A joint initiative will see an in-depth survey of the Great Australian Bight carried out over four years by the CSIRO in collaboration with BP oil explorations.

South Australian marine ecologist Tim Ward will lead the long term research program. The Associate Professor says he is keen to continue over 15 years of work in the Bight so far.

The project has the support of Marine Innovation Southern Australia. It is set to cost around $20 million split between the three parties. It is likely that BP stands to make the most direct economic gains from the project, with surveyors hoping to strike a new source of revenue for the resource giant.

Professor Ward says there is plenty to learn: “Certainly it's a place where a lot of sampling hasn't taken place as yet, particularly in the deep water parts and so yes we're expecting ... particularly the seafloor sampling, to turn up new species... that was the case when we did that sort of sampling in the shallow water parts of the Great Australian Bight but now we're going further offshore... we expect it to be at the very least, quite interesting.”

Prof Ward hopes to show “how special the Great Australian Bight is, how it works, so that can underpin future management of the system, because this is an applied project, it's really about trying to understand how we manage the system into the future,” he said.