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North Harbour Aquatic Reserve - Project Summary

Author: Colin Piper

The location of the North (Sydney) Harbour Aquatic Reserve within Australia’s largest metropolitan area requires that the needs of a wide range of stakeholders to be balanced with the necessity to protect a rich biodiversity. The project seeks to facilitate this process (currently underway in the development and implementation of a management plan) by providing baseline data on diversity and abundance of marine and estuarine species within the Reserve.

In addition, recent anecdotal evidence suggests that the noxious marine plant Caulerpa taxifolia has been sighted in the Manly area, near the boundary of North Harbour Aquatic Reserve. If this is the case, it may pose a significant risk to the biodiversity in the aquatic reserve.


  • Conduct preliminary reconnaissance dives to confirm the existence of C.taxifolia and the extent of the infestation

  • Conduct transect dives to accurately map the infestation

  • In association with NSW Fisheries, investigate options for its eradication.

The study is designed so as to provide a general overview of the current status, as well as following a reproducible methodology permitting subsequent analyses of changes in the Reserve’s ecology.


The project is sponsored by the Commonwealth Government’s Envirofund Initiative. Without the Commonwealth financial contribution, this project would not be possible.


Perhaps unique among the world’s big city bays, Sydney Harbour still provides home to a large diversity of marine and estuarine species, despite the environmental pressure associated with large metropolitan centre. The North (Sydney) Harbour Aquatic Reserve (NHAR) was established to protect this diversity, and a management plan for this area is currently being drafted. Given the accessible location of this area, there is a need to effectively balance the interests of a large variety of stakeholders, requiring data on which to base informed decisions. While the rich ecology of the sites within the NHAR is well known to recreational SCUBA divers, actual data is very sparse.

The discovery of Caulerpa Taxifolia in areas immediately adjacent to NHAR, increases the need to investigate the existence and abundance of this noxious marine pest within NHAR itself. This data will allow NSW Fisheries to develop appropriate response plans.


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