ECOLOGY - Rare black cod numbers better than expected in marine park

ECOLOGY - Rare black cod numbers better than expected in marine park

A survey of the rare black cod in the Port Stephens-Great Lakes Marine Park has produced some surprising and pleasing results, the Marine Parks Authority NSW said.

Research scientist with the marine park, Dave Harasti said during the search, which was conducted by marine park and community divers during April and May, a total of 24 of the vulnerable fish were sighted.

“This is really great news for the conservation of the species. I would have been extremely pleased if we’d only found six of these imposing fish,” said Harasti.

He continued that the black cod, which can grow up to two metres in length and weigh 100kg, was the one of the largest and most important fish species in the Port Stephens-Great Lakes Marine Park and said the search was part of an ongoing recovery project for the fish.

“The species is listed as vulnerable because of overfishing in the 1950s and ’60s. They are a slow growing fish and live to 60 or 70 years of age,” Harasti explained.

“As with any threatened species, it is important to have as much information as possible about its distribution and abundance. In the 30 spots we surveyed in the marine park, black cod was found in nine sites — 13 in sanctuaries and 11 in habitat protection areas.

“The largest black cod we found during the survey was 1.3m long. This fish was seen at The Pinnacle sanctuary near Forster. We were also extremely happy to see mating behaviour at Edith Breaker and Latitude Rock, which are in marine park habitat protection areas.

“As a result of this survey we’ll now recommend a follow-up survey of known sites later this year as well as the continuation of the community sighting program. The community was very supportive of this project with several divers and fishers passing on black cod sightings to the MPA,” said Harasti.

Funding for the project was provided by the Hunter-Central Rivers Catchment Management Authority through the Federal Government’s Caring for our Country program.

For more information about the community sighting program contact the Port Stephens Great Lakes Marine Park office, phone (02) 4916 3970.

Photo: Black cod.