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URG Bulletin October- November 2021

President Slate

Wow. Lockdown over, well almost, and finally something things to talk about.

We had a fantastic day on the boat yesterday with Janet, Michael, John Swift, Kris and Charlie. We saw lots of sea dragons between the two dive groups, including a few males with eggs.

In other news we have set the date of the xmas dive and AGM. Please keep Saturday 4 December free as we’ll be meeting for a social dive in the morning, followed by the AGM and a BYO lunch and drinks at Clifton Gardens. If anyone is interested in putting their hand up for a position on the committee please get in touch and let us know.

Our club socials are resuming at the Oaks with the next one booked in for Tuesday 9 November. Myself and Sarah will do a brief presentation of the work we’ve been doing to identify individual grey nurse sharks in Bondi, and the campaign to replace the shark nets with non-lethal alternatives. The booking allows for only 17 guests so first in best dressed. Click here to RSVP.

Lastly for those members that haven’t renewed, please reconsider as the boat is now in full swing every weekend and there will be plenty of opportunities to make up for the dry times. Activity is the life blood of the club. Unfortunately our boat and mooring costs have been consistent despite the lack of use, so our bank balance is on the concerning side and we are calling on all of you to help keep the club alive.

Looking forward to seeing as many as possible at the socials and on the boat.

Happy diving.

Duncan Heuer

URG Weedy Seadragon Research Update

By: Kris O'keeffe

Finally after around 3 months of Covid lockdown URG members were lucky enough to get out on the boat today and do some nice dives at Henry’s head where we encountered about 7 adult weedy SeaDragons including two males with eggs.

URG has been involved in a variety of Weedy Seadragon monitoring and research programs for many years including undertaking regular Weedy Seadragon surveys since 2015 in an effort to monitor populations around Sydney.

You can help with this ongoing program in a number of ways. Firstly you can simply report incidental sightings of Weedy Seadragon and counts on your dive and comment on the "Weedy Seadragons NSW group" group page:

Search for "Weedy Seadragons NSW group" or go to link . Any basic additional descriptions of whether the weedy had eggs, habitat description -e.g. hanging out in kelp on sand-line ,depth etc is also good to note in addition to counts . This page gets monitored by Dr Selma Klaten from UTS who helps collate the information into an online spreadsheet.

In 2020 URG became a citizen science collaborator another Weedy research project known as SeaDragonSearch research which seeks to understand wild sea dragon populations around Australia through community involvement.

The SeaDragonSearch project partnered with the non-profit software developer Wild Me, using machine learning tools to identify Seadragons in photos and track individual dragons over time.

To support this program you can submit your photos to the following site

Tips for taking photos of weedy seas dragons: Take shots at right angle as best possible to the side or flank of the animal without overly chasing or disturbing it and not touching it .

It's good to get as much of the animal in the shot as possible but particularly it's head and side / flank. The spot patterns need to be reasonably clear in the photo for the software to be able to effectively identify the animal.

Some other recent URG Weedy Seadragon research involvement : From 2017 - 2020 URG were involved in a UTS project and assisted Dr Selma Klanten and Dr David Booth in collecting DNA samples for research into weedy seadragon genomics.

The research aimed to understand the genetic structure and diversity of weedy seadragon populations along Australia’s east coast. The researchers identified four distinct genetic clusters – central NSW, southern NSW, Victoria and Tasmania. Selma was awarded a Sea World grant for this research back in 2018/2019 and URG members travelled with Selma interstate to Vic and Tasmania to help with data collection. The following page is a good summary write up on this work:

From the Archives - Dive Safari of 1994

By Michael Abbott

3/6/94 leave Sydney in Ambivalence and drive for 12 hours to Sandon River. Stopping only every 2 hours or 200 kms which ever came first to fill the tank as 5.8 litre V8s like their petrol. Late PM meet with others and watch some members pitch tents in the dark and rain. I slept in the ambulance on the stretcher.

4/6/94 Awake to a beautiful day to discover the bar has not enough water to get the boat across. Talk to fishos who advise to wait for tide & give lots of advice on the best way to get across the bar. Out to sea finally where Mathew & Simon use a GPS (new gadget) to locate a spot from Co-ordinates that they had worked out off a map. Drop anchor in 7 meters right on Pimpernel Rock. I was sea sick so did not dive.

5/6/94 8.50 am I dive with Tim Cashman & Grahame Burns @ Pimpernel Rock Depth 39, Viz 15+, sea half meter & glassy. 6-7 big grey nurse, fish in the thousands 100s of red morwongs, & tropical fish, & excellent corals WOW. 11.58am I dive Buchanan’s Reef. Depth 10, Viz 10, sea half meter & glassy. Lots of small juvenile fish & nice corals.

6/6/94 awake to overcast & big choppy seas so debate then drive to Coffs Harbour. 12.25 PM I dive with Duncan Leadbitter at South Solitary Island South Point. Depth 24, Viz 8, sea big & choppy. Clown fish and lots of tropical fish, & nice corals. 2.20 PM I dive with Grahame at South Solitary Island South East Buoy. Depth 14M Viz 5M, 1 grey nurse, Moorish idol, & raccoon face butterfly fish. Late PM move to SW Rocks.

7/6/94 weather washout

8/6/94 11.20 AM I dive with Tim Cashman on the N Pinnacle at Fish Rock Depth 24M, Viz 22+M, sea 2M. 18 big grey nurse sharks, 8 wobbe’s, 3 lion fish & fish in the thousands, 200 Kingfish, & tropical fish, I write in my log “equal to best dive ever”. 1.30 PM ditto last dive but viz down to 12 m and only 8 grey nurse?

9/6/94 we move again to North Haven. 10.25 AM I am diving with Tim Cashman on the wreck of the Titan an uninspiring upside down crane. Depth 35.5M, Viz 6M, sea 2 M with a strong southerly wind and a roaring current.

10/6/94 we move again to Forster. 10.25 AM I am diving with Matthew Stanton at Spot A on Latitude rock. This was after looking for the Pinnacle for a long time. Depth 15M, Viz 4.5M, This was a sheltered location with only a 3M swell and southerly sea chop with a strong southerly wind. A very nice dive lots of small southern species of fish.

11/6/94 we ring the others joining us for the weekend and cancel. We pack up and head home tired but more experienced only having lasted part of the planned safari. Hi to all my old buddies who where there. Michael


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