The chief scientist for the expedition, UNSW marine biologist Professor Iain Suthers, said that the team were amazed to discover an eddy off Sydney, ‘that was a hotspot for lobster larvae and other tiny critters, at a time of the year when they were not expecting them.’
This discovery turned the previous understanding of juvenile commercial fish species on its head.
“We had thought fish only developed in coastal estuaries, and that once larvae were swept out to sea that was end of them. But in fact, these eddies are nursery grounds for commercial fisheries along the east coast of Australia.”
Australia’s new ocean-going research vessel Investigator has discovered extinct volcanoes likely to be 50 million years old, about 250 km off the coast of Sydney in 4,900 m of water. While scientists were searching for the nursery grounds for larval lobsters, the ship was also routinely mapping the seafloor when the volcanoes were discovered. They haven’t been found before now, because the sonar on the previous Marine National Facility (MNF) research vessel, Southern Surveyor, could only map the sea floor to 3,000 m, which left half of Australia’s ocean territory out of reach.