Kelp communities, such as this flowing stand of bull kelp off the Tasman Peninsula, are among the most productive ecosystems on Earth.

    Photo Credit: Justin Gilligan

    Giant kelp is the largest and fastest-growing seaweed in the world. Tasmanian waters have experienced a 95 per cent loss of dense surface-canopy-forming kelp.

    Photo Credit: Justin Gilligan

    Lemon-drop-shaped gas-bladder floats lift the blades and stalk-like stipe of the kelp towards the sun, on which it relies for energy through photosynthesis.

    Photo Credit: Justin Gilligan

    Professor Craig Johnson examines a common kelp plant retrieved from the University of Tasmania’s kelp-transplant experiment off Maria Island.

    Photo Credit: Justin Gilligan

    Craig collects data on artificial reef kelp transplant experiment off Maria Island, Tasmania, Australia, Pacific Ocean.

    Photo Credit: Justin Gilligan

    Dean Lisson measures abalone to confirm it meets the size limit regulation before placing it in his catch bag among bull kelp off Actaeon Island.

    Photo Credit: Justin Gilligan

    Black-lipped abalone harvested off Actaeon Island contributes to the seasonal quota – Tasmania affords the largest wild abalone fishery in the world, providing 25 per cent of
    global production.

    Photo Credit: Justin Gilligan

    Kelp communities provide shelter for a wide range of species, such as this hermit crab off Maria Island.

    Photo Credit: Justin Gilligan

    Swimming anemone (Phlyctenanthus australis).

    Photo Credit: Justin Gilligan

    Draughtboard shark (Cephaloscyllium laticeps).

    Photo Credit: Justin Gilligan

    Spotted handfish (Brachionichthys hirsutus).

    Photo Credit: Justin Gilligan

    Once dried, the bull kelp is fed through a hammer mill in the King Island Kelp Industries factory to reduce it to the required granular form and size.

    Photo Credit: Justin Gilligan

     Caelan Pretorius gives his father Johan Pretorius a hand to hang the morning’s harvest of bull kelp onto purpose-built loading racks for drying.

    Photo Credit: Justin Gilligan

    In the early morning light, Jason Russell ties off rope onto his harvest washed ashore by the swell before winching it back to his trailer.

    Photo Credit: Justin Gilligan

    Commercial kelp harvester Jason Russell takes a moment to reflect on his morning’s harvest before hanging the kelp on the loading racks outside.

    Photo Credit: Justin Gilligan

    Commercial kelp harvester John Micic knee-deep in bull kelp at the Causeway near Currie. The kelp is washed ashore by Bass Strait’s renowned swell and wind, which often makes harvest
    from the Causeway a risky business.

    Photo Credit: Justin Gilligan

    King Island’s prized livestock regularly start the day with a nutritious feed of bull kelp, which many say enhances immune function, increases meat quality, reduces stress and improves weight gain.

    Photo Credit: Justin Gilligan

GALLERY: The kelp forests of the Great Southern Reef

By AG STAFF | September 29, 2017

The massive network of rocky reefs that lines much of southern Australia’s coastline is a shadowy cold-water underworld dominated by brown seaweeds known as kelp. The Great Southern Reef might not be as visually flamboyant as Australia’s world-famous Great Barrier Reef, with its colourful hard corals and sunlit shallow waters, but its communities of creatures are unlike anything else worldwide.