No. 292

"Understanding, enjoying & caring for our oceans"

Next Meeting

Our next meeting will be held at the Conservation Centre, 120 Wakefield Street on Wednesday 18th September commencing at 7.30pm.

Our speaker will be Dr Elizabeth Reid from the Victor Harbor Whale Centre. At the time of printing no topic has been set but I think we can all guess what the subject may be. Come along and you may be surprised.


Diving Officer Goes ‘Out The Window’

All the Way with Port Lincoln Jetty

South Australian Secrets

2003 Calendar Of South Australian Marine Life

More On Christmas Island

Diving Officer Goes ‘Out The Window’, Along With Official Dives

After some 26 years of having a Diving (or Safety) Officer, we have now dropped the position from our list of officers. Public liability insurance concerns have caused many groups to reconsider many of their activities and we are no exception. Under the present circumstances, a Diving Officer is in an unenviable position regarding things like ‘Duty of Care’ and taking reasonable precautions, etc.. We have even had to cancel our dive program. Dives will no longer be official, organised Society dives. Our members may simply decide to dive together at any time as part of our social activities. No one will be in charge of such dives at all. This is the only solution for the problem at present until things improve one way or another.

Steve Reynolds

All the Way with Port Lincoln Jetty

Now who’d have thought this jetty was a cucumber paradise? Certainly not I - but then that’s why we MLSSA freaks go diving, never knowing what’s behind the next pylon or under that old bit of junk!

Perhaps you recall my musings on Tumby Bay Jetty (August Newsletter). After that dive I did two under P.L.J. (12th and 14th June) and I’m happy to report that these also were a photographic bonanza. On the first dive (both had 7 metre viz., not bad considering the terrible wintry weather you home-bodies were experiencing in Adelaide) I hit the jackpot, finding a holothurian which I’d never seen before, crawling over an old piece of jetty cross-beam lying on the bottom. It was about 9cm long and from a distance I first thought it was a big nudibranch. Covered as it was with knobby red tubercles, which meant it could not possibly be a Ceratosoma brevicaudatum, I fancied I had discovered a new species. On closer inspection my excitement subsided, albeit only fractionally. (And NO, I didn’t sit on it, any more than I really sat on that unsuspecting LSD under the Tumby Bay Jetty entry platform. May I remind members that at times I do get carried away with words or even, forgive me, exaggerate in the interests of waking certain slackers up to what is out there . . . . . !) Given the absence of gill aparatus and the array of little pseudopods, I realised I was looking at a remarkably pretty sea cucumber.

A few fin strokes away I found another, but these were the only two I saw. I found none at all on the second dive two days later when I specifically searched, hoping for the perfect photo in more relaxed circumstances. I’m reasonably sure after book perusal that these are Pentacta anceps, the aptly named Candystriped Holothurian.

But the second dive also had plenty to offer. For one, having checked out the seafloor on 12/6/02 I felt totally at home under this structure and with two cameras and a fresh cylinder I was able to fully appreciate the delicious slowness of time and use it to advantage. Actually I’d already dived here with the SA Museum’s Waterhouse Club en route to Pearson Island on 15/3/01 on the ‘One and All’, but that group had entered from near the outer end of the jetty and I couldn’t assume that my orienteering memory would be adequate more than a year later, diving solo. It was indeed that dive which led me back to P.L.J. as I’d been rather surprised at the biodiversity. Viewed topside, the jetty had looked to have limited underwater photographic prospects to the extent that we saw it as a ‘test dive’ venue to see how we and our gear performed in readiness for remote Pearson Island.

This impression had been reinforced on reaching the shallow and somewhat silty, rubbly bottom, but was soon dispelled as we came across myxicola fan-worms, nice seastars, sea cucumbers, crabs, small shells, razor shells, sponges and a juvenile rock lobster.

Then, there were more fish than I’d expected (A list is appended), whereas in contrast I saw relatively few fish species here this year perhaps due to its being winter, not autumn. Karen Gowlett-Holmes found a juvenile seahorse and Wolfgang Ziedler collected a few of the plentiful jellyfish, some of which were getting trapped by the current against the permanent steel-mesh shark-proof swimming enclosure located roughly halfway along the jetty. (Those without electronic protection may prefer, when at Port Lincoln, to dive inside this enclosure!)

Back to my 14/6/02 dive: I took piccies of some handsome male Sailfin Gobies (Nesogobius pulchellus), a cream-white peanut worm (Annelida? Phascolosoma sp.?) and several quite large dark brown snapping shrimps (Alpheus novaezealandiae) found under a plastic ‘sheet’, and the common but unusual-looking mollusc Stomatella impertusa (? See the 2004 calendar!) I only saw one nudibranch on these dives - a lonely Chromodoris epicuria.


Peanut Worm

(Annelida? Phascolosoma sp.?)

The Posidonia australis seagrass around the jetty did not look nearly as healthy as that at Tumby Bay, being a bit silty, yet it contained very high densities of tuberose anemones, so much so that in places almost every posidonia blade had one or two of these unusual creatures seemingly ‘glued’ to the upper ends. Though I haven’t been able to identify these, I think they may be the same as the unidentified one featured as a main picture in our 2003 calendar. But they are barely recognisable as anemones when they rest, usually on the broad blades but occasionally on solitary ascidians or razor shells, and as there was virtually no current all these ‘swimming’ anemones were in resting mode. This, as Society members who saw my piccies recently will be aware, means that unlike the much larger and better-known ‘swimming anemone’ Phlyctenactis tuberculosa


Phlyctenactis tuberculosa

which forms itself into a ball when at rest, they grip flat or nearly flat organic surfaces, always managing to conform their edges to those of their anchorage. There seems little doubt that they prefer flat organic surfaces, as despite their prolific numbers in the seagrass around this jetty, the few individuals found directly under the jetty where there was no living seagrass were attached to either larger solitary ascidians (one of these bore two anemones and several others had one each) or to the upper external shell surface of razor shells. I saw none on the plentiful wooden, metal or sundry other man-made objects which seemed like ideal perches, nor did I see any on the sponges, bryozoa and compound ascidians covering the pylons. So yes, they are choosy little blighters, but boy, can they reproduce! (Yet the water wasn’t that cold . . . !)

At the July General Meeting Faye Gilbert asked a couple of thought provoking questions: might there be a connection between the unusually large numbers of anemones and increased nutrient levels in Boston Bay from human activities such as tuna husbandry, and did I think the anemones might actually be feeding on seagrass epiphytes which in turn could be a product of this pollution. Well actually I had instantly made the connection and the only reason I had not included this elementary deduction in my presentation is that I had assumed it was so transparently obvious as to be self evident! (err …… Okay Faye, seriously thanks for the insightful observations, upon reflection I am sure you are correct and in all probability the same can be said for the high number of isopods.) When resting they look a bit like a flower that’s been pressed or squashed flat against one side of the seagrass blade: only their robust outer skin, known in anemones as the column, is visible, all the tentacles are fully retracted under this ‘body’ and it is near impossible to prize an edge up with a finger without risking injury to the anemone.

I remain suspicious that the 2003 calendar anemone and these under P.L.J. are one and the same species, even though the more active calendar specimen is clearly covered with numerous vesicles. My anemone anatomy is embarrassingly deficient but perhaps those vesicles are actually part of the ‘foot’ or pedal disc rather than column and are used to grip onto the seagrass blades as seen at P.L.J..

Tuberose anemone

Phlyctenactis sp.

Even though barely recognisable as anemones when at rest, they are still very attractive in this guise. They certainly make no attempt at camouflage as despite having pastel tones they are usually brown, grey or navy blue with brighter blue or even purplish highlights, making them easy to spot against the green seagrass or pale cream seasquirts. One presumes like many anemones they are distasteful or downright toxic to most predators.

On a night-dive ‘on the tide’ here one would probably be greeted by a veritable forest of anemone tentacles and a Rockpool Shrimp in freefall would be taking a very hazardous journey, as indeed might a night diver without a ‘Shark Shield’.

Speaking of shrimps I forgot to mention quite a pretty little fella photographed on the 12/6/02 dive: a Macrobrachium species, which looks a bit like a cross between a Rockpool Shrimp and a Cleaner Shrimp.

But the second dive held two more trump cards. Three smallish octopi (Octopus berrima) seemed to divide their time between domestic quarrels and threat displays towards a huge, bizarre creature with underwater camerae (plural of camera!) as eyes, and last but not least were the plentiful isopods motoring around amongst the seagrass.

These slater-like marine bugs are common in our gulf waters but I’ve never seen so many in one spot and I discovered that they take a not-half-bad photograph if you blaze away with an extension tube and very small framer setup. For sheer numbers they outdid the anemones, no mean feat. But being less than 2 cm long I had to squint in the gloom to see what I’d been missing untill now as a photographer. Most of these crustacea were pale brown but some adolescents were lime green and these colour forms were well camouflaged when they stopped to rest on posidonia, holding themselves flat against the blade, whereas the browner adults were easily seen on the blades but were quite cryptic against the rubble and silt bottom where they spent more time.

Quite a few were mating, mostly couples riding piggyback but at times three individuals would lock together in little balls and squirrel around on the bottom almost oblivious to potential predators like me. (Yes, competition has its sad side, doesn’t it? - just ask the Whyalla cuttles).

Even now I’m still not certain if these are isopods or amphipods but looking at Edgar’s ‘Australian Marine Life’ I favour Isopods. I blame the paucity of reference books covering the smaller crustacea, which in turn results from the paucity of funding for species classification. In passing please note that the praying mantis-like ‘isopod’ which I raved about on the SAM collecting trip to Western River in March this year looks so similar to an amphipod featured in Edgar’s book that it must really be an amphipod unless there was a printing error. Anyhow one picture of a ‘two dogs’ duet I took might work well for the 2004 calendar, so who cares what sort of ‘pod’ they are! (One might even pose the question: How do isopods isolated in the amphipod amphitheatre cope(pod)? - once again, sorry folks!)

Now if you are not already yawning you’ll recall that earlier I used the ‘gloom’ word. As it happened this last dive taxed my aging eyes even more than a night dive, as topside the weather alternated between sunshine and heavy rain. All I knew at 4metres depth was that there must have been some serious clouds blocking out the winter sun - until, that is, I surfaced after 95 minutes into a torrential downpour. It was so heavy that I seriously questioned whether I should bother washing my camera gear when I got back to the motel!

So, now that I’ve shown how to write a book about only two dives, I’ll close with this thought: you’ll never know what is under P.L.J. unless you dive there - and don’t forget to look out for things that are T, R and K under P.L.J.. (Thick, Red and Knobby under Port Lincoln Jetty!)

David Muirhead

Fish Species

Port Lincoln Jetty (Public, not grain shipping)

15/3/01 Dive

(* added following sightings on 12/6/02 and 14/6/02)



Tommy Ruff

Red Mullet

Dusky Morwong

Magpie Perch

Wavy Grubfish

Horned (Tasmanian) Blenny

Greenback Threefin

Goby - Grooved-cheek

* Goby - Sailfin (Nesogobius pulchellus)

* Painted Stinkfish


Western Talma

Little Rock Whiting

Bullseye, Rough

Wrasse - Brown-spotted (= Orange-spotted)


Leatherjacket - Pygmy

Leatherjacket - Rough

Leatherjacket - Variable (= Velvet)

(PS: I have only included fish actually sighted by me, so Karen Gowlett-Holmes’ Shortheaded Seahorse is not on the list.)

2003 Calendar Of South Australian Marine Life

The 2003 calendar of South Australian Marine Life is now available, and the price is still $10 per calendar. This latest calendar is the fifth one produced by the Marine Life Society of South Australia Inc., and it is considered by members to be the best one yet.

If you are fond of SA’s marine life, do yourself a favour and contact the Society now to place an order for a calendar. They make excellent Christmas presents, especially for people overseas who may have never seen the beautiful life in our Gulfs.

MLSSA calendars always contain 13 months, each one having a superb large underwater picture showing some of SA’s spectacular marine life. Each species is named and the location is given.

There is always plenty of variety too. This one contains five large pictures of different fish species, from large specimens to one of the tiniest. Then there are two very different types each of starfish, nudibranchs and soft corals. An unusual sea anemone and a cuttlefish complete the 13 large pictures.

The months January to December each also have an excellent small underwater picture set into the calendar. There is plenty of room for you to record important daily family events and general reminders.

Both species of seadragon feature in the calendar.

Pictures have been included from a variety of sites but this time almost half of the photographs in the calendar were taken around Kangaroo Island.

The front cover shows a pair of large Gorgonian Coral fans at the Aldinga Dropoff.

The calendar, which is sponsored by PIRSA Fisheries, gives all SA’s public holidays, school terms and a few other special dates.

Contact the Marine Life Society as follows: -


or write to MLSSA, 120 Wakefield St, Adelaide SA 5000

Phone contact may be made to:~ Philip Hall on (08) 82704463

For more information about MLSSA and its activities visit our website at:~

Steve Reynolds

More On Christmas Island

There soon will be! More people that is. Less creatures and trees though. Although there could be lots more Yellow Crazy Ants.

As reported in our June Newsletter, Mike Piper and Vicki Harris showed us a film about Christmas Island’s Red Crabs at our April meeting. Two nights later Philip passed some info from "Wetstuff" on to us all. It concerned the proposed detention centre on Christmas Island. I decided to draft a letter to Dr David Kemp, the Federal Environment Minister, about the matter. Following discussions with committee, I sent the following letter off to Dr Kemp in May :-


Dr David Kemp

Environment Minister

Parliament House

Canberra ACT 2600

Dear Dr Kemp

Members of the Marine Life Society of South Australia are concerned to hear that no EIS has been prepared regarding the proposed detention centre on Christmas Island.

In regards to this matter we suggest that the Government abides by its own environmental legislation.

Christmas Island is already under threat from a number of environmental issues and we should be careful not to further this without a proper EIS.

The positioning of the proposed centre could certainly impact on birdlife such as the endangered Abbot’s Booby.

It is imperative that none of its habitat, such as trees, etc.. is destroyed to make way for a detention centre.

Please give the EPBCA every consideration for the sake of the wildlife on Christmas Island.

Yours sincerely

Steve Reynolds


Marine Life Society of SA

At our June meeting we received a reply to our letter from Stephanie Martin, Assistant Secretary, Policy & Compliance Branch, Environment Australia. It read as follows :-

Mr Steve Reynolds


Marine Life Society of SA

120 Wakefield Street

Adelaide SA 5000

Dear Mr Reynolds

I refer to your letter of 10 May 2002 to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, the Hon Dr David Kemp MP, about the Christmas Island Immigration Reception and Processing Centre (IRPC). The Minister has asked me to thank you for your letter and to reply on his behalf.

On 3 April 2002 the Minister decided to grant exemptions from some provisions of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) in relation to the proposed IRPC and associated infrastructure on Christmas Island.

While the formal processes of assessment and approval under the EPBC Act will not apply, the Government is committed to best practice environmental management measures which will be implemented in relation to the establishment and operation of the IRPC and associated infrastructure, including:

· the development of an environmental management plan for the construction and operation of the IRPC and associated infrastructure;

· the appointment of a suitably qualified environmental manager;

· monitoring for protected species; and

· the application of any necessary mitigation measures to protect the environment.

These measures will be undertaken in consultation with Environment Australia.

In addition, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Regulations 2000 that protect biodiversity in Commonwealth areas on Christmas Island will continue to apply. Any works that may affect the Christmas Island National Park will also need to be consistent with the management plan for the Park and will require appropriate authorisation.

Through these measures vital protection will be provided to the National Park and the important flora and fauna on Christmas Island including the Abbotts Booby bird and the red crab.

The notices of exemption under sections 158 and 303A of the EPBC Act and accompanying statements of reasons can be viewed on the Environment Australia website at:

Yours sincerely

Stephanie Martin

Assistant Secretary

Steve Reynolds





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