Reef Cam up close
Reef Cam up close Reef Cam up close © Kina Diving

Food & Water Stories

About Reef Cam

Why does Reef Cam exist?

Awareness of the value of Australia’s southern, temperate marine life is often over shadowed by attention on the tropical Great Barrier Reef – despite the unique marine life, picturesque seascapes and world class diving available in the south. 

To address this, we established Australia’s first live-stream, marine webcams combining stunning under and above water views, in Port Phillip Bay, right in Melbourne’s front yard.

Where is Reef Cam?

Situated in the heart of Port Phillip Bay at Pope’s Eye, the webcams open up Victoria’s underwater world to global audiences and provide a new environmental monitoring station for the bay.

Popes Eye, Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park, Port Phillip Bay Victoria
Reef Cam Location Map Popes Eye, Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park, Port Phillip Bay Victoria © TNC

Pope’s Eye was the ideal location to install the Reef Cam infrastructure (including a solar energy system and other electronics) due to the available above-water views of abundant water birds on the jetty and underwater views of the marine life below.

What is Reef Cam used for?

Education and awareness

Reef Cam has many benefits and can be used to:

  • Build awareness about the value of Victoria’s marine life.
  • Support the annual Great Victorian Fish Count, run by the Victorian National Parks Association’s Reef Watch Program, where remote schools (e.g. Mildura, Albury) in Victoria can now participate in the event by viewing Reef Cam.
  • Assist teachers as a tool to educate students about marine life.

Research

Reef Cam will play an important role in monitoring the health of Port Phillip Bay through the underwater science node (not yet available) which collects water quality data in real time. This data will be integrated in the EPA’s bay-wide monitoring program and nationally into the Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS).

In addition, Reef Cam also has potential research benefits through partnerships with Parks Victoria and Deakin University who use the above water camera to monitor the Australiasian Gannets.

Over the next few years we are aiming to operationalise machine learning and image recognition technology so that Port Phillip Bay’s marine life can be monitored electronically and in real-time via the live streams. The data generated will be incorporated into research to track the health of the bay and inform management decisions.

Who uses Reef Cam?

Reef Cam is available for everyone to view and use including:

  • Divers and boaters checking out the bay’s conditions before heading out on the water.
  • Teachers providing marine education to students.
  • Researchers monitoring the health of the bay to inform management decisions.
  • Researchers monitoring Australasian Gannets.
  • People around the world who can appreciate and marvel at our unique marine life.

Installing Reef Cam

We worked with Kina Diving (infrastructure construction) and View Into the Blue (webcam supplier) to establish the technical design of all webcam infrastructure, site selection and installation.

All installation works were carried out in line with Parks Victoria’s issued Scientific and Works Permits, with every care taken to respect the natural values of this unique location.

Underwater camera

The underwater webcam is mounted on concrete blocks that have been attached to the seabed using manta ray anchors to ensure the strong currents don’t overturn or move the infrastructure. The webcam was positioned to both maximise the natural features within the field of view and minimise disturbance to the marine flora and fauna. The mounting block also has signage attached alerting divers to the live filming.

Installing the Reef Cam
Installing the Reef Cam in Popes Eye, Port Phillip Bay, Victoria © Simon Branigan / TNC, Kina Diving

The installed science node, which is positioned away from the webcam’s field of view, was placed to minimise any disturbance. The power cables that are connected to both webcam and science node have been disguised amongst the basalt rocks to reduce any visual disturbance to visiting divers.

Above-water camera

The above-water webcam has a self-cleaning arm that keeps the field of view free of ocean mist and rain. It commonly features the resident gannet colony, as well as breaching seals and other passing marine animals such as dolphins.

Above-water Reef Cam Installation
Reef Cam installation Above water Reef Cam installation at Popes Eye, Port Phillip Bay, Victoria © Chris Gilles / TNC

An insulated power cable runs from the solar battery box through the intertidal zone down to the underwater webcam and science node. All above-water infrastructure was placed to minimise any disturbance of the resident gannet colony and be moveable in case there are any major upgrades of the Pope’s Eye jetty area by Parks Victoria.

Parks Victoria Office Infrastructure

In order to connect the webcam footage to the internet, it was necessary to install further infrastructure at the Parks Victoria office.

The radio transmitter fitted at Pope’s Eye relays the live footage to the pictured acceptor radio. From the roof, the transmitter is connected via ethernet cable to the server room in the office then connected to a router and remote work station. This is the point the live footage is plugged into the internet and whereby we can gain remote access to the webcams.

What’s next for Reef Cam?

We are developing ongoing partnerships for Reef Cam that will involve:

  • Deakin University – to develop the machine learning and image recognition technology to add value to existing monitoring programs.
  • Integrated Marine Observing System and the EPA – to integrate the science node water quality data into existing monitoring programs.
  • Creating and sharing educational resources and interpretative exhibits with organisations such as Sea Life Melbourne Aquarium, Museum Victoria and Zoos Victoria.
  • Information sharing and support on how to establish remote webcams.
  • Encouraging promotion to raise awareness of Reef Cam and related activities.
Reef Cam Highlights From Australia's first ever rocky-reef live streaming webcam