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Sea Dragon Report Victoria, Jan 2019

Author: Kris O'Keffee, Photos by: Kris O'Keffee

On 11-01-2019 Selma Klanten from UTS and myself from URG arrived at Rye, Victoria where we were to stay 2 nights. We had arranged to meet with Kade Mills from Victoria National Parks Association to repeat our Portsea and Flinders Weedy Seadragon surveys conducted in 2016 and 2017. The surveys are funded by Sea World grant awarded to S. Klanten & D. Booth (UTS) in 2016 to assist with a genetic and population study of the Weedy Seadragon. The Weedy Seadragon has recently been re-categorised from “near threatened” to “least concern” despite a general down-ward population trend.

We photographed the Weedy Seadragons at both sites with a ruler included for later measurement computation Ref [3] and also towed a GPS to produce below GPS track maps Ref [1 ] and [2].

Ref [1] Flinders
Ref [2] Portsea
Ref [3] Weedy Measurements with the help of Kade Mills

We entered the water at Portsea at around 4pm. The temperature was about 19c and dive depth averaged 5m . We photographed and measured about 17 weedy sea dragons. One weedy we briefly attempted to photograph defiantly decided it would rather not be photographed and swam above and away from us. It was a sunny day with flat seas and mild breeze so perfect conditions for diving. The local Weedy Seadragons seem to enjoy the shelter of the pier with several found under the pier. We also found a high density occurrence of weedy seadragon to the north of the pier. The main algal growth around the pier was Caulocystis cephal Ref [4] providing good camouflage and shelter for the weedy sea dragon.

Ref [4] Caulocystis cephalornithos

On Sunday 12/11 we arrived at Flinders pier around 11am and entered water . We had again good conditions with relatively flat sea, low wind and clear skies. The water temperature was an average 20c and average depth of 3.5 m. We photographed 18 weedy seadragons. All images were processed with the I3S weedy seadragon identification database for matches and entered into database. There were many male sea dragons carrying eggs. The main vegetation in the area was the sea grass Amphibolis antarctica Ref [5] forming a dense canopy over the sea floor which provides excellent camouflage and shelter for the Weedy Seadragon . There was also a lot of Zostera nigricaulis Ref [6] sea grass present.

Ref [5] Amphibolis antarctica
Ref [6] Zostera nigricaulis

We returned to Sydney late afternoon Sunday 13-01-2019. We plan to return to Tasmania before April 2019 to repeat weedy surveys conducted previously there in 2016 and 2018. Selma is still undergoing analysis of her genetic dataset with the help of some experts overseas (UCF- University Central Florida USA) and we should see the results of this work published this year.


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