Star of the South back on the water for big fish surveys
Australia's most advanced offshore wind project, Star of the South, is back on the water in search of Gippsland's big sport fish.
The two-week study, which started mid-February, will collect information about the number and type of pelagic fish in the area.
Pelagic fish, such as yellowtail kingfish, southern bluefin tuna and sardines, live closer to the surface, sometimes swim in schools and move often and quickly.
This study will add to the data already collected for the project's comprehensive marine surveys, providing more information about different species.
Marine researchers from Deakin University and RPS Group are leading the study, using underwater video cameras fitted with bait to attract fish, and line fishing to survey the fish size and age. Echo-sounders will be used to locate harder to find species.
Deakin Associate Professor of Marine Science Daniel Ierodiaconou said the team are deploying advanced baited remote underwater video systems specifically designed to meet industry needs for documenting pelagic fish.
"The surveys provide a unique opportunity to trial a range of techniques to document fish diversity, providing important baselines for any future comparisons.
Our previous surveys focused on fishes close to the seabed. The data we capture now will complement this information, with species found closer to the surface filling a significant knowledge gap for this region."
Star of the South Chief Development Officer Erin Coldham said the surveys are another important piece of work to make sure the project is constructed in an environmentally responsible way.
"A local fisher suggested that pelagic fish would help provide a broader view of what's happening in the water around our project area. This was a great suggestion, as we know recreational fishers are interested in big sport fish like salmon, kingfish and tuna – and what an offshore wind farm means for fishing.
We've seen examples overseas of how offshore wind farms create new habitat for pelagic fish, and fishers are seeing key species in greater numbers, which would be really exciting for Gippsland fishers.'
Gippsland charter boat businesses Port Albert Fishin' Charters and Far Out Charters from Lakes Entrance will be used for the study, bringing local knowledge and expertise.
Tony Kemna, owner operator of Far Out Charters since 2003, said he's hoping to see many different species in the area during the surveys. He’s previously been part of the project for boat-based bird surveys and tagging.
Using local people and vessels for these surveys make sense, I've done a lot of fishing there over the years – we have a connection with the water because we spend so much time on it.
"Star of the South is welcome in our backyard, and it's great to be involved in the project doing what I love. I'm looking forward to seeing more employment opportunities in this new industry, especially for the younger generation. That's what makes a great local community – being able to live and work close to home."
These investigations are co-funded with the Victorian Government through the Energy Innovation Fund.
Star of the South
Star of the South is Australia's most advanced offshore wind project, proposed to be located off the Wellington coast of Gippsland in Victoria. Star of the South would help meet energy, emissions reduction, and economic goals by supplying secure, reliable, and affordable power for up to 1.2 million homes. The project is in the feasibility phase with environmental assessments currently underway to inform project planning and approvals. If Star of the South is approved and proceeds to construction, works could start around the middle of this decade with first power around the end of the decade.
To learn more about the pelagic fish surveys, visit www.starofthesouth.com.au