Sydney lies on a submergent coastline. This means that the coastline has moved due to a rise in sea level, causing the ocean to flood what were once river valleys. This has contributed to the irregularity of the coastline around the city of Sydney. The city itself is built around one of these submerged river valleys or ria, which is known as Port Jackson or Sydney Harbor. This is the world's largest natural harbor. There are also numerous smaller harbors and many beaches along the Sydney coastline. The most well-known is the popular tourist destination Bondi Beach.
There are a number of major rivers in the Sydney area. The Nepean, which later becomes the Hawkesbury River, flows through the Hornsbury Plateau and empties into Broken Bay. The Parramatta forms a tidal estuary and flows into Port Jackson. The Lane Cove River and Middle Harbor Creek also empty into the harbor. The Georges River forms another estuary and empties into Botany Bay, along with the Cooks River.
Fishing and aquaculture play an important role in the Australian economy. According to the Australian Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, they are the fifth most valuable industry in rural Australia, and have the potential for further development in the future. The fisheries along the Sydney coast are regulated by the Australian Fisheries Management Authority, which identifies them as the Eastern Tuna and Billfish, Skipjack Tuna, Small Pelagic, Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark, long line fishing for Southern Bluefin Tuna, and Southern Squid Jig fisheries.
The Australian coast, including the Sydney coastline, is monitored by the Integrated Marine Observing System or IMOS. The system consists of a series of monitoring stations and data services that gather information about the marine climate in the oceans up to several thousand kilometers off the Australian coast. The data that is collected is also used by a number of international ocean observation programs such as the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS). IMOS is supported by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology and the Marine and Atmospheric Research of CSIRO.
The Australian waters are monitored as part of the global ARGO float network, which keeps track of the salinity and temperature of the ocean to a depth of 2000 meters. Data is also gathered by the Australian Voluntary Observing Fleet, which is a network of about a hundred ships that routinely take observations of the weather while they are at sea. They gather data on the temperature of the air and sea, barometric pressure, visibility, humidity, currents, waves and sea ice, and produce more than 50,000 observations a year. Another system for ocean observation that covers the ocean around the Sydney area is the Drifting Buoy Network, which monitors the temperature of the air and the surface of the sea, barometric pressure, and the currents. Some of the buoys also collect data about the direction and speed of the wind. The network of ocean wave recorders is a system of buoys around the Australian coast that gathers wave data. Automated coastal weather stations collect additional information about the temperature and wind.
A major center for oceanic research on the Sydney coast is the Sydney Institute of Marine Science. This is a collaborative effort that brings together researchers from the universities in the region (University of Sydney, Macquarie University, University of Technology Sydney, University of New South Wales) as well as from the state and federal government and the Australian Museum. The institute performs marine research and is also responsible for the management of the IMOS node in New South Wales. The institute manages a number of IMOS monitoring systems in the New South Wales region, including observation by autonomous underwater vehicles.
Ocean observation can contribute to a better understanding of the marine environment and of the effect of the oceans on climate and weather. The information that is gathered can be useful for agriculture and other industries that are affected by the weather, as well as providing data that can be used to monitor the climate in the long-term.
One important element of oceanic observation research on the Sydney coast concerns the East Australian Current, which is an important influence of the climate and marine industry along the Australian coast, but is as yet only poorly understood. The IMOS program is gathering information about this current that should help to provide a better understanding of its causes and effects, particularly of how the current interacts with the coastal waters.
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