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Archive for June, 2014

Impossibly Beautiful Marine Life in Sydney Harbour – Part 4

So far we have lovingly described a lot of Sydney natives who live under the sea. In our final of the series we look at the Gloomy Octopus and Eastern Blue Devil Fish, two of the most reclusive, mysterious and strangely beautiful residents of Sydney Harbour. We hope that you’ve enjoyed Choice Charters’ series on Impossibly Beautiful Marine Life in Sydney Harbour. And that this series has inspired you to get out on the water. Please give us a shout to let us know what you think!

Gloomy Octopus

This is the largest octopus commonly seen in Sydney and grows to about 80 cm. Unlike cuttlefishes and squids, octopuses have no shell at all. They are known for their voluptuous and globular shape and tendency to glide in undulating motions through the water – their movements can appear quite hypnotic to human eyes.

This is the largest octopus commonly seen in Sydney and grows to about 80 cm. Unlike cuttlefishes and squids, octopuses have no shell at all. Their fleshy mantle can be used for jet propulsion by sucking in water and squirting it out through their siphon above. This is a really spectacular site to behold. Most of the time though, they use their eight suckered arms to creep over rock surfaces in search of food.

The common Sydney octopus has a rust red coloured underside that tapers to the tip. It’s a stunning sight to see them creeping up the rock ledge on a dive. They are relatively territorial so divers should be careful if they enter their lair. While they won’t attack you, they will get annoyed as they tend to want to keep the crabs, snails, bivalves and molluscs for themselves and won’t want to share with any visitors. The octopus will sit inside of its lair made of rocks and rubble, laying in wait for prey to appear. At night they hunt using sharp beaks to feed on small molluscs and bivalves. They can change their colour to camouflage themselves in the surrounding seaweed. Common Sydney Octopuses are a protected species in Sydney Harbour and so under no circumstances are they to be taken from Australian waters or ocean platforms.

Eastern Blue Devil Fish

The Eastern Blue Devil Fish Paraplesiops bleekeri is also known as the Bleakers Blue Devil Fish. They are a captivating and startling blue colour. Elusive by nature, they live alone in caves and crevices during the day time, and are generally only spotted by night in the reefs of Sydney Harbour. They will stay out of your way on a dive and move back into a cave or crevice until well hidden.

Found in offshore waters, estuaries and inshore reefs in NSW, southern Queensland and Montague Island, they are lone wolfs so to speak and rarely will you find them in groups. Due to their reclusive nocturnal nature, not much is known about their diet. Eastern Blue Devil Fish are a protected fish in NSW. Hence there are heavy penalties for taking, selling or possessing them. This is because of their relative rarity and low level of abundance. They are also under threat by the illegal fishing and aquarium trade.

A male Eastern Blue Devil Fish will hang out in a cave environment to defend a territory against other males, for greater safety and to attract a mate into his abode. The mating season is in spring and once the male copulates with the female, fertilised eggs are attached to the roof of the cave until they hatch. Then free swimming larvae about 4mm long hatch and settle into the reef areas until they are about 10mm in length, from there they grow and grow until adult size.

The Eastern blue devil fish is most easily recognised by its banded pattern of blue and white strips on the body, blue spotted head, blue dorsal and anal fins and yellow caudal (tail) fin and base and pectoral fins. The pelvic fins and posterior dorsal and anal fins are elongated. When the Eastern Blue Devil Fish spreads these fins they overlap, making the fish appear larger.

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Why You Should Be Careful

Don’t take any fish that you’re not sure about from Sydney Harbour. When divers or fisherman illegally take protected species, it can mean a fine of up to $55,000 for a corporation or $11,000 for individuals and 3 months in prison.

Feeling inspired to visit an underwater haven? Choice Charters offer a range of vessels for snorkelling trips, day trips or extended stays. Choose from a bare boat or a completely catered and luxurious long stay escape on the water. Our vessels can accomodate all of your family and friends for a unique trip of a lifetime to see some of Sydney Harbour’s most exotic residents who live in your marine backyard! Speak with us today to find out more.

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Impossibly Beautiful Marine Life in Sydney Harbour – Part 3

As promised, here are more amazing creatures both big and small who call Sydney Harbour home. Although if you are planning on a snorkelling or diving expedition, be aware that most of these creatures will be elusive, shy and unwilling to interact with you. For the best chance of finding them, speak with Choice Charters. We can recommend the right boat for a snorkelling or seafaring adventure. Without further ado, here are the delightful seahorses and Australian Fur Seals living in the local area.

Seahorse

Seahorses are gorgeous, mystical and delicate creatures. They have captivated the imagination of children and adults for time immemorial. They seem to be so shy when they are viewed up close
seem to scurry away as though coy and shy. They are a delight to behold when snorkelling or diving. Sydney Harbour is full of them!

As one of the most famous animals in the sea, they are instantly recognisable. They have a body protected by bony plates that are arranged in rings along with a long tubular snout that gives them an equine appearance, hence the name. They are slow moving and graceful and don’t have large fins. Seahorses tend to float around rather than swim and have a long tail akin to a possum’s tail. They use this to wrap themselves around seaweed and coral in order to cling to it and be camouflaged.

As they don’t swim fast, their main defence mechanism is hiding and blending into their surrounds. Just like Weedy Seadragons they consume food through their long snouts and eat mostly small crustaceans like shrimps and crabs.

They are flirtacious and surprisingly sexual creatures. They produce large broods of eggs in the season, usually beginning in early spring. Many species of seahorses form pairs for the season and the males follow the females around and stay close to them. Sounds just like a typical night out in Sydney CBD really.

The female deposits eggs into the male’s pouch using her ovipositor. After this, the male looks after the eggs for 3-4 weeks before giving birth to the young. It’s a fascinating reversal of roles when compared to many other creatures. The male gives birth to a whole lot of baby seahorses who float away and start their own little lives. It’s quite a magnificent thing to behold. The father then shows his empty pouch to the females and one of them will deposit another batch of eggs in there shortly afterwards.

Seahorses like Weedy Seadragons have protected status in Australia. Their habitat is under threat by the actions of humans. Sometimes they are taken for the illegal aquarium trade and used illegally in Asian medicines. Dragon Search are an Australian foundation that make sure no Australian species of seahorses are being sold illegally in Asian medicine or the aquarium trade.

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Australian Fur Seal

The Australian Fur Seal Arctocephalus pusillus doriferus is the largest of all the fur seals, weighing around 200 – 300kg. They have a strong and robust body covered in thick brown hair all over except their flippers. They have a broad head and long backwards sweeping whiskers, they are all round impressive to behold, some would even say incredibly handsome.

They have a set of sharp carnivorous teeth that are akin to canine teeth. As with other members of the family Family Otariidae (sea lions and seals) they have the ability to move around on land/ However their movements are cumbersome on their front flippers. They save all of their ballet-like grace for under the water, where their twirls and girations are legendary.

They tend to be distributed in the islands of Bass Strait, Tasmania, southern Victoria and remote parts of the NSW coast. Their numbers are secure yet they are commercially hunted in South Africa. Despite their protected status in Australia their numbers are half that of historic pre-sealing times. This could be due to increased competition with commercial fishing operations.

Australian Fur Seals feed on bony fish along with squid and octopus. They are daring hunters and sadly will get entangled in fishing nets if it means a chance at getting at the fish.

Each year they come ashore and establish breeding colonies. There is always an aggressive alpha male who defends his territory and rights to the females, against the encroachment of other males who come ashore to fight him. The females spend most of the time at sea when pregnant, only coming ashore to give birth to a single pup before taking off to feed again. As a result there is a high infant mortality rate during this time. The mum may give birth to several pups in a season and they can stay weaning with mum for more than six months.

The Choice Charters MV Santa Cruz

This is a bare boat that can be used for your adventures. Bring along your own refreshments and entertainment and the whole of Sydney Harbour will become your oyster. It’s perfect for a weekend trip to the a remote cove or island in Sydney harbour. Bring along your snorkelling or fishing gear for a day out on the water. The MV Santa Cruz also has a stable fishing platform.

Got a favourite sea creature from Sydney Harbour that we’ve missed on our blog? Let us know and we can talk about it next time!

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