Threatened black cod found at Narooma

A CITIZEN-led science project has found seven threatened black cod in Wagonga Inlet, Narooma and several other individual fish in the region.

Black cod were overfished, by line and spear fishing, and are now declared a threatened species in NSW and is protected.

There are information signs at boat ramps in Narooma reminding anglers that the black cod are a protected species.

“More needs to be known about its biology and ecology – especially where and how the juveniles live,” program coordinator Marie Sutton said.

“They are thought to inhabit shallow intertidal zones and rock pools on the South Coast.”

And now this has been confirmed by a group of volunteers, using techniques and Baited Remote Underwater Video Stations (BRUVS) perfected by marine scientists.

Scientists such as research scientist Dave Harasti, who instigated a similar project for the Port Stephens-Great Lake Marine Park Authority assisted by funding from the Hunter-Central Rivers Catchment Management Authority to try to locate juvenile black cod.

Those surveys indicated the cod seemed to prefer habitats with boulders, places to hide and not much seaweed.

Nature Coast Marine Group volunteers in December 2012 were trained to help.

At each chosen location, eight sites are surveyed for 30 minutes each with baited underwater video cameras.

Data is recorded about the site’s location, type of habitat and the fish that appeared on the video attracted to the bait.

“In the first season we did not have any luck finding black cod with the cameras,” Sutton said.

“The most common fish were green moray eels. Others filmed included rock blackfish, yellowfin bream, mado, stripeys, eastern kelpfish, wrasse and various gobies and blennies.”

However, larger black cod up to 50cms long were seen by scuba divers and snorkelers.

So far there have been up to seven in Wagonga Inlet, and a single fish at the following locations: Montague Island, the Tollgates, Broulee and one while snorkelling in a large rock pool at Batemans Bay North Head. There have also been six sightings by team members outside project activity.

NCMG decided to continue the video surveys this summer-autumn and Sutton and the volunteers have so far surveyed two sites in the Moruya River estuary, one at Melville Point, as well as pools at Dalmeny and at Batemans Bay North Head.

Surveys to the south and north are planned with the next being at the Narooma wharf at 1.45pm this Saturday.

NSW DPI list black cod as a vulnerable species. http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/fisheries/species-protection/conservation/what-current/vulnerable-species/black-rockcod

The Australian Museum webpage for the species is at http://australianmuseum.net.au/Black-Rockcod/ and it includes a couple of attached movies in the related links list.

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