The whole enchilada

Study of the whole ocean ecosystem from production to predation in the Tasman Sea
Voyage No


31 Aug, 2017


18 Sep, 2017




Chief Scientist

Prof Iain Suthers


University of New South Wales

Voyage summary

Research voyage to study whole of ecosystem structure and function in the Tasman Sea off New South Wales.

The distribution of temperature, sea-level and chlorophyll a can be identified via satellite and some fisheries are managed by Sea Surface Temperature (SST). This voyage aims to convert the physical view of the Tasman Sea to an ecosystem one, by sampling distinctive oceanographic habitats with the CTD samples (for phytoplankton); plankton nets (for zooplankton and larval fish) and the Danish trawl (for small fish, larval lobster and micronekton), down to 500 m and 1000 m deep.

The research will help inform environmental assessments and ecosystem sustainability, including the viability of super-trawlers in Australian waters.

Voyage impact

This was a voyage of discovery, sampling four eddies off eastern Australia for the first time, with a variety of equipment, in day and night, and using the full bioacoustics capability of the vessel. A voyage highlight was the discovery of many larval lobster in an old warm core eddy of eastern Australia.

Data collected allowed mapping of the mixing and circulation between two characteristic eddy features off south eastern Australia and identified how an oceanographic jet can direct water and production onto the shelf. Researchers found that the large warm eddies, which are characteristic of eastern Australia, may have similar fish and plankton biomass as the cold eddies, but the size structures are quite different.

The voyage has increased understanding of the fisheries ecosystem off eastern Australia, with the potential to forecast the ecosystem across seasons and latitudes underpinning the east coast fisheries. The findings will help support decisions by policy makers and the marine industry through the Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS) and integrating disparate marine scientists.

Of note, for quantitative and cross-disciplinary research training, the Principle Investigators brought on board six PhD students, two MSc and one Honours students, as well as two undergraduate students.