SPEARFISHING clubs in NSW will hand over historical fish records to scientists in a bid to help researchers monitor the impacts of climate change on fish species.
The new partnership that's been formed with the CSIRO could see participating clubs on the Mid North Coast share their catch records collated over the past 50 years.
The project aims to detect changes to fish distributions along the south-east Australian coast in response to warming coastal waters.
Daniel Gledhill, a CSIRO ichthyologist (zoologist specialising in the study of fish) said they hope to understand how these changes will impact on the experience of recreational fisheres and to better develop adaptation strategies for coastal communities.
"As marine species and fishing communities adapt to climate change, fishers are facing increased challenges," Mr Gledhill said.
"Ensuring sustainable use and management of coastal waters is becoming increasingly complex.
Under the move scientists will review historic fishing club records in NSW, Victoria and Tasmanian some of which date back to the 1960s.
"Long-term, statistically robust datasets of marine species are rarely available, so scientists are turning to novel, high-quality datasets such as those from spearfishing clubs to fill this knowledge gap.
"Spearfishing competition data sheets are a historical 'biodiversity inventory' for recreational fish species," he said.
Researchers say the records will provide a precious insight into how fish populations have moved as the East Australian Current (EAC) pushes southwards.
Geographic extensions to the ranges of fishes species ranges have already been recorded for recreationally targeted species in Australian waters.
Mr Gledhill said previous studies suggest the 1980s was a tipping point for change among marine species on the east coast of Australia.
Early records from the 60s and 70s will provide the scientists with a baseline against which they can measure change and compare distributions against what is being recorded now.
The project is a collaboration between CSIRO's Climate Adaptation National Research Flagship, James Cook University and the Australian Underwater Federation.
Results from the project are expected to be available in May, 2013.
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