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° on Saturday in Mosman

The Story of Murray and Ellie Eel – And How You Can Help This Special Mosman Couple

Chowder Bay is a well known Sydney diving spot, but its popularity is damaging the local marine life. A group of Mosman locals have decided to step in and help.

Murray and Ellie are long term residents of Chowder Bay, but you may not have ever seen them. As families play and swim at the beach, and fishermen cast their rods out from the jetty, there is a battle for survival going on below the glistening waters where this old couple lives.

Clifton Gardens has long been a popular dive site that showcases some fascinating marine life including tiny pipefish, moray eels, decorator crabs and seahorses.

A juvenile white seahorse on Clifton Garden's new seahorse hotel
A juvenile white seahorse on Clifton Garden’s new seahorse hotel. Image: Jayne Jenkins

Just over a year ago, “Seahorse Hotels” were installed in the bay, to create a natural habitat and encourage this endangered species to breed and grow in the wild. It’s attracted many more scuba divers and free divers than before, eager to watch it succeed.

The quiet underwater renovation has also benefited many different species of marine residents, including Murray and Ellie – the two Moray eels affectionately named by local divers.

But now there’s concern that the popularity of the area is causing harm.

“The rubbish has been a problem for many years but it is getting worse due to the number of people using the area. It is not just the fishermen but people using the park area and the huge increase in boating traffic there,” said Jayne Jenkins who has been diving at Chowder Bay since the early 1980s.

Busy jetty at Chowder Bay. Image: Sue Liu

“I have seen up to 59 fishermen on the jetty all with more than one rod. Even some of the more experienced and careful fishermen are now saying it is fished out and they just come here for bait.”

Ms Jenkins and a group of local residents have formed the “Friends of Chowder Bay” group to conduct regular clean ups of the area both above and below the water, as well as educate visitors to the marine life that lives beneath.

Above left: Fishing debris at Chowder Bay (credit Jayne Jenkins); and right: Fishing debris caught on seahorse hotel (credit Sue Liu)

Tragically the initiative is too late for Ellie the eel, who was recently found on the seafloor, having been strangled by a fishing line. But Jayne Jenkins says it’s not too late to turn things around.

“It has easy access and divers can go in most weather conditions. I have hosted many overseas guests here to dive and have worked with the BBC Natural History unit on stories featuring Chowder Bay. There is always something interesting to see.”

If you’d like to get involved to help protect Chowder Bay, visit the Friends of Chowder Bay Facebook group  to find out about upcoming educational and clean-up events.

Main image credit: Jayne Jenkins