kevin Smith and Paul Macdonald for their assistance with this article.


Here then are my lists: -






Common Name




Tasselled Anglerfish








Southern Cardinal Fish




Eastern Australian Salmon




Tasmanian Blenny








Common Stinkfish




Trevally Sp.




Western Talma




Magpie Perch




Dusky Morwong




Weedfish Spp. (4 )




Eastern Conger Eel




Smooth Stingray




Longfin Pike




Globe Fish




Old Wife








Zebra Fish




Tasmanian Clingfish




Western Cleaner Clingfish




Goby Spp.








Port Jackson Shark




Silver Drummer




Western Blue Groper Wrasse




Black-spotted Wrasse




Slender Wrasse




Senator Wrasse




Brown-spotted Wrasse








Spiny-tailed Leatherjacket




Toothbrush Leatherjacket




Pygmy Leatherjacket




Mosaic Leatherjacket




Horseshoe Leatherjacket




Velvet Leatherjacket




Sand Mullet




Southern Goatfish




Rainbow Cale




Herring Cale




Weed-Whiting Spp.


Orectolobus Sp.


Wobbegong Shark Sp.




Ornate Cowfish




Sculptured Seamoth




Rough Bullseye




Common Bullseye




Long-snouted Boarfish




Flathead Spp.




Western Blue Devil








Estuary Catfish




Scaly Fin








Sea Sweep




Banded Sweep




Harlequin Fish




King George Whiting








Spiny Pipehorse




Spotted Pipefish




Seahorse Sp.




Sawtooth Pipefish




Smooth Toadfish




Banded Toadfish








Flounder Sp.





























3 other unidentified








1 variety of blue






Speckled or Shellgrit Anemone




Waratah anemone




Green Anemone
















Soft Coral




Stony coral




Sea Pen












Golfball sponge


many other unidentified

species of

Sponge - all colours












Solitary ascidian




Solitary ascidian








Colonial ascidian




Colonial ascidian


















































several unconfirmed

or unidentified

species, incl.




Compound Ascidian






































8 other unidentified






Black-lip abalone
















Kelp shell




Mitre shell








Cartrut shell




Helmet shell




Common Warrener




Pheasant shell




Tulip shell



friendii (thersites)

Black Cowry


& many other unidentified


Gastropod shells




Bat-wing Slug




Short-tailed Ceratosoma




Flabellina nudibranch
















Southern Hammer Mussel


Numerous scallop










Giant cuttle




Lamp shells








Segmented worms
















Encrusting worm




Tangled tubeworm




Sea Mouse












































Featherduster Worm






















2 unidentified


Ribbon worm




Southern Biscuit Star




Velvet Sea Star




11-armed Sea Star




Many-armed Sea Star












Vermillion Star




Spiny Urchin




Spiny Pencil Sea Urchin




Slate Pencil Urchin




Sea Cucumber
























Southern Rock Lobster




Blue Swimmer Crab




Sponge Crab




Palaemonid shrimp




Spider Crab




Red bait crab




Hermit crab




Reef or Rock crab








Surf Barnacle














& many other unidentified species















Encrusting red alga




Encrusting red alga








Robust red alga








Turf alga








Turf alga




Red alga




Coralline red alga




Turf alga




Foliaceous red alga




Branched brown alga




Branched brown alga




Branched brown alga




Branched brown alga




Branched brown alga




Leathery brown alga




Foliaceous brown alga








Foliaceous brown alga




Foliaceous brown alga




























Membranous brown alga












Foliaceous brown alga












Branched brown alga




Branched brown alga




Branched brown alga




Foliaceous brown alga








Foliaceous green alga




Foliaceous green alga







flexilis, var. muelleri

Foliaceous green alga








Foliaceous green alga




Lumpy green alga












Turf alga




Membranous green alga








Lobed green algae








Green alga










Sepia apama, the giant Australian cuttlefish, in Whyalla, S.A.

by Evan John


One of the most spectacular events of the natural marine world takes place annually between May and August in the reef areas of upper Spencer Gulf, around Black Point, Point Lowly and Fitzgerald Bay, north of the town of Whyalla, on Eyre Peninsula, South Australia.



Fig. 1. Sepia Apama



It is here that the giant Australian cuttlefish, Sepia apama, migrate in the thousands to mate and spawn. The low rocky reef areas provide a hard rocky surface on to which the cuttlefish can attach their eggs, for much of the rest of upper Spencer Gulf is sand, sea grass flats and mud banks. It is an amazing spectacle, as these unique marine animals can be observed changing colour, shape and texture, and performing mating rituals. It is believed that this kind of aggregation occurs nowhere else in the world in such numbers.


Sepia apama is the largest species of marine animals commonly called cuttlefish; it is believed that specimens as large as 1.5 metres have been recorded. S. apama is a mollusc –  and is, therefore, a closer relative to  the common garden snail, rather than to its marine compatriots, the fish. It belongs to the Class Cephalopoda, a group which presents a complete contrast to the majority of the molluscs in habits, and in many respects, points of organization. Cephalopods have the power of rapid movement, no external shell, (although they do have an internal supportive structure, (the cuttlebone or gladius), and a circle of four pairs of fleshy arms and two elongated tentacles that surround the mouth, which contains a pair of mandibles or “beaks” somewhat similar to parrots. They also have a relatively well-developed nervous system, and their eyes are quite specialized, in that they have a lens, cornea, retina, and distinctive “W-shaped” pupils. This suggests that the eyes are used for observation as well as just transmitting light sensations to the nervous system like snails. Vision is believed to be highly developed, rivalling that of humans, and divers have described meeting the gaze of a cuttlefish as one which is that of a highly intelligent creature “in there looking back”. Cuttlefish and octopus are used in medical eye research because of the similarity to the human eye.


The word Cephalopod is constructed from the Greek words kephale (head) and podos (foot). This conveys the notion that the limbs emerge from the face, which, in effect, is what happens. Cuttlefish have a body shape something like a flattened football, with eyes and arms and tentacles at one end, and a “fin” which runs along each side. This lateral “fin” undulates, and propels the animal through the water. In addition, the cuttlefish “bone”, (often washed up on the beach and used as a source of beak strengthening and diet calcium for caged birds,) is honeycombed with gas-filled cells, producing neutral buoyancy, thus allowing precision and delicacy of movement when desired. When rapid propulsion is necessary, the animal is able to draw water into the mantle cavity, and force it out through a “nozzle” or siphon in the side of the body underneath the eye. This siphon can be swivelled to change direction, and relaxed or constricted when control of speed is desired.

Probably the cuttlefish’s most fascinating behaviour is its ability to change colour. There seems to be a variety of stimuli which start this amazing display, ranging from movement between light and dark areas, an apparent attempt to hide and camouflage, and probable mating activity. On some occasions, waves of coloration changes pass over the length of the body, in less than a second, moving from head to rear, probably associated with a warning display. Colour variation is due to a system of chromatophores, minute multi-nucleate pigmented cells, red, brown, yellow or blue, embedded throughout the animal’s skin. These are surrounded by small radial muscles, connected to the central nervous system. When the muscles contract, the cell expands, and the pigment it contains becomes more apparent. Chromatophores are organized into three layers, each containing a different pigment colour. The ability to manipulate each layer independently means that quite a large range of colours are possible as a result of the blending effect of the different pigments. This colour composition is enhanced by the presence of small cells called iridocytes, that lie above and below the chromatophores, creating a mirror-like effect. It is incredible to watch a cuttlefish rest in a shaft of light – the part of its body in the light changes quite quickly to a distinct, patterned colouration, whilst that in the dark stays a continuous duller colour.


Fig 2 Male cuttlefish displaying



In addition, these remarkable creatures can change the texture of their skin. Small wart-like protuberances called tubercles on the skin can be made to expand and contract, resulting in the skin of the body becoming more “bumpy” when against a background of marine plants like Caulerpa or Ecklonia or Hormosira.


As previously mentioned, the area around Whyalla is quite unique because it is one of the relatively few areas in southern Australia where S. apama congregate to mate and to spawn. During mating, males and females lock tentacles, and the male uses one of its longer tentacles to transfer a packet of sperm into the body of the female. She then lays between 100 and 300 eggs, attaching them under a rock or to the roof of a cave in the shallow reefs or some other such sheltered location. It is believed that the species takes about four years to reach sexual maturity.


Fig. 3 Cuttlefish eggs


After mating, both male and female animals become lethargic, their appearance takes on a greyish, worn and tattered look, and they then die.


Cuttlefish are an important link in the food chain. From stomach analyses, it seems that they are a prime food source for snapper, yellow-tail, dolphins and sea birds. Research also shows that cuttlefish make up a significant proportion of the diets of Australian fur seals and sea lions. There is little doubt that their biomass component is critical to maintaining viable breeding populations of animals at the upper end of the marine food chain, in marine ecosystems of which they are a part.


Fortunately, up until about 1996, cuttlefish fishing was pretty much restricted to bait fishing by local fishermen, with some recreational catching and a very limited commercial catch. However, in 1997, commercial markets were established in S.E. Asia, and the recorded catch was 255 tonnes, or over 250,000 cuttlefish, by relatively few boats. Commercial exploitation of this resource was at the time unrestricted and unmanaged.

In 1998, there was a doubling of the fishing effort, with many more boats and fishermen per boat! At the beginning of the season in early May, fishermen were ready for the cuttlefish to arrive, and within four weeks had so reduced the stock that they voluntarily stopped fishing for 10 days to allow stocks to recover. By early June the catch was so low that the fishermen had stopped fishing in any significant numbers. Despite this self-imposed moratorium the fishing did not improve to any noticeable degree, and it was at this point, with ongoing lobbying by a number of organizations, that the then South Australian Government announced the closure of the fishery until September 1998, whilst at the same time initiating a three year study of the cuttlefish population, to determine the effects of commercial fishing and the possibility of sustainable exploitation in the long-term. Researchers at Melbourne University, who had studied Whyalla’s cuttlefish aggregation over two seasons, had written to the Premier of South Australia in 1998 pointing out that “the rapid recent rise in exploitation of this spawning aggregation is likely to destroy this unique natural event before the impacts of this harvest are fully understood. Cuttlefish catches from this small area of rocky reef have risen unchecked from negligible levels to more than 200 tonnes per year in less than three years. More than a quarter of a million cuttlefish were pulled from this small, region last year (1997). Signs of collapse are already evident this year …".

As a consequence, responding to many expressions of community concern, a Sanctuary near Point Lowly was set aside to protect some cuttlefish stocks.



Fig. 4 Cuttlefish mating


Unfortunately the area of the Sanctuary contained large areas of sandy beach, quite unsuitable for cuttlefish to breed.

In February 1999, the South Australian Government made the decision to close the local cuttlefish spawning grounds and stop commercial fishing during the 1999 and 2000 seasons, so further research on Sepia apama could be undertaken by the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI).

Anecdotal weekly observations by the divers during the 2000 season indicated that the biomass had not recovered at all in the two and a half years that the spawning grounds have been closured.


That this unique congregation of Sepia apama must be protected from commercial exploitation appears obvious for at least two sound biological reasons:


Taking the animals as they arrive at the breeding site gives them no time to mate and spawn, hence limiting future population numbers.

Given the short life-span and low reproductive rate, (they lay relatively few eggs), and the disproportionately high predation rate of young cuttlefish, current stocks may well be unsustainable.


There are other valid reasons why the nurturing of current stocks of S. apama at Whyalla is essential.


There is significant scientific and education interest.


SARDI research to date, the lack of other data    and    research    material   on   the animal,     and       the       acknowledged limitations of    the  scope of   the current research  work,  make  it  clear  that there will  be  insufficient information to make informed      and      safe     management decisions   on   this   resource  from   the point  of  view of    allowing   any   form of  commercial exploitation. In addition, there has  been,  and   continues   to  be, unprecedented      interest     from     the scientific and documentary film - making communities,    research     groups    and media    from    around    the   world.


The    animal’s    behaviour   is    unique, recognized   by   marine   scientists both nationally   and   internationally. The site also   has substantial  existing  value  for research   and  monitoring, and  is unique for its accessibility and scale.

S. apama is ecologically significant – in the marine food chain of S.A. waters

There is substantial potential for sustainable eco-tourism

Divers from across Australia, North America, Chile and Europe have travelled to Whyalla for no other reason than to dive with the cuttlefish – regarded as the “chameleons” of the sea. Feedback from these visitors suggest that they are the forerunners of thousands of diving enthusiasts who will travel around world to experience this unique marine event.

The animals are vulnerable to fishing

Permanent protection is essential for the animal’s survival.

It is well worth taking the effort to visit Whyalla during the breeding season of the giant Australian cuttlefish, Sepia apama.

Local diving and boating organizations run charters to the area, enabling divers and snorkellers to witness this unique phenomenon.


Author’s note


I must acknowledge the assistance of two extremely dedicated people, for their comments, thoughts and material in my preparation of this article:


Tony Bramley, of the Whyalla Dive Shop, who, with his diving colleagues, has worked tirelessly with local and overseas scientists and the S.A. Government, to ensure the  protection of the cuttlefish breeding grounds, and Ron Hardman, who has recorded cuttlefish and their activities in a series of brilliant copyrighted photographs and videos.  He has very kindly allowed me the use of some of his photos in this article. 


Giant Cuttles - Photographer: Paul Macdonald, October main from the MLSSA 2007 calendar.

Fossil Cave / Green Waterhole Cave (5l81)

Bone Retrieval Dives for Dr Trevor Worthy

(University Of Adelaide), 27th/28th May 2006.


by Dave Albano/Peter Horne

supplied by Neville Skinner




Peter Horne (Team Coordinator), Neville Skinner (underwater photographer/ support & safety Diver), David Albano (support/safety diver) and Mark Nielsen (safety diver); Ian Lewis (surface support).



Carrying gear down to the cave’s lake which is situated in the dark alcove behind the two scuba cylinders at the far end of the collapse (Peter Horne).




To attempt to relocate the 1979 Flinders University survey star-dropper posts along the “N” line, especially N3 dropper, and an adjacent labelled tag known as “Aslin Site 12” (“Site 07” during the 1979 project); to attempt to photograph the area before, during and after any bone-digging work; and to collect samples of bones and sediment around Tag 12.


Left: The research party:

Neville Skinner (left rear),

Ian Lewis (centre front),

Mark Nielson (right rear).


Right: And the authors,

Dave Albano/Peter Horne

(left to right).




Dive One: Saturday 27th May 2006 (duration approx. 45 minutes).


Peter and Neville descended first through the “Letterbox” with a large open reel of thick white synthetic rope with the intention of locating and securing the old N3 star-dropper.  The water was noticeably dark and murky, suggesting that crushed grass observed around the carpark area was most likely caused by a group of other divers earlier that morning, which was unfortunate from the point of view of photography.  The water level was also lower that Peter had ever seen, and there was a substantial air section extending into the normally-flooded ceiling area of the cave.


Their first observation during the descent into the gloom was that none of the marker tags remained on the star-droppers which were located, and many of the droppers had either disappeared or fallen over (some were later found to have corroded right through at their bases, leaving just a rust-filled hole in the rock). The lines which had previously linked the main droppers together were also missing and it took around 5 minutes before the correct line of droppers was relocated.  As Peter approached what he believed was the N3 dropper he was pleased to see the yellow Site 12 marker floating off the bottom exactly where it was expected to be, despite the 18 years which had passed since the last mapping project he had coordinated there back in 1988.



Running the thick white safety/reference line down into the main chamber along the original “N” line (Neville Skinner).


Peter tied the white line to N3 and proceeded to assess the area while Neville took photos, and because he only had some small helmet-lights for illuminating the scene, David and Mark supplied additional side-lighting for this task.  A fallen dropper (believed to have been N1 or N2) was found rusted through at the base and leaning against the back wall, just over a small deeper hole, and Peter collected some of the more obvious (and smaller) bones and carefully scraped samples of the sediment into a 2-litre plastic ice-cream container using its flat lid, minimizing hand contact as much as possible. 


Tying off the white reference/safety rope to (presumed) star-dropper N3, about 1.5m beyond which Tag 12 can be seen floating in a small area of flatter calcite-covered silt (Neville Skinner).


The first container (#1, blue) was used to hold material which was collected from within about 2-3 metres of Tag 12 (around 9 metres depth), with some slightly shallower samples included.  No obvious bone material was seen below Tag 12 and the floor in this area basically comprised a 2-3m wide flatter section of boulder, with a fairly thick deposit of calcite rafts. 


Collecting sediment and bones (Neville Skinner).


Container No. 2 (gold) was used for material which was collected considerably shallower than the Tag 12 location, virtually directly above and over the boulders at a depth of about 6 metres close to the N4/N5 pegs (visible in the photo below), after Neville had located a partial skull in the silt there. 


Container No. 3 (blue again) was used to store more bones which were also within a 3-4m radius of N3/Tag 12, and bones found included many thin, long bones and a few larger ones including two which are obviously from large mammals such as kangaroos.



Sample 2, using a yellow container, near N4/N5 (pegs visible near boulder in top photo – Neville Skinner).



Sample 3 (blue container) to the right of Tag 12, and placing the samples into the wire bone basket for transporting back to the surface.  Note the reduced visibility  (Neville Skinner).


This first dive was disappointing to some extent with regards to the poor visibility and the scarcity of good bone-fields near Tag 12, but it was a safely-executed and interesting dive nonetheless and provided important preliminary information for possible future work, which should ideally include more photography and silt/bone-collecting around N3/Tag 12 as well as sediment sampling directly below Tag 12 (at the wall/floor interface) and a closer exploration of the deeper small holes in that area which escaped earlier mapping documentation.


Dive Two: Sunday 28th May 2006 (duration approx. 45 minutes).


The dive party comprised the same divers as the previous day, but Ian was not in attendance this time. The weather was atrocious but the water was spectacularly clear, and it was a very easy task to relocate Tag 12 (a standard cave diving line/reel was used this time instead of the thick white rope).  Peter descended first with David and both divers collected more material/samples around Tag 12, storing their samples in three white ice-cream containers which like the smaller ones of the previous day, were carried down to the site in a bone-collecting basket (wire cage with split-pin lid, used during the original research project by SAUSS Inc).  Container No. 4 (marked “Pumpkin Soup” – hopefully nobody will believe the label!) was taken down to about 11 metres where a small area of wall/floor interface had collected some sediment, which was carefully scooped into the container.  This was below and slightly to one side of the Tag 12 area of interest – any material which had fallen straight down from Tag 12 would likely have fallen down through some small deeper holes which require further investigation with single or side/mount scuba cylinders or the like.  Container No. 5 (unmarked) was basically another general sample close to the previous day’s #3 container collection on the flat calcite area to the right of Tag 12, and Container No. 6 (marked “Soup 5/7/00”, see above warning!) was at a depth of 6m where David had spotted some interesting skeletal bits and pieces under the edge of a slab.  During this collection Peter realised that a fallen, nearly-buried dropper there still had the original tag N4 loosely attached; this was removed and placed in the container to assist later labelling.



Collecting bones and sediment from along the edge of the boulder near N4/N5; the unlabelled standing dropper is N5, and N4 can be seen lying to its right (Neville Skinner).


At various times during this dive Neville took more photos, and after the samples had been taken to the surface Neville took Peter and Mark back down to the deep floor-hole area to show them additional cavities and bones which await collecting and recording in the future.  At the conclusion of the diving and collecting activities the larger bones were wrapped in wet newspaper (in hindsight, not a good idea for possible DNA studies, in view of the paper and ink base, but that’s how the earlier Flinders teams did it) and the other containers were padded and stacked in a plastic Esky to keep them cool and protected for the journey back to Adelaide University, where they were delivered by Peter to Dr Worthy on Monday 29th May 2006.


Preliminary assessment indicated that some bones could be of considerable interest and hopefully further more detailed research may come from these efforts in the not-too-distant future.



Peter Horne, Team Leader (former Projects Coordinator, South Australian Underwater Speleological Society Inc; Project Leader of SAUSS Project No. 1, Fossil Cave, 1988 and former Manager of Mapping & Research, Cave Divers Association of Australia Inc.)


What You Should Know About Great White Sharks (DRAFT)

by Phil Kemp



In 2005, one fatal shark attack and two non-fatal attacks once again shocked the South Australian community. The information I have prepared here will give you an insight into the behaviour and habits of the Great White Shark and our need as a community to embrace its survival, rather than call for culling of the species after each attack, which could very well lead to its extinction.

There have been many headline-grabbing descriptions in recent years that portray the Great White Shark as a “killer”, a stereotype that many researchers will argue against and suggest that this title is quite undeserving. As most of us have experienced throughout our lives, we are often fearful of things we do not understand and the things we don’t know. To gain an understanding of the Great White Shark can assist us in respecting these creatures rather than fearing them.

They are in danger of becoming extinct and, as I will explain further throughout this article, to gain a deeper understanding we need to view the Great White Shark differently.

It may be surprising, considering the fearsome reputation of a Great White Shark, that they are listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.1, 2, 6 and 7 This fact may seem incomprehensible to some people as the Great White Shark is commonly portrayed as a fearless mindless killing machine.

Also included in this article are some facts, statistics and behavioural information about the Great White Shark. You will also learn that Great White Sharks are intelligent and complex animals, supremely adapted to their environment. Each individual appears to demonstrate distinctive behavioural characteristics and appears to have some learning capacity. 2 and 6 Despite its position as an apex predator (top of the food chain), the Great White Shark faces numerous threats in its environment, just like every other high order carnivore and just about any other large wild animal in the world. To ecologists, this is not surprising at all. There’s also a section included in this article on methods that may assist in reducing the risk of being attacked.

Even though the Great White Shark is endangered and needs our help to survive in to the future, so do many other living creatures in the marine eco-system. These other creatures depend on the Great White Shark’s continued survival and predominance.

So what possibly could be threatening them? The answer is not that surprising, we are! You can help save the Great White Shark, however, and, by doing so, aid in preserving the balance of our local marine eco-system.

So please read on and let us open the window into their world and learn how you can play an important part in its survival and everything that lives in its liquid universe and, at the same time, and most of all, be safer.












The Great White Shark is scientifically known as Carcharodon carcharias. It is, however, most commonly known around the world as the ‘Great White’. Here in Australia it is also known as the ‘White Pointer’.

Shape & Colour

The Great White has a torpedo shaped body and conical snout. Its colouration is a bronzy and greyish brown on top (dorsal surface) and white underneath (ventral surface).


The number, position and shape of fins is distinguishing and aids in shark identifications. Great White Sharks have a large first dorsal fin and very small second dorsal fin, a pair of large pectoral fins and a vertical crescent shaped tail fin (with the dorsal lobe being only slightly larger than the ventral lobe). It also has five large gill slits extending along each side of the throat, and large dark eyes.

The Great White Shark has large triangular serrated teeth. They have 50 individual teeth positions in their jaws, with 26 in the upper jaw and 24 slightly pointier teeth in the lower jaw. Each of these positions may have 1-3 row(s) exposed with several other rows being developed from within the gum and awaiting to move forward as the teeth need replacing (like a conveyer belt).


Nobody knows for sure exactly how big the Great White grows. There has been a lot of debate and a lot of unconfirmed wild claims of Great Whites measuring up to 7m in length and up to 3,000kg in weight being captured. It is generally accepted, however, that the maximum length of this species is between 5.5m to 6m, with the female being larger than the male when fully matured. There have been dependable reports of captured Great Whites weighing in above 2,000kg, but generally not much more than 2,500kg. 1, 2, 6, 9 and 10


Great White Sharks feed on a diversity of prey items ranging from snapper, tuna and squid to larger mammals like seals and sea lions, dolphins, whales, stingrays and other sharks. Hence, our presence in the sea means an attack is a possible consequence, albeit an unlikely one in most circumstances.


Great White Sharks are uncommonly encountered, yet widespread throughout the world’s temperate oceans, preferring cool temperate waters generally ranging from 12oC to 22oC, and between 60o latitude North and 60o latitude South (Feurguson, 1998). 2, 6 and 9 Their few remaining population strongholds seem to be in Southern Australia, South Africa and Western North American waters.

Current satellite tagging information shows that many of the Great White Sharks spend a proportion of the year in the pelagic zone, away from the continental shelf. Currently, knowledge of what sharks do out there is limited. It is important, however, for us to find out why they do this, to understand their lifestyle, and to help save the Great White from extinction. The relatively small knowledge of Great Whites means that continued scientific research is imperative to help preserve the Great White and assist in recovery from the threatened status that this species holds. 1, 2, 6, 9 and 10


There is no accurate estimation on the numbers of Great White Sharks both in Australian waters and around the world but real evidence and reports show that their numbers have declined since mid last century.1, 2, 6, 9 and 10

There is no evidence that numbers have significantly increased in recent years as is reported widely by the media seemingly any time that a shark attack occurs. Reports have shown that fewer Great Whites are being captured each year in recent times than a couple of decades ago, which may suggest a decrease in numbers. Plain logic, however, also suggests that such a slow breeding animal cannot possibly rebound significantly in the amount of time that the Great White has been protected here. Statistics also indicate that we are not seeing a trend of increasing shark attacks against a trend of an increase in the human population. 3


Great White Sharks have few natural predators. It has, however, been documented that they have been attacked by Killer Whales. 1, 2, 5 and 8 It is humans though who pose the greatest threat to the Great Whites. This is a result through a number of activities, which will be discussed further in more detail later on.


Here are just a few unique and interesting facts about the Great White Shark: -

(It is important, however, to note that there are over 450 recognised shark species that all share some common characteristics.

For example:


The Great White has evolved an ability that very few species of sharks are able to do and that is to increase their body temperature up to 14oC greater than the surrounding water through the process of heat exchanging. This gives a predatory advantage in colder water compared to other sharks, which require warmer or tropical waters to maintain physiological function. Great White Sharks are closely related to two mako species of sharks. Other shark species including the Salmon Shark, Porbeagle and at least several species of Thresher Sharks can do this as well.










Great White Sharks can hold their heads above water and have the ability to focus their eyes with special muscles for above water focus


Great White Sharks have the biggest olfactory lobes of all sharks, providing the greatest sensitivity to smell. This is possibly also for social reasons rather than just detecting a dead whale, a seal or sea lion at vast distances. Great White Sharks have a highly developed visual sense with great colour vision. Sharks have electro-receptors called ‘Ampullae of Lorenzini’ which give them the ability to detect electrical fields. The Hammerhead Shark is believed to have the most heightened of this sense, but the Great White Shark still can detect down to 125 millionths of a volt.1, 2 and 6 All sharks have another method of detecting prey - the ‘Lateral Line,’ which extends down each flank of the shark, detects vibrations in the water. 1, 2 and 6









Ampullae of Lorenzini

With the complex sensing organs the Great White possesses, it takes a relatively large well-developed brain to coordinate these effectively. Combine this with its complex social structure, (which has just recently been observed by researchers in the wild), the ability to adapt new strategies for catching food and the ability to learn from past experiences, would indicate relatively higher intelligence than we have previously given them credit for.



It has long been thought that the Great White Shark has been a solitary hunter. Extensive studies in recent years have discovered a complex social behaviour and dominance hierarchy status in the Great White when they gather around food sources.

Researchers have so far managed to distinguish ten different rituals and displays that the shark uses to settle differences in most cases, demonstrating dominance through posture and body language to challenge each other, rather than using violent force.2 and 6

Scientists have also witnessed behaviour in the Great White Shark, which leads some of them to think that they are curious creatures as well. They have displayed an inventive way of manipulating objects such as biting, balancing, chasing, and hitting objects like five-gallon drums, etc.. The Great White tends to have a sense of play with living and non-living things, giving the impression that they are not always interested in them as a food source.2 and 6

Great White Sharks tend to use a range of investigative skills using their snouts and highly sensitive sharp teeth to test an object, as opposed to a creature that can touch or examine an object with its hands (like us humans), paws or feelers. Researchers have witnessed this type of test biting, along with bumping objects, and it is believed to be assisted by special types of touch receptors on their ‘face’.

It is also known that in some of the attacks on humans where the victims have not sustained serious injury, the shark has had just one bite and then released the victim, supporting the knowledge that sharks will test or examine a subject and release, rather than attempt what most people would believe to be a feeding frenzy.

It could then be said, when it comes to items on their menu – we are not on it! The question that still remains is “why are we being targeted for occasional attacks?”

A simple explanation could be put down to test biting for palatability (to see if we have enough fat/energy content) and to give an indication of whether or not the object can be consumed easily. The next step is to test to see if the shark is prepared or motivated to go to a higher level of energy expenditure to consume the target. So the good news is that we do not normally have enough fat/energy content for them to want to consume us. At the same time, however, it could be a territorial attack to keep other large competitors out of its immediate area by claiming the victim. Whether or not we can prove that Great White Sharks mistake us for seals (while we float on the surface) from visual cues has led to debates amongst scientists and researchers. The fact that we are rarely attacked when sharks have the ability to see us, however, gives credence to the fact that they have excellent vision.1, 2 and 6

The knowledge and background we have on shark attacks suggests they are not the malicious killers that have been portrayed in movies. Knowing this, however, does not reduce the concern of the community and those who have had the misfortune of being attacked. Everyone should be aware of safety in the water and being aware of hazards in relation to shark attacks. (See the section further in this information for more helpful hints).



Psychologists have found out through research and extensive testing that no other word in the English language strikes more fear in us than the word ‘shark’. This may be because when we enter their liquid environment, which is so alien to our terrestrial senses, we are rendered virtually helpless.2 and 6 To be safer, we have to learn and understand how they behave and what measures we have to take to remain safer so that we still can enjoy ourselves and share their world.

Following recent events, it is easy to draw the conclusion that shark attacks are on the rise. Statistics, however, do not support this view. As the worldwide human population continues to rise year after year, so does our interest in aquatic recreation. The number of shark attacks in any given year or region is highly influenced by the number of people entering the water. Note the nearly identical increase in beach attendance, drowning rescues, and shark attacks. In comparison, you are still far more likely to be killed in a car accident than attacked by a shark. Statistics from the ASAF show that there has been only an average of 1.3 fatal shark attacks per year in Australia over the last 20 years. Significantly more people are attacked each year by other animals. There has been for example: -

When we discuss why a shark attacks humans, we must think of the motives of the shark. Our ability to think clearly and rationally when we face the terrifying thought of being eaten alive will likely overwhelm any thought of clear thinking. Being educated and having a clearer understanding of the motives of the shark attacking us may assist that thought process when we discuss the issue of being attacked.

The majority of attacks on humans are unprovoked and may be more exploratory in nature, motivated by the Great White Shark being inquisitive rather than being motivated by hunger.



Australian Bureau of Statistics

Fatal Accidental Drowning & Submersion from 1994 & 1995 in the following categories

ASAF Recorded


Surfboard Riding

Rock Fishing

Skin Diving

Drowned while swimming at an ocean beach, a river, lake, & SCUBA harbour, estuary, bay, or lagoon.

Fatal attacks by Great White Sharks





























The Australian Bureau of Statistics provides evidence of more humans losing their lives in other water activities than due to Great White Shark attacks.


 The majority of unprovoked attacks are relatively gentle compared with the outrageous damage these huge and powerful predators are clearly capable of inflicting. In attacks off the South African coast, of 63 cases, 29 (or 46%) of the victims were bitten but sustained no tissue loss whatsoever.2

The remaining minority of unprovoked attacks are generally more aggressive and may be a case of mistaken identity, especially if the water’s visibility is reduced significantly due to poor conditions.

A 1981 paper written by Ralph Collier and Daniel Miller says “numerous accounts and historical evidence suggests that in an unprovoked attack the shark will remain in the area and attempt to inflict further bites if the person fights back in the initial attack.” 2 With this in mind, the Australian Shark Attack File suggests that some methods of repelling sharks may have different outcomes every time. It all depends on each individual situation and with the conditions and the size of the shark.3

In conclusion, humans kill far more sharks each year than sharks kill humans. Statistically, you are even more likely to be hit by lightning than attacked by a shark.


Total Shark Attacks in Australia by ASAF

(Not every shark attack was by a Great White Shark)



Total Attacks

Fatal Attacks

Last Fatal Attack (up to 2005)




1993 Byron Bay




2004 Opal Reef





Mornington Peninsula




2005 Glenelg Beach





Houtman Abrolhos Is.




1938 Bathurst Island




1993 Tenth Island, Georgetown.

Total (As of Sept 2005 for all Australian States Combined)





1876-2005 ASAF Recorded Attacks by Great White Sharks in Australia (N=76)



Total Attacks

Fatal Attacks

Last Fatality

























Australia in Total





For more detailed information on shark attacks and statistics please visit or


The Great White Shark is endangered because they grow and mature slowly and because they are believed to reproduce once every 2-3 years, producing only a small litter each time. These characteristics make the Great White Shark highly vulnerable to even moderate rates of removal from the breeding stock. Natural mortality plays its part in the population stability of Great White Sharks, keeping the numbers down like it does with every other living creature. Great Whites have very little to fear from other marine life, with the rare exception of the Killer Whale. Attacks by Killer Whales for example, although rare, are possibly to protect younger members of the pod from any potential threats and to remove competition. There could possibly be a few reasons why the Killer Whale would attack a Great White. One reason could be for the shark’s large liver, which is rich in oils and would possibly make a tasty snack for the Killer Whale. A second reason would be for the Killer Whales to protect their young from the possible threat by a Great White Shark in the area.













Notice the damage to the gills caused by another Great White, which nearly proved fatal

Even though Great Whites settle most of their differences through posture display and rituals, as mentioned before, not all conflicts, however, are resolved peacefully. The biggest threat to Great White Shark numbers, however, is humans. Every mature Great White Shark removed from its environment represents a significant loss to the marine ecosystem.

So how is this possible? There are numerous ways for the cause of their depletion.


Commercial Fishing

Fishing is currently the largest cause of Great White Shark fatality, predominantly resulting from by-catch. ‘By-catch’ means that even though they are not targeted, they still have a tendency to get caught up in fishermen’s nets and hooked on long-lines when trying to catch the same school of tuna that the fishermen acquire. They also try to scavenge from fishermen’s nets once the fishermen have made their catch and get entangled in the nets during the process. In South Australia, estimations of around 10 to 100 are killed due to this according to designating reports. As Great White Sharks are inquisitive and approach boats and objects, this increases the likelihood of an incidental entanglement in fishing equipment.

Through recent studies conducted by the CSIRO Marine Research team tagging and satellite tracking Great White Sharks, the scientists have discovered that Great White Sharks may follow similar paths when in travelling mode from one destination to another. If the scientist can identify clear highways that the Great White travels, then maybe commercial fishing companies could possibly avoid fishing in these areas.

Illegal Trading & Sports Fishing

Great White Sharks have been protected in Australia since 1998 and are now CITES (Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species) Appendix II listed. There has been no illegal trade, or very little, for shark fins on the black market since. Sports (recreational) fishing for trophy purposes (for Great White jaws and teeth) has been very popular, especially after the movie ‘Jaws’. Now that they are protected, however, it’s illegal to hunt Great Whites and there are heavy penalties that apply for anyone found guilty of taking a Great White. Penalties include a maximum $100,000 fine under fisheries regulations but generally, for a first offence, this may involve a $4000 fine and/or one year’s gaol. For a second offence, this may involve a fine up to $8,000 and/or 2 year’s gaol. 1, 7, 9, 10, 12 and 13



No one knows for sure exactly what would happen if they did become extinct. What is known from many scientific studies and models, however, is that the removal of the top-level predator wreaks havoc on their entire ecosystem. How is this possible? Well, because Great White Sharks are top order carnivores, they directly influence the abundance and diversity of all other populations in their environment.

For example, when lower middle-level predators, like seals, dolphins and large fish species, are not checked and balanced in our local environment, this would result in population collapses down the line, leading to some populations replacing others and a less rich and diverse environment ensuing. If this happened, this would have a certain impact on our local commercial fisheries as well.

As you can see, Great White Sharks are far more valuable alive than dead. So it’s up to us to do something, as we are the ones with the power to stop this, just as we are the ones who are contributing to the increasing odds of their extinction. 1, 2, 6, 7, 9 and 10



The first step was, of course, to protect the Great White in their remaining ‘hotspots’ around the world by placing it on the threatened species list. South Africa was the first country in the world to do this, back in 1991. Other countries, including Australia, the state of California and the eastern coast of the USA, the Maldives and the countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, soon followed. The Great White Shark travels huge distances across open oceans to other countries. Purposes for them doing this are currently unknown. One theory is for reproductive reasons. To ensure the survival of this species, a plan needs to be distributed and enforced globally.

With more profound monitoring from the Fisheries, trading of body parts of the Great White Shark on the black market has decreased. Closer monitoring of the commercial fishing industry needs to be implemented to reduce the amount of by-catch each year and needs to be accurately recorded. Research programs need to be further developed to find out more about the sharks’ migration patterns, reproduction cycles, when and where they breed and where their potential nursing grounds are.

More funding is required to continue and further develop this vital research, and this is where you can play a very important part!



Without your help, extinction is looming for the Great White Shark…


Sponsor a Great White Shark and join the Fox Shark Research Foundation (FSRF) in learning about and protecting the sharks that live in our waters. Through the adoption package and the research you will be supporting, you will be provided with a window into their world through which you will discover that each shark has a name, personality and a history.

Perhaps the most important thing you will receive from your sponsorship is the peace of mind that comes from knowing that you are making a real contribution to the protection of our Great White Sharks.

A shark adoption will mean that you are supporting vital research. By becoming an adoptive parent, you are making a huge difference to the future of these sharks and the marine life as a whole.

Adopt a shark and gain an appreciation of the beauty of these magnificent predators, together with awareness of the importance of their role in a fragile marine environment. Sponsors receive an attractive adoption pack as a symbol of thanks to you for supporting their (FSRF) critical work to conserve this extraordinary animal. There are different levels of sponsorship which, depending on which level you choose, will determine what you receive in your package. Sponsoring a shark for yourself, or as a unique and thoughtful gift for someone special, is easy. Simply select a shark and preferred level of sponsorship and complete the on line sponsorship form.



Man has long feared sharks as the man-eater of the sea, a reputation that is highly undeserved. The number of people killed by sharks is very small. In fact, for every human killed by a shark, humans kill 100 million sharks worldwide.

Despite these facts, the Great White Shark is relentlessly persecuted and their declining numbers are fast becoming of great concern.

There is an urgent need for researchers to find out more about this species so they can survive into the future.

The FSRF needs your help so researchers can continue their important work studying the sharks that live in the Southern Ocean. Learning more about these animals and threats they face will increase their chances of survival.

Over the past few years, FSRF have clearly identified 200 individual sharks from their tags and the photographic identification of their distinctive markings. Some of these sharks, are never seen again, whilst others revisit the islands year after year. 1



The sharks offered for adoption are those who show distinctive marks, or have been star performers on several previous expeditions dates, preferably spanning more than one year and whom they expect to identify more reliably again in the future so that FSRF can keep you updated on their movements.

By taking detailed photos of the first dorsal fin and the caudal fin, researchers can closely examine indentations to identify individual sharks.

Another means of identifying sharks is by studying pigmentation patterns on the skin in areas between the dark upper part of the body and the pale lower part of the body, especially around the gill slits, pelvic fins and the lower caudal fin lobe.



For more information on the adoption packages please visit the FSRF website. An adoption pamphlet is also available at their shark museum.


If you are unable to adopt a Great White and would still like to help and contribute to their research, please visit the Shark museum and you can personally make any size donation.



Because Great White Sharks are very inquisitive, big and powerful, and have very sharp serrated teeth, we still need to be cautious when we play in their world. What may seem gentle and inquisitive to them can be fatal to us. So that is why I have included this section on safety for divers, surfers and every other beach goer. Some safety tips are for people doing specific activities, however, the majority is for everyone in general.



The following animals have been identified in fatal unprovoked shark attacks on humans in Australia: -

Great White Shark (Carcharodon carcharias)

Tiger Shark (Galeocerdo cuvier)

Bull Shark (Carcharhinus leucas)



Great Hammerhead (Sphyrna mokarran)

Blue Shark (Prionace glauca)

Mako (Isurus oxyrinchus)

Bronze Whaler Shark (Carcharhinus brachyurus) a.k.a. Copper shark

Grey Nurse Shark (Carcharias taurus)


Tips For Divers

Never Dive alone.

Never attach any marine organisms directly to yourself.

Avoid diving in the vicinity of seal and sea lion rookeries or haul out sites.

Avoid diving at times of fish spawning (especially snapper).

Be aware of changes in your surroundings for example: marine life acting erratic or spooked all of a sudden.

When returning to the surface, constantly rotate and look in all directions. The majority of attacks on SCUBA divers took place at depths of 3-6m below the surface in water over depths of about 30-45m.4


If You See a Shark

Never provoke any shark, no matter how small or harmless it may appear.

Never corner a shark or cut off its path to open water.

If air supply permitting, remain as close to or at the bottom as long as possible and wait until the shark loses interest and leaves the area.

Leave the water as quickly and quietly as possible (making the movement with your feet and arms as smooth as possible).


Tips For Surfers

Never surf alone.

Do not surf those locations known to be frequented by Great White Sharks.

Avoid surfing in areas that are inhabited year-round by a population of seals and sea lions.

Avoid lengthy periods in water with a drop-off adjacent to the surf zone.

Avoid surfing at sunrise and sunset.


Tips For All Beach Goers

Don’t swim near people fishing in boats, or spear fishing.

Do not swim in dirty or turbid water.

Avoid swimming well offshore, or along drop-offs to deeper water.

If schooling fish start to behave erratically or congregate in large numbers, leave the water.

Do not swim with pets and domestic animals.

Look carefully before jumping into the water from a boat or wharf.


What to do if a Shark is sighted in your area

Leave the water as quickly and quietly as possible (making the movement with your feet and arms as smooth as possible. The splashing could attract the shark by increasing its curiosity).

Report shark sightings to Fishwatch (Ph: 1800 065 522) or Police (Ph: 131 444).


What to do if you or a friend is attacked

If attacked by a shark, try to remain calm.

Remove yourself or the victim from the water as mentioned above, as quickly and quietly as possible.

Once out of the water, avoid moving the victim.

Make every effort to control the bleeding by applying pressure on the wound or just above. A tourniquet may be used if the bleeding can’t be controlled by a pressure bandage. The cord or strap from surf and/or body boards are useful if there’s nothing else at your disposal.

Do not remove the victim’s wetsuit.

Make the victim as comfortable as possible by laying them down and keep them warm by covering them up.

Call 000 for emergency service and tell them your exact location and nature of the injury.

While waiting for the ambulance keep the victim hydrated by giving them water.

Keep reassuring them and remain calm.1, 2, 3, 4 and 6













Additional Great White Shark Research Organisations

Andrew and Rodney Fox’s Fox Shark Research Foundation is just one of many organisations that are devoted to researching Great White Sharks and the survival of the species. I have listed a few organisations and their web sites here, so you can check them out and see what is being done around the world and what is involved in protecting this great, poorly misunderstood creature.


Shark Research Institute (SRI)

The Shark Research Institute is a multi-disciplinary non-profit 501(c)(3) scientific research organization. It was created to sponsor and conduct research on sharks and promote their conservation.

Founded in 1991 at Princeton, New Jersey, USA, SRI has field offices in Florida, Pennsylvania and Texas, as well as Australia, Canada, Ecuador, Honduras, India, Mexico, Mozambique, Seychelles, South Africa and the United Kingdom.

Its Mission is to promote public awareness of sharks and their vital role in the marine ecosystem.

By visiting their web site you can adopt a shark, learn more about their history, whale sharks and shark attacks.



Scientists at CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research (CMAR) track Great White Shark movement in Australian waters, using a range of tag types to learn more about these movement patterns. To learn more about Great White shark movement patterns visit the following web address: - 


South African White Shark Research Institute

The White Shark Conservation, Education and Exploration Society is an organisation that is dedicated to the exploration and conservation of the Great White Shark and the preservation of its environment. Visit their web site at to learn more about conservation on Great White Sharks, membership and adoption packages.


The Conservation Council’s White Sharks Count project

Chris Ball, Marine Programs Manager, CCSA 0408 089491

This is a program where the public can be actively involved in reporting shark sightings. Commercial and recreational fishers, charter boat operators and other users of Eyre Peninsula’s marine environment are asked to report any sighting while out on the water. Chris Ball, the Marine Programs Manager for the Conservation Council, believes White Sharks Count will significantly increase the knowledge of White Shark movements across the Eyre Peninsula region.  Sightings can be reported a number of ways. Go to the following web site to learn more: -


REFERENCES & More Information

1 Andrew Fox/Fox Shark Research Foundation:


            Rodney Fox Shark Museum, Moseley Square, Glenelg, South Australia 5045


2 R. Aidan Martin/ReefQuest Centre for Shark Research:



3 John West/ASAF Taronga Zoo New South Wales:



 Florida Museum of Natural History:

4 International Shark Attack File (ISAF) –


5 “First person account on Killer Whale Vs. Great White – Predation on a white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) by a killer whale (Orcinus orca) and a possible case of competitive displacement” by Pyle, P; Schramm, MJ; Keiper, C; Anderson, SD, Marine Mammal Science [Mar. Mamm. Sci.]. Vol. 15, no. 2, pp. 563-568. Apr 1999.


6 Field Guide to the Great White Shark

by R. Aidan Martin, ReefQuest Centre for Shark Research, Special Publication No. 1, 2003 (with special contributions by Jeremy Stafford-Deitsch, Jeff Kurr, Caterina Gennaro and Ralph S. Collier).

ISBN: 0-9732395-0-6


7 White Shark (Carcharodon carcharias) Recovery Plan

July 2002, Commonwealth of Australia, 2002. ISBN 0642548218

Marine Conservation Branch, Environment Australia, GPO Box 787, Canberra, ACT 2601


8 2 minutes of rare footage of a Killer Whale attacking a Great White Shark:


9 Environmental Biology of Fishes

Publisher: Springer Netherlands, ISSN: 0378-1909 (Paper) 1573-5133 (Online)

DOI: 10.1023/A:1007639324360, Issue:  Volume 58, Number 4, August 2000 (Pages: 447 – 453, Predation by White Sharks Carcharodon carcharias (Chondrichthyes: Lamnidae) Upon Chelonians, with New Records from the Mediterranean Sea and a First Record of the Ocean Sunfish Mola mola (Osteichthyes: Molidae) as Stomach Contents) by Ian K. Fergusson,   Leonard J.V. Compagno and Mark A. Marks.


10 CSIRO Marine Research/Tagging Great White Sharks:


11 Article on the Great White Shark being on the WWF Top Ten Extinction List:






Additional References


Marine Biology

Publisher: Springer Berlin / Heidelberg. ISSN: 0025-3162 (Paper) 1432-1793 (Online)

DOI: 10.1007/s002270000489, Issue:  Volume 138, Number 3, March 2001, Pages: 617 – 636 - The hunting strategy of white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) near a seal colony.


Environmental Biology of Fishes

Publisher: Springer Netherlands. ISSN: 0378-1909 (Paper) 1573-5133 (Online)

DOI: 10.1023/A:1007520931105, Issue:  Volume 56, Number 4, December 1999,

Pages: 351 – 364.


Space Utilization and Swimming Depth of White Sharks, Carcharodon carcharias, at the South Farallon Islands, Central California

Kenneth J. Goldman and Scot D. Anderson.


A review of the biology and status of white sharks in Australian waters

by Malcolm, H; Bruce, BD; Stevens, JD, CSIRO, Hobart, Tas. (Australia), September 2001.


Journal of Comparative Physiology B: Biochemical, Systemic, and Environmental Physiology

Publisher: Springer Berlin / Heidelberg. ISSN: 0174-1578 (Paper) 1432-136X (Online)

DOI: 10.1007/s003600050092, Issue:  Volume 167, Number 6, August 1997, Pages: 423 – 429 - Regulation of body temperature in the white shark, Carcharodon carcharias, Kenneth J. Goldman


Environmental Biology of Fishes

Publisher: Springer Netherlands. ISSN: 0378-1909 (Paper) 1573-5133 (Online)

DOI: 10.1023/A:1007308406137, Issue:  Volume 50, Number 1, March 1997, Pages: 61 – 62 - Threatened fishes of the world: Carcharodon carcharias (Linnaeus, 1758) (Lamnidae), Leonard J.V. Compagno, Mark A. Marks and Ian K. Fergusson.


Conservation Genetics

Publisher: Springer Netherlands, ISSN: 1566-0621 (Paper) 1572-9737 (Online)

DOI: 10.1023/A:1024771215616, Issue:  Volume 4, Number 4, July 2003, Pages: 415 – 425 - A streamlined, bi-organelle, multiplex PCR approach to species identification: Application to global conservation and trade monitoring of the great white shark, Carcharodon carcharias, by Demian D. Chapman, Debra L. Abercrombie, Christophe J. Douady, Ellen K. Pikitch, Michael J. Stanhopen and Mahmood S. Shivji1


Predatory behaviour of white sharks

(Carcharodon carcharias) at Seal Island, South Africa

by R. Aidan Martin, Neil Hammerschlag, Ralph S. Collier and Chris Fallows.


J. Mar. Biol. Ass. U.K. (2005), 85, 1121 1135

Printed in the United Kingdom




Special thanks to:

Andrew Fox, Fox Shark Research Foundation (FSRF), for his support, feedback, information, advice and valuable time


Chris Fallows,, for his contribution and use of photos. (To see more of Chris’s magnificent photos of the Great White Shark visit


John West, Australian Shark Attack File (ASAF), for the statistics and tables on shark attacks within Australia.


























“The Fox Shark Research Foundation encourages and supports the initiative of Phil Kemp in raising positive public awareness of the Great White Shark in the local South Australian community. This follows our mission and philosophy that education will always overcome fears, and aid in the protection and conservation of this much-misunderstood animal. With more understanding and research we can better learn to live with, change the image and reduce the level of conflicts this species has unfortunately long attracted from a largely irresponsible and sensationalist media and a largely misinformed and terrified public.”

Andrew and Rodney Fox

Fox Shark Research Foundation














The Western Blue Groper

by Scoresby A. Shepherd


The western blue groper is unique on South Australia’s reefs. It is both the largest reef-dwelling fish, and also one of the slowest growing species, reaching sexual maturity at 55-60 cm at 15 years of age, and a maximum length of 1.7 m at about 70 years. For divers, it is a special treat to see a groper swimming slowly and majestically in the water, approaching one fearlessly, and then following with disarming curiosity.


The groper lives in small ‘family’ groups of one male and female, together with a few sub-adults, and occupies a home range often extending over 500 m of coastline. During territorial disputes over boundaries, males may be seen with jaws interlocked in a fierce combat as each struggles for supremacy. However such events are rare, and mostly the groper swims placidly over its territory, occasionally diving to the bottom to roll over boulders in search of small crabs, sea-urchins or molluscs. The adults also have a remarkable bite-and-suck behaviour, by which they can dislocate their jaw and open it widely to bite large chunks of the algal mat, suck them into the gaping mouth cavity, and then filter out the tiny crustaceans living in the mat. This manner of feeding is hard work, and it is not surprising that the groper takes greedily a piece of abalone or other shellfish offered by a passing diver.


My interest in the groper started in the 1960s when I saw their numbers dwindle along South Australia’s coast under the onslaught of spear fishing. These majestic fish were easily speared and so doomed by their disarming curiosity. In 1971 when preparing fishing controls I was able to fully protect them in the Gulfs, and provide partial protection outside the gulfs. Protection was timely, and seemed to arrest their decline, so that groper began to increase in numbers. However, recent studies with James Brook and colleagues from Reef Watch show that small groper are still captured by recreational fishers, even though protected, and that its numbers are still almost certainly less than they once were. This may well be because many fishers do not recognize that the small greenish “rock cod” that they have caught is in fact a young groper. And certainly on southern Yorke Peninsula, where adults were once common, they are still quite rare. But what do we know of the fish’s life history?



Western Blue Groper  -  Photo David Muirhead


After a spring-to-autumn reproductive season, groper larvae are believed to drift in the sea for 3-4 weeks and perhaps up to 40 km before settling among shallow inshore reefs of about 1 m deep, where they feed on tiny mussels and crustaceans. As they grow they move into slightly deeper water of 2-3 m when they are 15-20 cm long and have a dull grey-green colour matching the seaweed in which they hide. During the next sub-adult stage lasting 10 years or more when they are 20-60 cm long they remain in sheltered waters and become a uniform pale green in colour. Surveys along the South Australian open coasts show that they are in densities of 1-8 per 100 m of coastline, showing that they are by no means an abundant species.


Sexual maturity is at about 60 cm and occurs at about 15 years of age. They then change colour to the more familiar blue, the females being somewhat greenish blue compared with the deeper hue of the male. By this size they have moved to deeper water and some migrate even further offshore to deeper reefs of 30-50 m, where they feed on crabs, molluscs, sea-urchins, and worms.


Is the blue groper worth protecting?  Quite apart from its majestic dignity, and friendly disposition to divers, scientists believe that the groper plays an important key role in reef ecosystems. It is a major prey of the spiny sea-urchin, which in large numbers can form feeding fronts, and devastate natural reefs, leaving what are known as sea-urchin barrens devoid of algae. Such barrens are already increasing along the east Tasmanian coasts, likely through global warming, reducing the productivity of the reefs by 80-90%. By ensuring that natural populations of urchin predators, such as the groper, are present, the naturalness and productivity of coastal reefs can be assured. 


As the major threat to groper is their continuing capture, it is surely time for us to press for their complete protection, a matter which has been agreed to by the Fishery Management Committee, but is still pending. In addition we must continue to educate the public about them, as they are truly an iconic species. As such they must have high economic value for dive tourism, and this is yet another argument that can be used to press for their protection and for public education.



Juvenile Western Blue Groper -  Photo David Muirhead



The Flora and Fauna of Piccaninnie Ponds and Ewens Ponds (Including Eight Mile Creek)

by Steve Reynolds


After diving and snorkelling in both Piccaninnie Ponds and Ewens Ponds (including Eight Mile Creek) during the Marine Life Society’s trip to Port MacDonnell in February 2006, I wanted to list the many freshwater species of fish, plants and invertebrates that we saw there. Since I am not an expert on the identification of freshwater species, I enlisted the help of Mike Hammer, the Scientific Officer for the Native Fish Australia (SA) group.

Mike got me started by sending me an electronic copy of his report “The South East Fish Inventory: Distribution and Conservation of Freshwater Fishes of South East South Australia”.

Thanks to Mike’s help, I am able to list the many species known to occur in both ponds and Eight Mile Creek. It seems to me that I possibly saw most of these species there. Other members of our group may possibly have sighted those species that I didn’t see myself.

The Piccaninnie Ponds are within the Piccaninnie Ponds Conservation Park, which is under the control of the Department for Environment and Heritage, National Parks and Wildlife (Mount Gambier). Permits to either dive or snorkel in the ponds must be purchased from the DEH office at 11 Helen St, Mount Gambier (PO Box 1046, Mt Gambier SA 5290). Contact numbers are: - telephone 8735 1171 & 8735 1177, fax 8735 1110 & 8735 1135. Diving permits are only issued to current financial members of the Cave Divers Association of Australia who are rated at sinkhole category.

The Ewens Ponds are within the Ewens Ponds Conservation Park, which is also under the control of the Department for Environment and Heritage, National Parks and Wildlife (Mount Gambier). Permits are not required to dive or snorkel in the ponds unless a group is larger than six divers or snorkellers. Groups of more than six divers/snorkellers must book with the DEH office at Mount Gambier.

Fishing is not allowed in either of the two conservation parks. Removal or damage to any plants or animals, including fish, freshwater crayfish and yabbies, is prohibited.



Common Galaxias (Courtesy of Mike Hammer)


This first part of my list consists of just native species of fish known to occur in the ponds and creek: -




Common Name

Scientific Name


Conservation Status

Common Galaxias

Galaxias maculatus



Spotted Galaxias

Galaxias truttaceus



Southern Shortfinned Eel

Anguilla australis


Rare in SA

River Blackfish

Gadopsis marmoratus


Protected, Endangered

Variegated (Ewens) Pygmy Perch

Nannoperca variegata


Vulnerable Protected,


Southern Pygmy Perch

Nannoperca australis


Protected, Endangered


Pseudophritis urvilli



Total: 7







Variegated Pygmy Perch (Courtesy of Mike Hammer)



As I said in my article “Ewens Ponds” (MLSSA Newsletter, January1998, No.240), the Ewens (or Variegated) Pygmy Perch occurs “only in Ewens Ponds and a few minor wetlands in the lower Glenelg River system in Victoria. It is a small species which reaches only 62mm in length”. As I said in my article “Endangered Freshwater Species Protected in S.A.” (MLSSA Newsletter, July 1998, No.246), “The IUCN rated the species as “vulnerable”. It chooses to live in very dense aquatic vegetation growing in flowing water. It is threatened by: -

1.                  Living in only a handful of small waters

2.                  By introduced predators having been liberated into most of these clear-water systems

3.                  Its preference for what is a quite rare and vulnerable habitat

“Conservation of the Variegated Pygmy Perch – Freshwater Fish Survey of Lower South Eastern South Australia” by Hammer, Doube and Roberts, as the title suggests, describes the conservation of the species and its potential threats. The report also describes Ewens Ponds and Piccaninnie Ponds in detail and features some great maps and diagrams.

The Ewens (or Variegated) Pygmy Perch was listed in the IUCN Red List of threatened animals in 1997. The 1998 SA Recreational Fishing Guide listed the fish as a protected species, along with the Southern Pygmy Perch, River Blackfish and five other freshwater species.



(Courtesy of Mike Hammer)


I believe that I saw lots of River Blackfish deep within the overhang in the third pond at Ewens Ponds. I wedged myself as far into the overhang as I could and remained there for quite a while, observing them in the beam of my torchlight. I was quite entranced by them and my dive buddy, Neville Skinner began to think that I was stuck there until I backed out of the overhang. River Blackfish are endangered and protected in SA.

We saw several eels feeding out in the open at the bottom of the main pond at Piccaninnie Ponds. It was a slightly overcast morning and the eels possibly considered it to still be dawn. It seems that they generally disappear once the sun comes up. Southern Shortfinned Eels are rare in SA.



Southern Shortfinned Eel

 (Courtesy of Mike Hammer)


Congolli, which are rare in SA, are also known as tupong or freshwater flathead. Hillary Hauser* said in “Exploring a Sunken Realm in Australia” (National Geographic, Vol.165, No.1, January 1984) that they occurred in Piccaninnie Ponds where they feed on the Galaxiids. Mike Hammer has confirmed the occurrence of Congolli in Ewens Ponds, Eight Mile Creek and Piccaninnie Ponds.




(Courtesy of Mike Hammer)


*Hillary Hauser is the (US) author of several books about ‘skindiving’. She also wrote “Book of Fishes”, a comprehensive collection of the most common fish seen by divers. The 200-page book has over 100 colour photos.


This next part of my list covers ‘marine vagrants’ known to occur in the ponds and creek:-



Common Name

Scientific Name


SA Fishing restrictions*


Acanthopagrus australis


Min. legal length & bag limit applies



Aldrichetta forsteri


Min. legal length & bag limit applies

Marine Goby**

Tasmanogobius gloveri



Smallmouthed Hardyhead

Atherinosoma microstoma



Total: 4



* Fishing is not allowed in either Ewens Ponds or Piccaninnie Ponds conservation parks.

** Mike Hammer says that he caught a Marine Goby, Tasmanogobius gloveri, at the lower end of Eight Mile Creek.


This next part of my list covers fish species which may possibly occur in the ponds and creek but this has not been confirmed: -



Common Name

Scientific Name


Conservation Status & SA Fishing restrictions*

Australian Grayling

Prototroctes maraena





Mordacia mordax



Pouched Lamprey

Geotria australis



Brown Trout

Salmo trutta


Min. legal length applies

Rainbow Trout

Oncorhynchus mykiss


Min. legal length applies

Total: 5



*Fishing is not allowed in either Ewens Ponds or Piccaninnie Ponds conservation parks.


According to the “Native Fish in South Australia” pamphlet (mlssa 2228), which Mike Hammer sent to me, “Lampreys have amazing body features that help them migrate”. I didn’t see any lampreys in Eight Mile Creek myself. I did, however, see a school of large fish which I assumed at the time to be Australian Grayling. I don’t believe that they could have been Yellow-eye Mullet. According to “Australian Marine Life” by Graham Edgar, “Australian Grayling remain in freshwater as adults but have a marine juvenile stage which lasts until they reach about 50mm in length. This species was once very common but has declined in numbers to only a few stable adult populations, so the species is considered threatened”. I said in my article “Ewens Ponds” (MLSSA Newsletter, January1998, No.240), that the summer 1996 edition of “Southern Fisheries” magazine (Vol.4, No.4) said that Australian Grayling, Prototroctes maraena, “has only been recorded from Ewens Ponds. It has been listed as being close to extinction” (p.43).

The “Freshwater Fishes of South Eastern SA data sheet” says that “Australian Grayling have been previously recorded from the lower south east; it is either an irregular visitor or is now locally extinct”.

Mike Hammer referred to Australian Grayling in “The South East Fish Inventory”, saying that they are an additional native species which have been documented in the past, but were not captured during the inventory. Under 5.4 in his report (Mobile species), Mike said that Grayling “does not appear to occur in SA at the current time. Their presence in SA may be governed by a population sink from another source such as the nearby Glenelg River subject to migration and the health of the source population (via marine larval stage). Alternatively a small, localized sub-population may have easily become extinct due to chance or anthropogenic disturbance”.

Mike also said in his report that Shortheaded Lampreys and Pouched Lampreys have been recorded in small patches such as Ewens Ponds and Piccaninnie Ponds, but they too were not captured during the inventory. Lampreys are endangered in SA.


This next part of my list covers invertebrate species known to occur in the ponds and creek: -



Common Name

Scientific Name


Conservation Status & SA Fishing restrictions*

Spiny Crayfish

Euastacus bispinosus (bispinosa/bispinosis/bispinosus?)


Potentially threatened Bag limit applies

Burrowing Crayfish

Engaeus strictifrons


Potentially threatened

Freshwater crayfish

Geocharax species


Potentially threatened


Cherax tenuimanus




Cherax destructor


Bag limit applies

Freshwater Mussel (Ridged)

Hyridella narracanensis


Potentially threatened

Freshwater Mussel

Velesunio ambiguous?


Potentially threatened

Total: 7





* Fishing is not allowed in either Ewens Ponds or Piccaninnie Ponds conservation parks.


The Spiny Crayfish, Euastacus bispinosus (bispinosa/bispinosis/bispinosus), is also known as the South East Freshwater Crayfish and the Glenelg River Crayfish. It is said to be a relative of the River Murray Crayfish, Euastacus armatus. I saw a couple of crays in Ewens Ponds, one large specimen and one small one.

The report titled “Observations on the ‘Mechanical Dragging’ of Eight Mile Creek, South-east South Australia” by Mike Hammer, our own Neville Skinner and Tim Playford (Adel. Uni.), says that “The spiny crayfish Euastacus bispinosis has a limited distribution . . . Habitat in Eight Mile Creek represents a significant portion of the species range in South Australia” and “The spiny crayfish is a slow growing species unlikely to adapt well to alterations in its habitat”.

The Spiny Crayfish (lobster), Euastacus bispinosus (bispinosa/bispinosis/bispinosus) and the Burrowing Crayfish, Engaeus strictifrons, are considered to have a high conservation significance due to their limited distributions in south-eastern Australia.


Freshwater Crayfish, Geocharax species, are said to only have a comparatively small home range. All freshwater crayfish are often referred to as yabbies. Marron, Cherax tenuimanus, have been reported as occurring in Ewens Ponds even though they are an introduced species (native to WA). They are one of the largest freshwater crayfish in the world.

“Observations on the ‘Mechanical Dragging’ of Eight Mile Creek, South-east South Australia” says that the Eight Mile Creek is the only area in the state where the Freshwater Mussel, Hyridella narracanensis, is known to occur.



A Spiny Crayfish in Eight Mile Creek (Photo by Neville Skinner)



This next part of my list covers more invertebrate species thought to occur in the ponds and creek: -



Common Name




Other molluscs?
























Total: 6





My article titled “Ewens Ponds” in our January 1998 Newsletter reported that I had seen crabs at Ewens Ponds (in July 1997). “Discover Underwater Australia” by Neville Coleman reports that both Ewens Ponds and Piccaninnie Ponds have crabs plus freshwater sponges, hydroids, shrimps, terrapins and frogs.

(It is interesting to note that the “Ewens Ponds Conservation Park Management Plan: Amendment to Plan of Management, South East, South Australia” by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources does not indicate the occurrence of most of these creatures.)


With terrapins and frogs in mind, this next part of my list covers reptile and amphibian species known to occur in the ponds and creek: -



Common Name

Scientific Name


Snake-necked tortoise or Longneck Turtle

Chelodina longicollis


Common eastern froglet

Crinia signifera


Ground frog

Geocrinia laevis


Eastern banjoy frog

Limnodynastes dumerillii


Spotted grass frog

Limnodynastes tasmaniensis


Southern toadlet

Pseudophryne semimarmorata


Brown tree frog

Litoria ewingii


Bell frog

Litoria raniformis


Total: 8



Chelodina longicollis is known as both the Longneck Turtle and the Snake-necked tortoise. Freshwater turtles are called tortoises (or terrapins), so it seems that Snake-necked tortoise would be the correct name for them. (This matter was discussed in my article “Turtles, Tortoises & Terrapins” in our July 1999 Newsletter (No.257).)

I saw a couple of tortoises in Ewens Ponds/Eight Mile Creek. Like the crays that I had seen, one was large and the other one was small.

(I was pleased to recently read in The Advertiser (11/4/06) that the Environment Protection Authority reports that the water quality of Lake Bonney in the south-east of SA is the best that it’s been in 30 years and that Longneck (Snake-necked) tortoises had returned to the lake and threatened fish species were now multiplying there.)


The book “Biological Science – the web of life” discusses the Long-necked tortoise and its community interrelationships.

One or two members of our four-person team which snorkelled the length of Eight Mile Creek discovered small leeches on themselves. Mike Hammer confirmed that there are plenty of leeches – “small black ones that get on your lips and in between your teeth after snorkelling around at night through swampy bits!”.

Mike says that leeches belong to the Phylum Annelida (segmented worms) and Class Hirudinea. “The Web of Life” book confirms this and gives other details. When discussing the Long-necked tortoise and its community interrelationships, the book says that “Leeches feed on tortoises without killing them; they attach themselves to the tortoises and suck their blood”.



Longneck Turtle, Chelodina longicollis, found in the River Murray (Courtesy of Mike Hammer)


This next part of my list covers the common reeds and bulrush that dominate the area surrounding Ewens Ponds: -



Common Name

Scientific Name


Common reed, bamboo reed

Phragmites australis

 Poaceae (Gramineae)


Typha angustifolia


Total: 2



Tea-tree thickets consisting of Leptospermum pubescens and Scented paperbark, Melaleuca squarrosa are scattered amongst the reeds and bulrush. These vegetation associations (in the upper reaches of the ponds) have root systems which stabilize the banks and prevent contamination by surface runoff.


This next part of my list covers some of the vegetation (plant and algae species) known to occur in Ewens Ponds: -



Common Name

Scientific Name


#Australian lilaeopsis

Lilaeopsis polyantha


(formerly Umbelliferae)

River buttercup

Ranunculus amphitrichus


#Water ribbons

Triglochin procerum


#Streaked arrowgrass

Triglochin striata (striatum?)


#Shield pennywort

Hydrocotyle verticillata

Apiaceae (formerly Umbelliferae)

Fennel Pondweed, sago pondweed

Potamogeton pectinatus



Rorippa nasturtium-aquaticum (also called Rorippa officinalis or Nasturtium officinale or Radicula nasturtium-aquaticum)

 Brassicaceae (Cruciferae)

Lesser Water parsnip

Berula erecta (or Sium latifolium)

Apiaceae (formerly Umbelliferae)


Eleocharis acuta


Freshwater red alga

Batrachospermum species

 Division: Rhodophyta

*Blue-green bacteria/alga

Anabaena species

 Division: Cyanobateria

*Blue-green bacteria/alga

Oscillatoria species

 Division: Cyanobateria

*Blue-green bacteria/alga

Lyngbya species

 Division: Cyanobateria


Fissidens rigidulus


Total: 14



# Dominant species found in Ewens Ponds. These species range in depth from the surface to approximately 5m. Below that level they are unable to consolidate the fine organic matter which overlies the sands. As a consequence, blue-green bacteria form dense mats.

* Blue-green bacteria present below 5m in Ewens Ponds.


The freshwater red alga, Batrachospermum species is “locally abundant” but it is often classified as rare. It is said to be present within the small cave (overhang) at the bottom of the third pond and also beneath the landing of the first pond at Ewens Ponds.

The channels between the ponds at Ewens Ponds are said to be dominated by the watercress Rorippa nasturtium-aquaticum (also called Rorippa officinalis or Nasturtium officinale or Radicula nasturtium-aquaticum), the Lesser Water parsnip, Berula erecta (or Sium latifolium) and the common spike-rush (Eleocharis acuta).


Bob Baldock from the State Herbarium says that the lesser water parsnip Berula erecta, is an introduced plant from western Europe, central Asia and North America.  It belongs to the family Apiaceae (formerly Umbelliferae). Bob explained to me that the Adelaide Herbarium still uses the old Family name of Umbelliferae. Sium latifolium may be present in SA, but there are no reliable records.

Many of the plants which are submerged in the ponds at Ewens Ponds occur elsewhere but are only partly submerged in marshes. These plants that are submerged at Ewens Ponds survive fully submerged due to water clarity. The plants are able to obtain carbon dioxide for photosynthesis from the water and essential nutrients are obtained by the roots from the soil.

The Shield Pennywort, Hydrocotyle verticillata, for example, is usually recorded as a bog species which is never submerged, but in Ewens Ponds it is only found beneath the water surface. The moss, Fissidens rigidulus, is usually found within the spray zone of waterfalls but it too is completely submerged at Ewens Ponds.

According to Hillary Hauser in her National Geographic article “Exploring a Sunken Realm in Australia” (Vol.165, No.1, January 1984), Australian Lilaeopsis is a relative of celery and Water ribbon (Triglochin) is found in fresh waters across Australia. It produces an edible, potato-like tuber which northern Aboriginals harvest. Bouquets of the River Buttercup, Ranunculus amphitrichus, climb stalks of the Water ribbon, Triglochin procerum. The red leaves of Ranunculus amphitrichus along the shoreline of Piccaninnie Ponds are frosted with wisps of algae. The slightly saline aquifer that feeds Piccaninnie Ponds seems to inhabit the spread of Ranunculus amphitrichus, which adjusts its red pigment as needed to protect against the sunlight drenching these crystalline waters.

“Observations on the ‘Mechanical Dragging’ of Eight Mile Creek, South-east South Australia” says that Eight Mile Creek has a profusion of submerged aquatic plants (such as the pondweed Potamogeton pectinatus), many of which are normally only found growing emerged (e.g. the Australian lilaeopsis, Lilaeopsis polyantha, Shield pennywort, Hydrocotyle verticillata and Watercress, Rorripa nasturtiumaquaticum). The report also says that the Water ribbon, Triglochin procerum reaches an unusually large size in Eight Mile Creek. It also says that “this form of habitat and mixture of species is quite rare at the regional and state level” Aquatic plants also provide faunal refuge (shelter) from flow and predators, as well as surfaces for invertebrates to colonise (e.g. potential food source for fishes). Riparian vegetation is today of limited extent along the creek, with some overhanging cover such as grasses, emergent plants e.g. Phragmites (P.australis) and Typha species (bulrushes), and a general mix of species that help stabilize soft creek edges (at least in the upper reaches)”.

Hauser’s article “Exploring a Sunken Realm in Australia” said that “The Eight Mile Creek Swamp that once surrounded Ewens Ponds has been drained for farmland since before the Second World War. The pond water levels, now apparently stabilized, lie one and a half meters (five feet) below their original marks, and many of the plant species still found at Piccaninnie Ponds have vanished from Ewens”.

Hauser’s article also said that Galaxiids in Piccaninnie Ponds feed on algae and mosses that build into green underwater castles. Congolli hide in the tangled cloud of algae and lie in wait for feeding Galaxiids, which are one of their favourite foods.

Bob Baldock from the State Herbarium helped me out with some details about these plant species, including comments that the Aboriginal names for Triglochin procerum are “Narelli” and “Pol-an-go”. Bob suggested that I visit for more details.

(The State Herbarium maintains records of local plants, including marine species. The herbarium probably has the largest algal collection in Australia but the bulk of it has not been data based. This is a great pity because many marine projects are hampered by the difficulties in accessing data on the distribution of species from the 90,000 individual specimen sheets. A complete database would circumvent this problem. The herbarium had sufficient funding to data base all of the terrestrial collections but there was nothing left to database the bulk of the algal collections. About $400,000 is needed to be able to database the complete algal collection. Our politicians need to inject some cash into the herbarium’s work so that our plant records may finally be completed.)

WA has an Internet-based record of its marine plants, the FloraBase information system - The database provides on-line access to about 1,000 species of WA's marine macro algae and access details of some 20,000 specimens. All of WA's marine macro algae specimens are now housed in the Department of Conservation and Land Management (CALM) Herbarium's algal herbarium, and about 14,000 have now been entered on the database and added to the original 6,000 sheets at the herbarium.

According to the FloraBase web site: - Lilaeopsis polyantha, Ranunculus amphitrichus and Triglochin species are all herbs. Both Lilaeopsis polyantha and Ranunculus amphitrichus are perennials. The Australian Lilaeopsis, Lilaeopsis polyantha is said to grow in sandy mud at lake margins. It has purple, red or brown flowers. The River Buttercup, Ranunculus amphitrichus has yellow flowers and is said to grow in swamps and shallow water. Water Ribbons, Triglochin species, are “annual or perennial”.

I couldn’t find Hydrocotyle verticillata on the FloraBase web site, so I took Bob Baldock’s advice and visited the site where I found some details at .

It seems that pennyworts (Hydrocotyle species) are also perennial herbs (with prostrate or ascending stems), or small annuals with erect or ascending branched stems.
As mentioned earlier, Bob Baldock explained to me that the Adelaide Herbarium still uses the old Family name of Umbelliferae for Hydocotyle and Lilaeopsis species. He also helped me out with details about some of the other plants listed above. He was able to tell me, for example, the common names, the complete (& correct) scientific names and the Family names for them all. He also explained that there are five other species of Potamogeton, distinguished by the shape of their leaves. He told me that the Watercress, Rorripa nasturtiumaquaticum is an introduced water plant and that there are four native terrestrial species as well.

Many pest plants, mammals and one fish species are known to occur in the ponds at Ewens Ponds. The mammals include rats, mice, rabbits and foxes. The one pest fish that is known to occur there is the Rainbow Trout, Salmo gairdneri, which is an introduced species. The rabbits and foxes are also introduced species. These introduced species have the ability to impact on the threatened fauna found in Ewens Ponds, including native fish and crustaceans.

A fish (trout) farm adjoins the Ewens Ponds Conservation Park to the east. It extracts water via a channel from Pond 2 and discharges effluent via an outlet channel into Pond 3. The discharges from the trout farm and the water quality in the ponds is said to be monitored regularly.

According “Exploring a Sunken Realm in Australia” by to Hillary Hauser (National Geographic, Vol.165, No.1, January 1984), botanist Dr Neil Hallam, a professor at Monash University spent many years studying both Ewens Ponds and Piccaninnie Ponds. In the early 1980s Dr Hallam and graduate students from Monash University released rhodamine, a water-tracing dye, into Pond 1, the largest of the ponds, at Ewens Ponds to clock the rate of water exchange. It is interesting to note that “Dyes and other substances are not allowed to be released in the ponds whether for photography or any other purpose. They are illegal under the Fisheries Act, 1982”.

Whilst snorkelling down Eight Mile Creek, Neville Skinner and I sighted a ‘bluish’ fish seemingly hiding beneath some alga at a corner of the creek. We both commented that we didn’t recognize the species. It seemed to be bream-like but didn’t seem to be a bream. Other possible species that come to mind are Estuary Perch, Macquaria colonorum and Macquarie Perch, Macquaria australisca. This latter species is said to be coloured dark bluish-grey on its dorsal (upper) surface at times. Mike Hammer says, however, that the occurrence of Macquarie Perch in the creek is not likely. Estuary Perch, however, are usually coloured olive-green on their dorsal surface.



Estuary Perch, Macquaria colonorum (Courtesy of Mike Hammer)

About the time that I was completing this article, Mike Hammer sent me lots more reference details, including several reports on a CD. “The South East Fish Inventory: Distribution and Conservation of Freshwater Fishes of South East South Australia” is on the CD along with “Conservation of the Variegated Pygmy Perch – Freshwater Fish Survey of Lower South Eastern South Australia” by Hammer, Doube and Roberts (2000), “A Catalogue of South Australian Freshwater Fishes, including new records, range extensions and translocations” by Hammer and Walker, Transactions of the Royal Society of SA (2004), 128(2), 85-97 and “Observations on the ‘Mechanical Dragging’ of Eight Mile Creek, South-east South Australia” by Mike Hammer, Neville Skinner and T. Playford.


Southern Pygmy Perch

(Courtesy of Mike Hammer)


The CD also includes lots of fish photos, some of which feature in this article. The CD has been placed into our library (mlssa 8024).

Mike also sent me a data sheet on freshwater fishes of South Eastern SA (“Freshwater Fishes of South Eastern SA data sheet”. This has been placed in a file along with other information used for this article. This file has also been placed into our library (mlssa 2228).

The “Freshwater Fishes of South Eastern SA data sheet” gives details about lampreys, Congolli, River Blackfish, Shortfinned Eel, pygmy perch, galaxias and other freshwater fish species. It also features many (most) of Mike Hammer’s fish photos featured in this article.

Trevor Watts from SARFAC also sent me a CD of Mike Hammer’s report titled “The Eastern Mount Lofty Ranges Fish Inventory – Distribution and conservation of freshwater fishes of tributaries to the Lower River Murray, South Australia”. This CD has also been placed into our library (mlssa 8025).


Spotted Galaxias

(Courtesy of Mike Hammer)


This next part of my list on Page 52 covers some of the bird species known to occur in the ponds and creek: -



Common Name

Scientific Name

Pacific Black duck

Anas superciliosa

Swamp Harrier

Circus approximans

Straw-necked Ibis

Threskiomis spinicollis

Total: 3


Many aquatic birds, however, are said to be frequent visitors to the Ewens Ponds Conservation Park.


Many thanks go to Mike Hammer for both his many photographs and considerable assistance with the above details. My thanks also to Trevor Watts from SARFAC, Bob Baldock from the State Herbarium, Christopher Deane and Neville Skinner.



“Ewens Ponds” by Steve Reynolds, MLSSA Newsletter, January 1998 (No.240).

“More About Ewens Ponds” by Steve Reynolds, MLSSA Newsletter, March 1998 (No.242)

“Endangered Freshwater Species Protected in S.A.” by Steve Reynolds, MLSSA Newsletter, July 1998 (No.246).

“The Freshwater Ponds At Port MacDonnell” by Steve Reynolds, MLSSA Newsletter, June 1999 (No.256).

“The Flora & Fauna of Ewens Ponds” by Steve Reynolds, MLSSA Newsletter, September 1999, No.259.

“MLSSA’s 2006 Trip To Piccaninnie Ponds, Ewens Ponds And Eight Mile Creek - The Unofficial Report” by Steve Reynolds, MLSSA Newsletter (2006?)

“Dredging of Eight Mile Creek” Parts 1 & 2, by Neville Skinner, MLSSA Newsletters, January & February 2005 (Nos.317-8).

“Eight Mile Creek Report” by Neville Skinner, MLSSA Newsletter, January 2006 (No.328).

“Fair go for endangered eight” by Bryan Pierce (SARDI Aquatic Sciences), Southern Fisheries magazine, Vol.5, No.1, Autumn 1997.

“South Australian Recreational Fishing Guide” 1998 – Freshwater, Endangered Species.

“South Australian Recreational Fishing Guide” 2003 – The River Murray, Protected Species.

“Exploring a Sunken Realm in Australia” by Hillary Hauser, National Geographic, Vol.165, No.1, January 1984.

“Coastal Fishes of South-eastern Australia” by Rudie H Kuiter, Gary Allen P/L, 2000.

“The Marine and Freshwater Fishes of South Australia” by TD Scott, CJM Glover and RV Southcott, Government Printer, 1980.

“Biological Science – the web of life” by the Australian Academy of Science, 1981.

“The South East Fish Inventory: Distribution and Conservation of Freshwater Fishes of South East South Australia” by Michael Hammer, 2002. A CD copy of this report has also been placed into our library (mlssa 8024). The CD also includes lots of fish photos, some of which feature in this article.

“Conservation of the Variegated Pygmy Perch – Freshwater Fish Survey of Lower South Eastern South Australia” by Hammer, Doube and Roberts (2000). A CD copy of this report has also been placed into our library (mlssa 8024).

“A Catalogue of South Australian Freshwater Fishes, including new records, range extensions and translocations” by Hammer and Walker, Transactions of the Royal Society of SA (2004), 128(2), 85-97. A CD copy of this report has also been placed into our library (mlssa 8024).

“Observations on the ‘Mechanical Dragging’ of Eight Mile Creek, South-east South Australia” by M.Hammer, N.Skinner and T.Playford, report to the South Eastern Water Conservation and Drainage Board. A CD copy of this report has also been placed into our library (mlssa 8024).

“Native Fish in South Australia” pamphlet (mlssa 2228).

“Freshwater Fishes of South Eastern SA data sheet” (mlssa 2228).

“The Eastern Mount Lofty Ranges Fish Inventory – Distribution and conservation of freshwater fishes of tributaries to the Lower River Murray, South Australia” by Mike Hammer, September 2004. A CD copy of this report has also been placed into our library (mlssa 8025).

“Australian Marine Life – The Plants and Animals of Temperate Waters” by Graham Edgar, published by Reed New Holland, Sydney, 2000, ISBN 1 876334 38 X, (mlssa 1053).

“The Marine and Freshwater Fishes of South Australia” by Scott, Glover and Southcott, Government Printer, 1980 (mlssa 1009).

“Turtles, Tortoises & Terrapins” by Steve Reynolds, MLSSA Newsletter, July 1999  (No.257).

“Marine Turtles in SA” by Steve Reynolds, MLSSA Newsletter, June 1992  (No.179).

“More About Turtles” by Steve Reynolds, MLSSA Newsletter, July 1993  (No.191).

“Turtle Article” by Steve Reynolds, MLSSA Newsletter, August 1995  (No.214).

“1995 Year of the Turtle”, Editor Steve Reynolds, MLSSA Newsletter, August 1995  (No.214).

“Ewen (sic) Ponds Conservation Park Management Plan: Amendment to Plan of Management, South East, South Australia” by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. South-East Region, Natural Resources Group, ISBN or ISSN: 0730858219.

‘The Biology of Ewens Ponds and Piccaninnie Ponds, South Australia’ by Dr. Neill Hallam Senior Lecturer in Botany Monash Uni. February 1985 in Habitat Vol.13 No 1.

The web site for Native Fish Australia (SA) – .

For more details about freshwater turtles visit .

For more details about crayfish visit the following crayfish web sites (& web pages): - (Crayfish Photo Index) (Geocharax species) (for more details about the Spiny Crayfish, Euastacus bispinosus (bispinosa/bispinosis/bispinosus) )



Save Ewens Ponds!

by Gerard Carmody


from the Australian New Guinea Fishes Association (ANGFA) travelled to Port MacDonnell to visit the magnificent wetlands of the south-eastern corner of South Australia. We came specifically to dive the uniquely spectacular and complex groundwater dependent ecosystem of Ewens Ponds Conservation Park (EPCP). Like the many thousands of visitors before us, the plan was to take in the experience of the crystal clear water and abundant aquatic fauna and flora. Unfortunately this trip was very different to past experience and expectations as we saw the alarming deterioration of the Ewens Ponds wetland and out-flowing Eight Mile Creek. The most noticeable change was the widespread infestation and impact of an aggressive new form of blue-green algae throughout the ponds and creek. Of major concern is the degradation of critical habitat for the vulnerable Ewens Pygmy Perch (Nannoperca variegata).

On our return from Ewens Ponds I was motivated to raise awareness of its rapid decline, including the impact on aquatic fauna and flora. As a part of this, I undertook research to become better informed about the issue and to alert and encourage all responsible authorities and interested parties to take immediate action.

Is History Repeating Itself?



Above: The Ewens Ponds Creek channel linking Pond 2 to Pond 3 – Top: October 2002 – Bottom January 2006  – Photographs: Neville Skinner



Above: “Welcome to Ewens Ponds” – Department of Environment and Heritage signage – Photograph: Kath Moores


In the late 1970s to early 1980s a dieback phenomenon was reported in Ewens Ponds. This eventually lead to its closure to divers (Lewis, Stace 1980). By the late 1980s, however Ewens had mostly recovered (although some dieback continued for a number of years in the area of the fall-out zone from the water flowing from the cave in pond 3, Lipson 1989). The cause of this dieback remained a puzzle then as it does now. Are we seeing the return of this problem in 2006 or something different?

The first indication of the recent blue-green algae infestation in Ewens Ponds was reported by a local Dive shop in the summer of 2004/05. Perhaps not surprisingly, the mass outbreak of blue-algae occurred in the following summer of 2005/06 after another year of drought.


The Change

In previous regular visits to Ewens Ponds, aquatic vegetation such as water ribbon (Triglochin procerum) was commonly present at depths ranging from 1 to 6 metres (Hallam 1985). Beyond this depth, filamentous green algae and other benign blue-green algae species were present. This new infestation of blue-green algae is out-competing the most vigorous of these aquatic plants at depth as shallow as two metres leading to extensive die-back of aquatic plants throughout the system. Only in sections of the Eight Mile Creek, where water flow is significant does aquatic plant growth of species such as watercress (Rorippa nasturtium aquaticum), shield pennywort (Hydrocotyle verticillata) and river buttercup (Ranunculus amphitrichus) appear normal. Eight Mile Creek, however is far from free of this new infestation.





Above: Ewens Ponds – Top: Pond 2 October 2002 – Bottom: Pond 2 January 2006 –  Photographs: Neville Skinner


The luxuriant thick mats of filamentous green algae that covered the sloping banks of the three ponds from 5M depth have entirely disappeared and replaced with the ubiquitous blue-green algae. The visual “sand boils” feeding water into the bottom of the ponds 1 and 2 from the shallow-water aquifers have also significantly declined. These changes coincide with a drastic reduction in the previously plentiful populations of Southern Pygmy Perch (Nannoperca australis) which would normally be seen congregating in large numbers near these “sand boils”. Common Jollytail (Galaxias maculatus), Congolli (Pseudaphritis urvilli), freshwater crayfish (Euastacus bispinosus), shrimp (Paratya) and numerous other species have also declined. The exceptions are River Blackfish (Gadopsis marmoratus) and Black Bream (Acanthopagrus butcheri).




Above: Southern Pygmy Perch (Nannoperca australis) schooling at the bottom of Ewens Ponds prior to the blue-green algae bloom.

Photograph: Rudie Kuiter



Above: The vulnerable Ewens Pygmy Perch (Nannoperca variegata). Photograph: Rudie Kuiter


Of most concern is the degradation of critical habitat for Ewens Pygmy Perch (Nannoperca variegata), of which only a few were observed in the creek sections and a small population congregating under the platform in pond 3. Ewens or Variegated Pygmy Perch are listed as vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Ewens Ponds, Eight Mile Creek, connecting Spencer’s Pond and adjacent Stratman’s Pond are critical habitats for this species (Hammer, Doube and Roberts 2000). The loss of Ewens Pygmy Perch from these locations would surely place them on the endangered red list.

In July 2006 a further visit was made with Neville Skinner from the Marine Life Society of South Australia (MLSSA) and our observations are that the blue-green algae have spread further within the three major ponds. The extent of the problem is clearly evident from the entry platform to pond 1 with rafts of blue-green algae floating on the surface. It is clearly plain to the observer that major changes have occurred which are having a very significant impact on both animal and aquatic plant life. It is essential that the impact be quantified in terms of important measures such as species richness, evenness and individual species number by a follow-up survey of similar detail to the research by Hammer, Doube and Roberts (2000).






Above: The Ewens Ponds Creek channel linking Pond 2 to Pond 3

Top: October 2002 – Bottom January 2006 – Photographs: Neville Skinner


Water: Precious Resource or Free Gift?

What makes Ewens Ponds such a wonderfully rich and unique aquatic ecosystem are the same things that result in the adjacent farmland being extremely attractive for intensive agricultural use and ultimately compete with the ecosystem for these resources (Hallam 1985, Skewes 2006). The plentiful clear and constant water flow from the unconfined Mount Gambier aquifer and rich seam of peat soils provide an excellent nutrient source for aquatic plants, allowing for exceptional plant growth in the ponds and creek. So productive is this aquatic ecosystem that certain species of plants are able to flower underwater and oxygen is regularly observed fizzing from the tips of submerged photosynthesising plants. The long history of flooding and interconnection with other wetlands in the area, and Eight Mile Creek linkage with the ocean has resulted in a diverse and rich aquatic fauna and flora (Hammer 2002).



Above: Centre Pivot Irrigators at work – Port MacDonnell

Photograph: Gerard Carmody







Above: Ewens Ponds, Pond 1 pre blue-green algae bloom

Photograph: Rudie Kuiter


Yet despite the very special significance of this spring fed ecosystem, very little is known about the dominant hydrogeology, whether it is fed from a deep or shallow aquifer or the direction from which the water is flowing. Mostly, the current information is anecdotal and from recreational SCUBA divers. Being part of the greater Mt Gambier unconfined aquifer also makes these groundwater dependent ecosystems extremely vulnerable to pollution from agricultural run-off and waste disposal in sinkholes (Hammer et al 2000). The threat posed by agricultural run-off is very real as the soil depth is relatively shallow near EPCP.



Above: Matts of blue-green algae near jetty of Pond 1 July 2006.

Photograph: Gerard Carmody



The majority of the farmland surrounding EPCP is utilised for intensive dairy production which relies on an extensive artificial drainage network (post WW2 soldier settlement) to reduce water logging. In the past decade, the intensive use of Centre Pivot Irrigation to exploit the shallow groundwater aquifer resources and heavy fertilisation have made this area the most modern and productive dairy country in Australia. The groundwater resources have been utilised to maximise farm production all year round, effectively drought-proofing them. Coinciding with this increase in shallow aquifer extraction, the South East has experienced successive years of drought and the rate of water recharge back into the aquifer has fallen far below the amount extracted for agriculture (ref SENRM). The greater Mt Gambier unconfined aquifer has significantly fallen in level and as a result the hydraulic pressure pushing water through the aquifer is also believed to have declined. Only since June 2006 has it become mandatory for all farm bores to be metered. Up until then, the volume of water extraction was effectively uncapped. Recent measurements of water flow at the mouth of Eight Mile Creek are 30% below levels found in the 1970s (ref DEH), however it is unknown whether flow has reduced from the three ponds or from Eight Mile Creek. In addition to groundwater extraction, water is now drawn directly from the Ewens Ponds system (Eight Mile Creek) for irrigation and partly returned via a complex network of drains from the adjacent farmland. Since 1978, a trout farm has been given license to draw water from pond 2 and discharge below pond 3 into Eight Mile Creek. As a first and welcome step, an investigation will be carried out in late 2006 by a joint working group, lead by the Department of Environment and Heritage to measure water flow from pond 3 and determine the origin of the change. The outcome of this study will help shape the future direction of further investigations into this problem.



Above: “The dredge” chained to tractors either side of Eight Mile Creek and dragged along, taking flora and fauna with it.

Below: Permanently damaged creek bed.

Photographs: Gerard Carmody



The Algal Bloom

Although the aquatic chemical processes involved in blue-green algae blooms are complex, they are known to be caused by reduced water flow and water stratification in eutrophic (nutrient rich) systems, such as the Murray River and Gippsland Lakes experience (Stevens 2006). Blue-green algae are able to fix their own nitrogen in freshwater, therefore nitrogen is not considered a limiting nutrient in Ewens Ponds. Small increases in nutrients such as phosphorus are known to trigger outbreaks in freshwater (Stevens 2006). In times of normally high water flow and limited nutrient input, Ewens Ponds effectively behaves as an oligotrophic (nutrient poor) system. The present blue-green algae outbreak points toward a significant change in water flow or nutrient input (via farm fertilisation and run-off) and a thorough investigation of water flow and program of water analysis against a similar control system is urgently needed.

Potential sources of nutrient input into Ewens Ponds can be found in the adjacent farmland. High strength liquid NPK and trace nutrient fertilisers are pumped through giant  centre pivot irrigation systems by a process of “fertigation” (see appendix for chemical breakdown). Optimum pasture growth is achieved with highly targeted fertiliser application, intensive irrigation and well drained soils (Skewes 2006).


Soil Drainage and Dredging of Eight Mile Creek

Responsibility for the management of Eight Mile Creek is with the South East Water Conservation and Drainage Board (SEWCDB). The SEWCDB is comprised of the landholders adjacent to EPCP and a few government representatives. As irrigation has increased close to EPCP, drainage of water logged soils has become more critical to optimise pasture growth. This is a challenging task as it was once part of a major wetland system. Dredging Eight Mile Creek is viewed by SEWCDB as a viable way to enhance soil drainage of the adjacent farmland. Dredging in theory supposedly reduces the resistance to water flow in the creek which then lowers the water levels in the three ponds and surrounding water table. Increasing irrigation and fertigation adjacent to EPCP, however, may lead to an increase in nutrient load to Ewens Ponds via run-off through the shallow soil into aquifers or overground. If this were to occur, it may also lead to a cycle of increased aquatic plant growth in Eight Mile Creek and in turn greater call for dredging.

The SEWCDB’s continued desire to dredge aquatic plants from Eight Mile Creek and claims that Ewens Ponds would benefit, need to be seriously questioned. It is difficult to see how dredging and dropping the water level further would improve water flow through Ewens Ponds given the hydraulic pressure of the aquifers feeding the ponds has probably declined. When snorkelling Eight Mile Creek to the mouth during our recent visits, at no stage did we observe any creek blockages caused by aquatic plant build up. The creek was free flowing with at least a metre of clear water depth on average. Past dredging practices have caused great destruction to habitat and loss of aquatic life (Skinner, Hammer and Playford, 2004). Eight Mile Creek is especially important for recruitment of fish back into the ponds if and when they recover. Any further request for dredging should be scientifically evaluated before going ahead as it is clearly opposite to the interests of the sustainability of EPCP.



Above: Ewens Ponds March 2006 (Pond 3) – Common Jollytail (Galaxias maculatus) swimming amongst the blue-green algae afflicted ribbongrass (Vallisneria americana).

By July 2006 the same aquatic vegetation had been killed off.

Photograph: Gerard Carmody



Urgent and well coordinated intervention is needed to save Ewens Ponds. Specifically, the Federal Department of Environment and Heritage (DEH) and South Australian Department of Environment and Heritage (DEAH) must carry out their responsibilities as custodians, according to the EPCP Management Plan (1999) and ensure that all actions are taken to determine and implement remedial solutions. This needs to be an absolute priority for DEH and DEAH. The South East Natural Resource Management Board (SENRMB) must take into consideration when developing the Natural Resources Management Plan, the requirements of groundwater dependent ecosystems such as EPCP in groundwater allocation.

Despite some very basic and non-specific chemical and water flow monitoring at the mouth of eight Mile Creek, the breadth and extent of this analysis and knowledge of the aquifers feeding the Ewens Ponds system remains inadequate (see appendix for representative analysis). This must be rectified. The South Australian Environment Protection Agency and other relevant working groups must be given a key project management role to comprehensively analyse and understand this ecosystem, including the key hydrological and chemical processes. There must also be specific and ongoing funding and political will to do this. Current resources allocated to this problem are grossly insufficient. These agencies of talented scientists and professionals are capable if given the commitment of time and resources, to develop and implement an appropriate plan.

The water resources of south eastern Australia are a finite and precious resource. More precise and selective irrigation practices need to be implemented and farms operated within a water budget. If agrochemical run-off is also found to be a key contributor to Ewens Ponds decline, then a cap on fertiliser usage, similar to current European farm legislation, must be adopted. Farms need to work within tighter water and fertiliser budgets.

Unfortunately, the Ewens Ponds Conservation Park excludes the important downstream section of Eight Mile Creek, which has long been under the control and management of the SEWCDB. The Ewens Ponds ecosystem and connecting Eight Mile Creek are of exceptional ecological significance. Continued reference of Eight Mile Creek as a “drain” is archaic and completely unacceptable. Steps need to be taken in bringing Eight Mile Creek back into the Ewens Pond Conservation Park and move to National Park status.

The creation of greater buffer or riparian zones adjacent to EPCP is needed. The current boundaries allow cattle to walk within meters of the ponds, increasing the likelihood of agricultural run-off. The DEAH must also give consideration to acquisition of available land for buffer zone and inclusion of Eight Mile Creek as part of the Ewens Ponds Conservation Park as outlined in the 1999 Ewens Ponds Conservation Management Plan.


A Call to Action

I urge everyone who is interested in the preservation of Ewens Ponds to write, phone or e-mail the following government representatives to express your concern. Ewens Ponds will not survive if we remain indifferent. Immediate action is needed and the highest priority given to this groundwater dependent ecosystem, especially in the allocation of groundwater (i.e. the SENRMB Water Allocation Plan).



Hugo Hopton

General Manager

South East NRM Board

PO Box 30, Mt GAMBIER, SA 5290

Ph: (08) 8724 6000



Ross Anderson,

District Ranger – Lower South East

National Parks and Wildlife

Department of Environment and Heritage

11 Helen Street, PO Box 1046,

Mt Gambier SA 5290,

Ph: (08) 8735 1174



Hon. Gail Gago

Minister for Environment and Conservation

Parliament House

Adelaide, SA 5000

Ph: (08) 8237 9100



Senator Ian Campbell

Minister for the Environment and Heritage

Parliament House, Canberra, ACT 2600

Tel: (02) 6277 7640

Fax: (02) 6273 6101




Ewens Ponds Conservation Park Management Plan, Feb 1999, DEHAA


Hallam, N. Feb 1985, Habitat Vol 13, #1, “The Biology of Ewens and Piccaninnie Ponds, South Australia”.


Hammer, M., Skinner, N. and Playford, T. 2004 “Observation on the Mechanical Dragging of Eight Mile Creek, South-East South Australia”.


Hammer, M. Sept 2002, “The South East Fish Inventory”.


Hammer, M., Doube, J. and Roberts, M. Nov 2000, “Conservation of the Variegated Pygmy Perch”, Freshwater Fish Survey of Lower South Eastern South Australia.


Lewis, I. and Stace, P. 1980. “Cave Diving in Australia”. Pg 60-61


Lipson, R. Dec 1989. Sports Diver, “Mount Gambier – Part 2”


Kuiter, R. H. Sept 2003,”Fishes of Sahul”, Journal of the Australian New Guinea Fishes Association, Vol 17, No. 3 pg 953-959 “Discovering Ewens Pygmy Perch”


Personal Communications: EPA VIC – A Stevens, MLSSA – N Skinner, NFA – M Hammer, R Kuiter. K Smales (layout and typesetting).


Skewes, M., Treloar, N, Bailey, G. 2006. “Irrigation Innovations in the South East of South Australia”.




Chemical Analysis


The following chemical analysis is courtesy of DEH, Hammer, Doube and Roberts (2000) and Monash University Water Studies Centre.


Along Eight Mile Creek one can find empty and full one-tonne boxes of “fertigation” fertiliser by the side of the road. These are stored in the open paddock and used in the Centre Pivot Irrigation process. The particular product used by one farm is manufactured by the South Australian company Spraygro Liquid Fertilisers. The product used is called BASE™ 15 - 18 - 20 +, a Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium and trace metal, high strength fertiliser (information freely available from the product data sheet and msds listed on the Spraygro Website). This product is a typical fertigation product and contains very high concentration of algal growth limiting nutrients, in particular phosphorus in the readily accessible polyphosphate form.


Based on Eight Mile Creek flow rate of 2300 L/second (Lewis 1980), a measurement of 0.01mg/L Total phosphorus (analysis by Monash University Water Studies Centre - April 2006) correlates to 2Kg per day of total phosphorus reaching the mouth of eight Mile Creek. This is an approximate calculation and does not take into account 2006 reduced flow rate or phosphorus uptake by aquatic plants along the journey. Therefore a one tonne box of BASE™ 15 - 18 - 20 + fertiliser (15%w/v Nitrogen, 18% Phosphorus, 20% Potassium, 0.4% S, 0.02% Mg, 0.1% Fe, 0.08% Mn, 0.1% Zn, 0.03% B, 0.04% Cu, 0.0017% Mo) is equivalent to 90 days phosphorus loading to Ewens Ponds. Therefore if even a small fraction of the fertiliser applied in the Ewens Ponds catchment made its way into the shallow aquifer or drainage channels feeding Ewens Ponds, then it is plausible that this may be contributing significantly to the blue-green algae problem.


Changing Rainfall:


The ten year history of rainfall in South Australia. The Mount Gambier region (encompassing Ewens Ponds) has received below average rainfall. The rainfall of the catchment just to the north is very much below average during this past decade. See chart below. Courtesy of Australian Bureau of Meteorology.






Patagonian Tooth-fish – why all the fuss?

by Evan John


Much has been made of the poaching of the Patagonian tooth-fish in Australian southern oceans, and on several recent occasions, newspapers have highlighted chases by Australian naval vessels in the pursuit and apprehension of rogue fishermen from other countries who illegally take these fish from Australian waters.


Martin Collins, Mark Belchier and Inigo Everson of the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge, UK, in the June edition of Biologist, pose the question – why all the fuss?

(Biologist, Vol 50 No 3.  June 2003)


Tooth-fish, so named because of the sharp teeth on their upper jaw, are quite large, predatory and scavenging fish with tasty flesh, found in deep water in the Southern Ocean, and sold commercially as Chilean seabass.


Fig 1  Patagonian tooth-fish

  (Dissostichus eleginoides)


There are two species of tooth-fish: Dissostichus mawsoni, and D. eleginoides. Both species belong to the family Nototheniidae, (southern cod), which are endemic to the southern hemisphere, and are the dominant Antarctic fish groups.


The two species overlap in their distribution, although the former, commonly called the Antarctic tooth-fish, is found at higher latitudes around Antarctica, whereas the latter, the   Patagonian tooth-fish, normally occurs further north. Both species can reach sizes of over 2 metres, and can weigh more than 100 kilograms.

Patagonian tooth-fish are found within a broad depth range. Although little is known of the larval and juvenile phases of their life cycles, data from the South Georgia region suggests that juveniles generally occur in shallower water and mean size increases with depth to a maximum of about 2,500 m. It is believed they spawn in deep water between 500-1000m in the austral winter. Females produce between 50,000 and 500,000 pelagic eggs about 4 - 5mm in diameter, that hatch into small pelagic larvae. How long they remain as such is unknown, but by the time they reach 30cm in length, they have reverted to a demersal or bottom-associated habit. Growth rings from scales and otoliths have been used to suggest that tooth-fish grow reasonably quickly in the first ten years compared to other deep-sea fish, and may reach up to one metre in length, as they gradually migrate to depths of 750-1500m where they are most abundant. They seem to mature after this initial rapid growth, with a subsequent slowing down of the growth rate in latter years. This may be associated with a reduced food supply in the deeper sea, or with an annual energy investment in reproduction. Scale and otolith analysis also suggests that females grow faster and reach greater sizes than males, and that both sexes may reach 50 years of age.



Fig 2.  Distribution of  Dissostichus eleginoides. The heavy line indicates the area under the jurisdiction of CCALMR