Marine Predators of SW Tasmania

​Application for Scientific Permit – Available for Public Comment​

Public comment on the following application for a Scientific Research (Fauna) Permit is open until 3 June.

Applicant: IMAS, University of Tasmania

Species/Taxon: Australian (Arctocephalus pusillus) and Long-nosed (A. forsteri) fur seals, Shy albatross (Thalassarche cauta) and short-tailed shearwater (Ardenna tenuirostris).

Location: Maatsuyker Island, Mewstone Island, Wilson Bight (Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, TWWHA). 

Title of research: Discovering the role of rare, endangered and culturally important marine predators in the Tasman Fracture Marine Park.

Aim of project: The project objective is to build our understanding of environmental and cultural values within the Tasman Fracture Marine Park. The project will engage local scientific, community groups and indigenous organisations to conduct at sea tracking and diet studies of key seal and seabird species, passive acoustic monitoring of cetaceans and acoustic surveys of pelagic fish communities to obtain the baseline data required to understand the values found in the Tasman Fracture Marine Park. This project proposal will conduct the following surveys:
a. Animal borne sensors capturing ocean properties and Park habitat use for four key endemic, endangered, and protected marine vertebrate predators
b. Hydroacoustic/sightings surveys of shelf waters within and adjacent to the Tasman Fracture Marine Park (passive moorings for cetaceans, active acoustics for mesopelagic productivity mapping)
c. Physical characterisation of shelf-water properties via standard measurements (temperature, salinity, nutrients, chlorophyll); and
d. Establish a long-term monitoring site, utilising community engagement to assess temporal abundance and haul-out patterns of key predator adjacent to the park.

These data will:
Form part of doctoral analysis into seal and seabird habitat use, development of pelagic foodweb function for all species tracked
Be uploaded to local (NVA) and international data portals (Genbank, ACAP, IMOS)
Inform management and understanding of the Tasman Fracture Marine Park.

Justification: The Tasman Fracture Marine Park is managed as part of the South-East Commonwealth Marine Reserves Network Management Plan 2013-23, which aims to provide protection to a number of species, including seals, cetaceans and seabirds, listed under Commonwealth legislation. 
The pelagic system within the Tasman Fracture Marine Park is one influenced by upwelling of cool Southern Ocean water leading to elevated productivity as recent monitoring of apex marine predators suggest that population trends adjacent to this reserve are exhibiting atypical population responses compared to conspecific population trends in Bass Strait.
Improved knowledge and understanding of the ecological role of the marine park, and those influences on the population and conservation values of high conservation and culturally significant marine predators in the region is important in the ongoing conservation for many of these species.

Maximum likely numbers of individuals involved: A maximum number of 15 Long-nosed and 15 Australian fur seals, 30 shy albatross and 30 short-tailed shearwaters will be used across all locations. 

Activities undertaken and methods: Seabirds will be captured by hand and morphometric measurements will be collected. Telemetry devices (less than 3% body weight) will be deployed. GPS loggers, or satellite transmitters will be attached to feathers on the bird’s back using waterproof Tesa tape. Deployment procedure takes less than 10 minutes. Logger devices will be retrieved after ~two weeks for Short-tailed shearwaters, ~ two months month for shy albatross, satellite transmitter will fall off after approximately 5 months duration on shy Albatross.
Seals will be remotely sedated using well-established veterinary protocols. Satellite transmitters will be glued to the outside guard hairs of the seals. This does not affect the seal waterproofing. Devices will fall of when the seal moults in April (maximum period of 10 months). Deployment procedure takes ~ 15 minutes.

Fate of animals: They remain untouched in the wild following initial handling and device deployment. 

Likely impact on species involved (including any by-catch): It is expected that proposed procedures will have minimal short-term stress impacts through handling and capture disturbance. Individuals are expected to recover fully upon completion of handling and release. No chronic or long-term impacts are expected from procedures.  ​


Scientific Research Permits
Environment Division
GPO Box 44
Hobart TAS 7000