Marine Science News

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Explainer: how the Antarctic Circumpolar Current helps keep Antarctica frozen



The Antarctic Circumpolar Current, or ACC, is the strongest ocean current on our planet. It extends from the sea surface to the bottom of the ocean, and encircles Antarctica.


It is vital for Earth’s health because it keeps Antarctica cool and frozen. It is also changing as the world’s climate warms. 


The ACC carries an estimated 165 million to 182 million cubic metres of water every second (a unit also called a “Sverdrup”) from west to east, more than 100 times the flow of all the rivers on Earth. It provides the main connection between the Indian, Pacific and Atlantic Oceans


16 Nov 2018


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Scientists studying ocean productivity have uncovered a volcanic lost world teeming with marine life off the Tasmanian coast.

The lost world was uncovered during detailed seafloor mapping by CSIRO research vessel Investigator while on a 25-day research voyage led by scientists from the Australian National University (ANU). The mapping has revealed, for the first time, a diverse chain of volcanic seamounts located in deep water about 400 km east of Tasmania.

11 Oct 2018

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SharkSpotter combines AI and drone technology to spot sharks and aid swimmers on Australian beaches

Four tiger sharks have now been captured and killed following two separate attacks off the coast of North Queensland last week. Despite being relatively rare, shark attacks, or the threat of attacks, not only disrupt recreational beach activities but can affect associated tourist industries. Shark nets are a common solution to preventing shark attacks on Australian beaches, but they pose dangers to marine ecosystems.


28 Sep 2018     Read More

Scientists have been drilling into the ocean floor for 50 years – here’s what they’ve found so far

It’s stunning but true that we know more about the surface of the moon than about the Earth’s ocean floor. Much of what we do know has come from scientific ocean drilling – the systematic collection of core samples from the deep seabed.


This revolutionary process began 50 years ago, when the drilling vessel Glomar Challenger sailed into the Gulf of Mexico on August 11, 1968 on the first expedition of the federally funded Deep Sea Drilling Project.


26 September 2018


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Scientists make breakthrough in war against crown-of-thorns starfish

Researchers at the Australian Institute of Marine Science have made a significant breakthrough in the war against crown-of-thorns starfish, on the Great Barrier Reef.


AIMS’ senior research leader Dr Sven Uthicke and biochemist Jason Doyle, along with echinoderm expert Dr Miles Lamare from the University of Otago, in New Zealand, have developed a cost effective method for detecting DNA of the coral-eating pest.


18 Sep 2018


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Whale sharks gather at a few specific locations around the world – now we know why

The whale shark is the largest fish in the world, but much of its lifecycle remains shrouded in mystery. These gentle giants gather in just a handful of places around the globe – something which has long baffled scientists – but our new research has started to explain why.


Better understanding of whale shark movements could help prevent further population loss in a species that has already experienced a 63% population decline over the past 75 years.


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FactFile: the facts on shark bites and shark numbers

Are there more sharks in Australian waters than there used to be, and are interactions between humans and shark increasing? Some Australian politicians have claimed that to be the case.

Let’s look at the research.


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Sea Shepherd calls for Shark Net Removal in Queensland

After several sightings of protected Humpback whales migrating along the east coast over the past two weeks, NSW Department of Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair has announced the second NSW North Coast net trial will come to an end. "NSW has removed shark nets whilst only a few kilometres across the border in the Gold Coast bay whale entanglements will continue.

More than 1/3 of recorded Humpback whale incidents along the Queensland coastline are in fact due to the Queensland Shark Control Program and we urgently need to change the current practice in light of an increasing whale population.

4 May 2018


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4 things you didn’t know about white sharks


In a world first, CSIRO used a combination of tracking technologies to estimate the Australian white shark populations.


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Tiny plastics are potentially dangerous for turtles too

Scientists from James Cook University and the Australian Institute of Marine Science have developed a new method to study microplastics swallowed by sea turtles.

17 Apr 2018


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The deepest-dwelling fish in the sea is small, pink and delicate

Thanks to movies and nature videos, many people know that bizarre creatures live in the ocean’s deepest, darkest regions.

They include viperfish with huge mouths and big teeth, and anglerfish, which have bioluminescent lures that make their own light in a dark world.

However, the world’s deepest-dwelling fish – known as a hadal snailfish – is small, pink and completely scaleless. Its skin is so transparent that you can see right through to its liver. Nonetheless, hadal snailfish are some of the most successful animals found in the ocean’s deepest places.

1 February 2018

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Why do shark bites seem to be more deadly in Australia than elsewhere?

Shark attack deaths are very rare, with only about two per year in Australia. But every year without fail, people die from shark bites, both here and around the world. The United States records by far the most unprovoked shark bites, an average of 45 per year over the past decade. However, only 1.3% of these incidents were fatal, 0.6 deaths per year. Australia records fewer bites than the US, an average of 14 per year but a much greater proportion of them are deadly: close to 11%. What is it that makes Australia more prone to deadly shark attacks?


1 November 2017

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Understanding the feeding role of tiger sharks

Tiger sharks are one of the most successful large predators in the world’s oceans, but studying what they eat has been a challenge for researchers.


Historically diet is studied through examining stomach contents, but scientists at the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) and collaborators are leading the way in understanding more about the feeding habits of sharks from their skin tissue.  This allows us to learn about shark diet based on a quick non-lethal approach.


9 November 2017

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El Niño in the Pacific has an impact on dolphins over in Western Australia

Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus) are a regular sight in the waters

around Australia, including the Bunbury area in Western Australia where they attract tourists.


The dolphin population here, about 180 km south of Perth, has been studied quite intensively since 2007 by the Murdoch University Cetacean Unit. We know the dolphins here have seasonal patterns of abundance, with highs in summer/autumn (the breeding season) and lows in winter/spring.


But in winter 2009, the dolphin population fell by more than half.

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9 October 2017

Study uncovers value of shark dive tourism






Shark diving tourism is a growing industry estimated to be worth more than $25.5 million annually to Australia’s regional economy.


12 September 2017


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Australia’s new marine parks plan is a case of the Emperor’s new clothes

The federal government’s new draft marine park plans are based on an unsubstantiated premise: that protection of Australia’s ocean wildlife is consistent with activities such as fishing and oil and gas exploration.  Under the proposed plans, there would be no change to the boundaries of existing marine parks, which cover 36% of Commonwealth waters, or almost 2.4 million square kilometres. But many areas inside these boundaries will be rezoned to allow for a range of activities besides conservation.

 24 July 2017


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First new Sunfish species in 130 years

Sunfish spotting: four-year search discovers first new species in 130 years. 


Marianne Nyegaard of Murdoch University in Perth, Western Australia and her team have discovered a new species of Sunfish in New Zealand.


For more on the discovery follow the link below to the Cosmos article.


20 July 2017


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Long-term monitoring update to condition of the Great Barrier Reef


Putting the mass coral bleaching event in 2016 into a 30+ year context


The AIMS Long-term Monitoring Program has released an update on the condition of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) based on survey data gathered across the entire GBR over the last 32 years. The update, which assesses data captured up to February 2017, describes a system under considerable pressure.

  • Over the past 12 months hard coral cover on the Great Barrier Reef declined by about a quarter, bringing average reef-wide coral cover down to 18%.
  • These findings are based on broadscale (manta tow) surveys of 68 mainly mid- and outer-shelf reefs to March 2017, and do not yet include the impact of Tropical Cyclone Debbie or the further intense coral bleaching in 2017.
  • In general, the impacts of coral bleaching, cyclones and crown-of-thorns starfish outbreaks differ along the length of the Reef.
  • In a longer term context, the scale of the coral cover decline in the Northern GBR since 2013 is unprecedented, first due to 2 severe cyclones and then the severe coral bleaching event which began 2016.
  • In contrast, due to the proliferation of fast growing coral species and the absence of major disturbances, reefs in the Southern GBR continued to recover during the reporting period.


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24 September 2017

Feeling helpless about the Great Barrier Reef? Here’s one way you can help

It is easy to feel overwhelmed when confronted with reports of the second mass bleaching event on the Great Barrier Reef in as many years. But there is a way to help scientists monitor the reef’s condition.


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Exceptional fish diversity found on Australia’s north-west oceanic shoals

Scientists have found exceptionally diverse and abundant coral-reef fish communities at submerged oceanic shoals near Ashmore Reef some 400 kilometres off north-western Australia.


March 23 2017


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More intense cyclones pose threat to the world’s coral reefs

In the wake of the Great Barrier Reef’s most intense coral bleaching event, researchers at the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) report that predicted increases in the intensity of tropical cyclones due to climate change could greatly accelerate coral reef degradation and make it far more difficult for reefs to bounce back from disturbances.


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Five ways to reduce your chances of encountering a shark this summer

More people die in car crashes each year than from shark attacks in the last decade.
But that doesn’t mean a dark patch in the water can’t send shivers up your spine.
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Shark study reveals taste buds were key to evolution of teeth

Shark teeth may have evolved from taste buds. from the conversation
Shark teeth may have evolved from taste buds. from the conversation

The first creatures to evolve teeth didn’t have jaws. Many scientists believe these ancient fish developed the first tooth-like structures on their skin that were similar to the “denticle” scales that still cover sharks today, even after 500m years of evolution. It is thought that these denticles gradually migrated into the mouth to form oral teeth. However, research conducted by my colleagues and I suggests modern teeth – at least in sharks – may have also evolved from taste buds.

18 January 2017


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Teenage male whale sharks don’t want to leave home



Researchers from The University of Western Australia and Australian Institute of Marine Science, (AIMS) and collaborators across the Indian Ocean have completed a huge photo-identification study to assess the seasonal habits of whale sharks in the tropics. They were surprised to discover that the male juveniles didn’t seem to venture too far from home.


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Could ‘whale poo diplomacy’ help bring an end to whaling

While Japan’s new whaling program dominated the IWC’s summit last month, a Chilean-sponsored resolution nicknamed the “whale poo” resolution was also quietly adopted at the meeting.


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Bright city lights are keeping fish awake and hungry


Light pollution is changing the day-night cycle of some fish, dramatically affecting their feeding behaviour.


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The oceans are full of plastic, but why do seabirds eat it


Imagine that you are constantly eating, but slowly starving to death. Hundreds of species of marine mammals, fish, birds, and sea turtles face this risk every day when they mistake plastic debris for food.


14 November 2016


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Sea Shepherd slams Baird's 1940's backwards approach to saving lives - merely another false sense of security


In response to the news today that NSW Premier Mike Baird will approve shark mesh nets for Ballina NSW, Sea Shepherd Australia had the following response.


October 12 2016


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Marine parks and fishery management: what’s the best way to protect fish?



The federal government is considering changes to Australia’s marine reserves to implement a national system. This week The Conversation is looking at the science behind marine reserves and how to protect our oceans.


4 Oct 2016


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More shark nets for NSW: why haven’t we learned from WA’s cull?


 New South Wales Premier Mike Baird has this week announced a plan for a six-month trial of shark nets off the beaches of northern NSW. This would extend the state’s shark net program from the 51 beaches currently netted between Wollongong and Newcastle.


15 Oct 2016


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New spider crab named 50 years after its discovery


A NEW species of spider crab has been named, more than 50 years after the first specimen was lodged at the Western Australian Museum.


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Rigs to reefs: is it better to leave disused oil platforms where they stand?

The global offshore oil and gas industry has installed a wide variety of infrastructure throughout our oceans, including tens of thousands of wells, thousands of platforms and many thousands of kilometres of seabed pipelines.


10 August 2016


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Crown-of-thorns starfish vision revealed for the first time

Scientists are looking for physical vulnerabilities in the coral-eating Crown-of-Thorns Starfish (COTS) in order to mitigate their harmful impacts on coral reefs when in plague numbers.


In their pursuit of an Achilles heel, scientists have focused on the animal’s ability to perceive its environment through its senses. Research has already demonstrated that adult COTS have a well-developed sense of smell, touch and taste. Better understanding these aspects of COTS biology may lead to new methods to either disperse or attract them in order to control their numbers.

11 August 2016


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Playing on fears: Exploring the use of the Pacific triton for mitigating crown-of-thorns starfish outbreaks

Triton shell and crown of thorns starfish, from AIMS.
Triton shell and crown of thorns starfish, from AIMS.

Controlling repeated outbreaks of the coral-eating Crown-of-Thorns Starfish, Acanthaster planci, is one of the greatest challenges facing resource managers of the Great Barrier Reef.


The Pacific triton (Charonia tritonis, also known as the “giant triton”) is a large marine snail that inhabits coral reefs throughout the Indo-Pacific region. They are rare; historical evidence of harvesting levels is scant, however scientists speculate that overharvesting of the snails for the meat and shell has led to threatened status throughout their range. As such, tritons have been protected on the GBR for decades.


25 July 2016


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Australian First Shark Spotting Trial to Begin In Byron Bay


In a partnership between Sea Shepherd, Byron Shire Council and the Member for Ballina Tamara Smith MLA, a feasibility study for shark spotting will take place at Wategos Beach after Mayor Simon Richardson successful moved a Mayoral Minute to support it at last weeks Council meeting. 


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The facts on Great Barrier Reef coral mortality

Despite reported claims and counter claims over the last month about the ‘death’ of large swathes of the Great Barrier Reef, the true impact of this summer’s major coral bleaching event is now emerging. Preliminary findings from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) and the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) show approximately three quarters of coral on the Reef has survived to date. The vast majority of the impact is in the northern third of the Reef, from Port Douglas to Cape York, with the central and southern regions escaping significant mortality.


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AIMS June 3 2016

A 1997 seagrass restoration trial, four years later in October 2001
A 1997 seagrass restoration trial, four years later in October 2001. From science network western Australia.

Local leads most successful seagrass restoration in the world 

WHEN Geoff Bastyan noticed Seagrass disappearing from harbours in Albany nearly 50 years ago, he would never have predicted his observation would lead to the most successful seagrass restoration in the world.


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AIMS GBR Bleaching Monitoring update

The Great Barrier Reef (GBR) is in the midst of a period of mass coral bleaching, part of a wider event affecting coral reefs globally. Surveys by air and sea reveal that bleaching is widespread across the Reef, but that the severity is not uniform. 


The data collected shows that the severity of bleaching that will cause mortality to the coral community has been restricted to the upper third of the GBR, from Port Douglas north.


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Bleaching severity is varied on the central section of the Great Barrier Reef. Here, the shallow reef flat at Coates Reef just south of Cairns shows major bleaching (where 30-60% of the coral community is bleached). Image: N. Cantin / AIMS
Bleaching severity is varied on the central section of the Great Barrier Reef. Here, the shallow reef flat at Coates Reef just south of Cairns shows major bleaching (where 30-60% of the coral community is bleached). Image: N. Cantin / AIMS

Marine Science News

Explainer: how the Antarctic Circumpolar Current helps keep Antarctica frozen

Scientists studying ocean productivity have uncovered a volcanic lost world teeming with marine life off the Tasmanian coast.

SharkSpotter combines AI and drone technology to spot sharks and aid swimmers on Australian beaches

Scientists have been drilling into the ocean floor for 50 years – here’s what they’ve found so far

Scientists make breakthrough in war against crown-of-thorns starfish

Marine Science facts

  • Half the Oxygen we breath is produced in the Ocean


  •  Irukandji jelly fish, with just a brush of venom leaves almost no mark. But after about a half hour you develop Irukandji syndrome, a debilitating mix of nausea, vomiting, severe pain, difficulty breathing, drenching sweating and sense of impending doom. You get so sick that your biggest worry is that you’re not going to die


  • The most remote point in the oceans is called Point Nemo


  • The Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian oceans are known as the three major oceans.