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Media Release
Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage
The Hon Dr David Kemp, MP

9 May 2003

Research Voyage Explores Unique Deep Sea Habitats


A joint Australian-New Zealand research voyage carrying leading Australian and international scientists to explore deep sea habitats in the Tasman Sea is expected to uncover new marine species and habitats, Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp, said today.

Departing Wellington tomorrow, the 'NORFANZ' research voyage will explore deep sea habitats around seamounts and abyssal plains around Lord Howe and Norfolk Islands through to northern New Zealand.

Australia's National Oceans Office - the body responsible for developing and implementing Australia's Oceans Policy - and the New Zealand Ministry of Fisheries have each committed half a million dollars to the four-week voyage.

The voyage will collect trawl samples, DNA tissue samples, photographs and video on seamounts at depths between 200 metres and 1.2 kilometres, and survey free-swimming animals that live in the water masses above and around these seamounts.

"The information we do have on deep sea habitats in the Tasman Sea and South Pacific Ocean is limited, which is the purpose of this voyage, to collect information that will help our scientists learn more about the unique but little understood marine habitats in the area," Dr Kemp said.

"The main objective of this expedition is to provide baseline information on the composition, nature and potential vulnerability of these unique habitats. The results will give us a much better understanding of the species that live on and around the deep seamounts and ridges throughout the Tasman Sea, many of which may be new to science. The information will also enhance and contribute to international collaboration in oceans management."

Information gathered from the voyage will also be used for the regional marine planning process as part of the Federal Government's Oceans Policy, taking into account the region's biodiversity. Regional marine planning is designed to reduce future conflicts between users of the ocean and its resources, protecting ecosystems as well as providing certainty for our marine industries. Under Australia's Oceans Policy, regional marine plans will be established for all oceans waters within its Exclusive Economic Zone out to the 200 nautical mile limit.

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and the New Zealand National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research Ltd are providing scientific support for the voyage. The 'NORFANZ' cruise will use the New Zealand deep-sea research vessel, the R.V. Tangaroa.

The expedition has received considerable interest from scientists worldwide. Twenty four scientists from more than eleven research organisations will be represented onboard, including staff of CSIRO, Hobart; Museum Victoria; the University of Tasmania; Australian Museum; Queensland Museum; Northern Territory Museum; NSW State Fisheries; Te Papa, Wellington; National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, New Zealand; Institute de Recherche pour le Développement, Noumea; Natural History Museum, Paris; and California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco.

"This is the second marine research voyage this year that the Federal Government has funded through the National Oceans Office and involves partner organisations from the scientific and academic community. It follows the successful AUSCAN voyage which mapped the seafloor between western Tasmania and Fremantle, including the vast undersea Murray Canyon system off the South Australian coast, providing important information on our unique marine environment," Dr David Kemp said.

The findings of the expedition will be posted daily on the National Oceans Office website (www.oceans.gov.au/norfanz) between 10 May and 8 June. For more information or media interviews, contact Katrina Haig or Richard Wilson (National Oceans Office: +61 3 6221 5000 or 0419 699 682).

Media Contact:
Catherine Job (02) 6277 7640 or 0408 648 400

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