Changing marine climate is driving species south, impacting recreational and commercial fishers and biodiversity and conservation values. At the same time, the local environment is changing the capacity of ecosystems to respond to an increasing array of environmental pressures. Is adapting our social and economic systems the only option for conservation managers and planners, or can we increase the resilience of the local environment to the increasing pressures? Can we gain time, or could we even influence the trajectory of change?
Assisted translocation (within the historic range) may preserve isolated populations of terrestrial animals. Is this appropriate in marine environments? Translocation typically emphasizes individual species. Would a more influential approach be to translocate species that would benefit the receiving ecosystem? We propose to develop the protocols and safeguards to reintroduce a key temperate reef predator – the blue groper – that became locally extinct in Tasmania over a century ago. The blue groper is a temperate wrasse that grows to over 50kg. It is a charismatic component of the NSW fish fauna interacting with snorkelers, divers and recreational fishers. Its diet includes the long-spined sea urchin currently establishing in Tasmania. Rearing and transporting similar species is well understood and the sequential hermaphroditism potentially provides the opportunity to introduce only larger male fish.
This will be a test case to determine whether translocating marine species is a viable option to improve resilience to climate change and what processes, knowledge and changes in policy are required before attempting this. Our application is regional but the implications are national (and global). While we are using the blue groper as the focus for our work, we will be exploring more generally the opportunities for assisted translocation, local enhancement to increase the resilience of temperate reefs, and the protocols and safeguards that would be required.