CSIRO Division of Marine Research

Marine research in Australia began when the New South Wales Fisheries appointed a researcher in 1902, but it was not until 1936 that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (the forerunner of CSIRO) agreed, somewhat reluctantly, to establish a fisheries section. It focused on catching, canning, preserving, transporting and marketing fish, and established monitoring stations along Australia's coasts. Oceanography was of secondary importance until the 1970s, when the declaration of the 200-nautical-mile Australian Fishing Zone in 1979 and other influences led to it becoming a priority research area.

Much research was done in Tasmania. Alan Tubb surveyed the coasts in 1941. In 1945 a regional laboratory was set up in the former Stowell Private Hospital in Battery Point, and from 1946 Mick Olsen made the first underwater diving studies of scallops, using the Siebe German standard full-dress gear. Pacific oysters were flown from Japan in 1947 and a bed was established at Pitt Water, the beginning of oyster farming. Shark and tuna tagging, drop-lining for deep-sea trevalla, plankton studies and long-lining for school shark and barracouta have been some research topics since.

In 1980, as part of a programme of decentralisation, and because Hobart is geographically well-placed, the Division of Fisheries Research and the Division of Oceanography moved to new headquarters beside the River Derwent in Hobart. They shared the buildings and many of the facilities, and increasingly their research became interdisciplinary, involving biologists, physicists, chemists, ecologists, mathematicians and modellers. It led to a more intimate welding of oceanography and fishery investigations. The logical next step was taken in 1997, when the two divisions again became one, under the name CSIRO Division of Marine Research.

Further reading: V Mawson, D Tranter & A Pearce (eds), CSIRO at sea, Hobart, 1988.

Vivienne Mawson