The partnership is based on an existing collaboration between UOW and the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) that maps sections of seafloor near ocean-going vessel anchorages, while collecting data.

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A research team will explore how deep-water anchors affect seabed ecosystems. The aim is to identify areas of high conservation value while working with the shipping industry to create sustainable anchoring practices. The anchoring project uses sonar and video systems mounted on the OEH research vessel RV Bombora to map areas of the NSW coast.

Marine scientist Allison Broad (pictured above), from UOW’s School of Biological Sciences, said that the research is important as large vessels’ anchors and anchor chains can damage marine life when they drag across the seabed.

UOW's initial investigations into where ships anchor discovered large areas of rocky reef. The OEH team mapped the seabed of Illawarra seafloor, and found that rocky reefs cover close to 60% of the seabed between Bellambi Point and Five Islands. The find is significant as rocky reef environments are often of high conservation value.

Now, scientists are utilising the OEH’s newly developed towed underwater video (TUV) system, the Towfish, to document marine life on the reef. The Towfish can operate at depths to 80 metres and delivers real-time video and high definition images of the seafloor.