THE University of Newcastle is leading the NSW rollout of a website to log unusual catches and sightings of marine life, amid concern about climate change warming the ocean.
Marine life off the Hunter coast was becoming more tropical with warmer waters, environmental science Associate Professor Natalie Moltschaniwskyj said.
The university wants people to submit pictures of uncommon marine life to the website Redmap, so it can track further evidence of change.
‘‘One of the really valuable things about this website is an expert scientist will verify each photograph,’’ Professor Moltschaniwskyj said.
‘‘It means we can publish this data or talk to policymakers and management with credible data.’’
She said there was evidence that waters were warming along the NSW coast, within the ‘‘east Australian current made famous by Nemo’’.
‘‘It is a major current system that comes down from the tropics and brings warm water with it,’’ she said.
‘‘There’s evidence the current is pushing further south and staying longer.’’
Tropical species travel down the coast in summer, then usually die in winter because of cold water.
‘‘We’re now starting to see them stay longer and establish themselves as adults, not juveniles,’’ she said.
‘‘We’re seeing changes in kelp forests along the east coast of NSW and Victoria.’’
Redmap, founded by University of Tasmania marine biologist Gretta Pecl, was the ‘‘largest observational system in the Australian marine environment’’.
It began in Tasmania in 2009 and was now being introduced across the country.
‘‘Each sighting is a piece of a puzzle that will reveal which species or regions are experiencing greater changes,’’ Dr Pecl said.
‘‘Some seas along the Australian coast are warming at two to four times the global average.
‘‘Some species may adapt, but others may disappear.’’
The NSW Department of Primary Industries said the website, which it was supporting financially, would give early warnings of marine changes and help direct management and research to key regions.
‘‘The information will alert the marine community to new fish arrivals and minimise the risk for fisheries that may be impacted by species on the move,’’ department spokesman Dr Alan Jordan said.
Species never before seen in Tasmania were being spotted in increasing numbers and downloaded to Redmap.
‘‘Water temperatures are increasing in Tasmania and we’re seeing a corresponding increase in new species coming down largely from NSW,’’ Professor Moltschaniwskyj said.
To submit pictures www.redmap.org.au