FRDC-DCCEE: preadapting a Tasmanian coastal ecosystem to ongoing climate change through reintroduction of a locally extinct species

Project Number:



University of Tasmania (UTAS)

Principal Investigator:

Nicholas Bax

Project Status:


FRDC Expenditure:





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.


1. Develop and promote a national framework to evaluate potential translocations of native marine species.

2. Determine the feasibility of reintroducing blue groper as a test case.

3. Design a monitoring and evaluation program to determine the effects of a trial re-introduction

4. Reach the critical decision point on whether to re-establish blue groper in Tasmania, or to take an alternative approach indicated by the research. Develop a proposal to support this outome.

Final Report - 2010-564-DLD - Preadapting a Tasmanian coastal ecosystem to ongoing climate change through reintroduction of a locally extinct species

Final Report
Author(s):Nic Bax
Date Published:February 2013
Principal Investigator: Nic Bax

Keywords: WRASSE; Labridae spp; marine species; climate change; adaptation; East Australian Current: managed translocation; conservation translocation; decision framework

Contrary to the recent published literature, our research showed that it is unlikely that EBG was present in Tasmania in the 1800’s and if present was certainly not common. Therefore it was not fished to extinction as suggested by Last et al. (2010).

EBG has recently been observed in north-eastern Tasmania which is considered to be a range extension from NSW waters. In NSW, adult EBG are commonly seen in association with urchin grazed barrens and are thought to be a key predator of C. rodgersii. Based on evidence from NSW, populations of EBG in Tasmania may have greater potential to improve the resilience of macroalgal habitat against an ecological shift to urchin grazed barrens habitat, than to reverse a stable urchin grazed barrens habitat back to macroalgal habitat. This suggests that any proposed translocation of EBG for this purpose would need to be part of a larger integrated management plan.

The need for a comprehensive decision framework with which to assess CT proposals has exacerbated the lack of progress in the current, often highly charged, debate surrounding this strategy. A decision framework was designed in collaboration with the Tasmanian and Victorian governments to assist decision-makers evaluate proposals for managed translocation (Fig. 1). Our model for assessing CT proposals systematically considers relevant socio-economic, governance and scientific issues and is based on the Common Assessment and Reporting Framework model (MACC 2010) designed to facilitate implementation across the science/policy interface. It is structured around an adaptive management framework.