Never before seen images of marine life deep inside the Perth Canyon, 22km west of Rottnest Island, were revealed today by scientists at The University of Western Australia's Centre for Marine Futures and School of Plant Biology, and CSIRO.
Filmed between 100m and 500m beneath the ocean's surface, scientists have captured compelling images of the vulnerable pink snapper, rocket squid, deepwater sharks, synchronised swimming by rays and skates, and billowing sand clouds as part of research into the health of WA's unique marine environment.
The images were released today, on World Oceans Day, as part of a tour by Federal politicians Dr Mal Washer (Liberal MP for Moore), Ms Melissa Parke (Labor MP for Fremantle) and Ms Rachel Siewert (Senator for The Greens) to learn about the groundbreaking research scientists are conducting on WA's marine environment.
The Perth Canyon was carved millions of years ago by the Swan River while still above water but is now 1.5km deep and 15km wide. It is Australia's largest submarine canyon and equal in size to the Grand Canyon in Arizona, USA.
The Perth Canyon is also one of only two places in Australia that the rare and endangered blue whale - the largest animal ever known to have lived - comes to feed.
Scientists are concerned about WA's declining fish stocks and that less than one per cent of WA's oceans are protected, providing safe havens for the recovery of marine life.
"This is an important year for WA's marine life. We already know that there are significant pressures on species such as dhufish and baldchin groper, which are found only in WA, and this rare view into the Perth Canyon will help provide information about how to conserve fish stocks," Professor Meeuwig said.
The Perth Canyon video also captured images of the bight redfish, another species found only in southern Australia and that lives to at least 70 years, but has also been identified by the Department of Fisheries as at risk of collapse due to overfishing.
"The scientific evidence is clear: a network of large marine sanctuaries will provide marine life with the buffer it needs to thrive and, where necessary, rebuild," Professor Meeuwig said.
She said the Federal Government was currently assessing the south-west region from Geraldton to Kangaroo Island in South Australia for increased marine protection. The South West is almost 1.3 million sqkm in size and has a far greater level of unique marine life than on the Great Barrier Reef.
"Western Australia has a marine environment like nowhere else. The important research work being done on WA's unique marine life provides vital information for the government to consider as it puts in place a comprehensive marine conservation plan for our oceans," Ms Parke said.
"WA's oceans are internationally recognised for their huge diversity of unique marine life. We have a responsibility to better manage our marine resources for not just economic benefit but for conservation also, for us all now and for the future," Dr Washer said.
"As the recent oil spill off the Kimberley coast demonstrated to us all, there must be safeguards in place to ensure marine life is protected from pollution and other threats. The abundant life of WA's oceans, even as close as the Perth Canyon, deserves better protection," Senator Siewert said.
Broadcast quality copies of the Perth Canyon footage available on request as well as stills images.
For Rachel Siewert, contact Chris Redman on 0418 401 180
For Melissa Parke, contact Josh Wilson 0419 963 486
For Mal Washer, contact 0417 881 389