There are a range of conservation actions that community groups, non-government and government organisations undertake along the Victorian coastline. Listed below are examples of some of these actions:
- More people visit beaches than any other shore habitat. But with increasing population comes growing pressure on sandy beach habitat from coastal development, recreation, beach nourishment and mechanical beach cleaning.
- Litter on beaches and in the marine environment harms wildlife. Plastic litter is particularly problematic, as it is ingested by birds, turtles, fish, and whales and can harm or kill these animals. To remove litter, beaches are cleaned both manually (by people picking up rubbish) and mechanically.
- Community groups, such as Friends Groups and Dive Clubs organise manual beach clean-ups, which involves collecting litter from beaches.
- Clean Up Australia has also worked with Parks Victoria to deliver the ‘Help Clean up Victoria’s Bays and Rivers’.
- Other beach clean-up methods involve mechanical cleaning ‘sweeps’ along the beach, which removes rubbish and natural debris away from the beach. In Port Phillip there is extensive mechanical cleaning of beaches over the summer months, with daily cleaning to keep beaches clean of rubbish for visitors. This decreases to weekly cleaning over the winter months. The Port Phillip Council also uses manual beach cleaners to remove rubbish.
- While this improves both the aesthetic appeal and safety of the beach for the visitor, the impact of beach cleaning on fauna in the sand is largely unknown, as is the impact of removing the seagrass and seaweed and the associated marine organisms deposited during tides. These form an important component of the beach ecosystem, providing food sources for other invertebrates and foraging birds. The seaweed and seagrass also help to stabilise the sand and start the process of dune formation. (1)
- Unfortunately the ecological values and functions of beaches are often secondary to the perceived economic value. Beach ecological processes differ from intertidal rocky shores and tidal wetland habitats. Sandy beach animals display a range of unique adaptations to this dynamic environment. The composition, diversity and abundance of these beach communities are also thought to be more strongly controlled by physical factors (waves and sediment types) than by other biological interactions. In mechanical cleaning the organisms are often compacted or removed in the process, and the long-term impact of this is largely unknown.
Lessons Learned - Underwater Clean Up
- Divers see the full impact of discarded rubbish left on the beach and piers along the coast, as it often ends up in the water at their favourite dive sites, tangled amongst the marine creatures they love to see. During Clean Up Australia day whilst most people are collecting rubbish in parks and along stream banks, Victorian dive clubs work their ‘fins off’ collecting discarded beach rubbish underwater. Such an example is ‘Harbour Dive’ located in Mornington. For many years they have been actively removing rubbish and the invasive Northern Pacific seastar (Asterias amurensis) from Mornington Pier.
- More than 200 community groups and nearly 20,000 coastal volunteers care for our coastal and marine environment. Many of these individuals and groups have formed partnerships with government bodies, not-for-profit organisations or corporations to achieve positive outcomes for the environment.
- The Coast Action/Coastcare Community Program is a state-wide program that has been supporting community groups for more than 10 years.
- Community volunteer groups help to maintain our marine and coastal environment, through activities such as revegetating coastal areas, building boardwalks, fencing, building tracks, monitoring native shorebirds and animals, presenting education and awareness raising sessions, plantings, landscaping coastal areas and protecting cultural sites.
- Community volunteers often have very localised and specialised skills and knowledge and by partnering with management agencies both at the state and local level the best outcomes can be achieved for the environment.
Lessons Learned - Surfers Appreciating the Environment... and actively protecting it!
- Surfers Appreciating the Natural Environment (SANE) are a dedicated group of surfers working to protect the natural values of the Bells Beach Surfing Reserve. They have partnered with the Surf Coast Shire, local surfing company Rip Curl and local community groups to successfully manage the iconic Bells Beach reserve for both conservation and recreation. They have also raised awareness of local indigenous culture through a partnership with the Wathaurong Cooperative.
- The community can play a vital role in protecting and reducing the threats to marine and coastal biodiversity. To do this, the community must first have a good understanding and appreciation of marine and coastal ecosystems and coastal cultural heritage.
- Education is central to understanding Victoria’s coastal and marine environment. Environmental education occurs in a variety ways and places, including within the school curriculum, specialised marine and coastal programs and through volunteer and community group activities.
- A more informed community is more likely to be involved in decision-making processes and conservation projects. Volunteers and community groups are integral to marine and coastal management. They participate in marine and coastal management in participating in conservation and citizen science projects and amenity works, management planning, habitat monitoring, and the delivery of education programs. (VCC strategy 2008)
Lessons Learned - Marine Discovery Centre, Queenscliff
- The Marine Discovery Centre was established in 1983 as Victoria’s first marine and coastal interpretative centre. The centre is dedicated to promoting conservation by increasing people’s awareness and understanding of the marine environment. It coordinates a variety of educational programs from early childhood through to training adult volunteers in marine interpretation. Holiday programs provide families with the opportunity to ‘learn by doing’, with activities such as sea kayaking over seagrass meadows, rockpool rambling or snorkelling with the Seals and Dolphins of Port Phillip. Thousands of Victorians are more informed and aware of our precious marine environment as a result of the Marine Discovery Centre. They were Victorian Coastal Award Winners in 2001 and 2007.
Invasive Species Control
- Invasive species are one of the key threats to Australia’s biodiversity, along with climate change and habitat loss. (1)
- Australia already has one of the worst animal extinction records in the world. Therefore, it is critical that we reduce the impact of invasive species on our marine and coastal ecosystems to prevent loss of biodiversity and damage to these important habitats.
- Scientists predict climate change will exacerbate the threat of invasive pests and cause declines in biodiversity.
- The Garnaut Climate Change Review stated, in relation to the effects of climate change on native biodiversity: “The ultimate outcomes are expected to be declines in biodiversity favouring weed and pest species (a few native, most introduced) at the expense of the rich variety that has occurred naturally across Australia.”(2)
- Introduced coastal weeds, foxes and cats are moving into new areas in response to climate change, and so too are some native species. For example, the native sea urchin (Centrostephanus rodgersii) has moved south to Tasmania via the warmer East Australian Current. Although this species is native to Australia, it has moved into places it has never before existed and is threatening the natural ecosystems of these areas.
- The urchin removes the algal cover of rocky reefs, forming large barren areas with few other invertebrates. It is having a negative impact on the ecosystems of that region and is considered invasive.
Lessons Learned - Invasive Sea Star stopped in its tracks.
- In January 2004, local beachgoers reported the presence of seastars that had never been seen around Inverloch. The new seastars were identified as the Northern Pacific Seastar, a voracious and destructive introduced pest from north-east Asia. A partnership was immediately forged between the local community and government agencies prompting an emergency response involving over 300 volunteers: the Seastar 2004 team.
- The volunteers hand collected the introduced seastars from the coastal waters around Inverloch for some months after the initial sightings in an effort to eradicate the pest from local waters. Volunteers included divers, boat drivers, the Red Cross, SES, the Surf Life Saving Club, commercial fishermen, beach combers, the local Environment Committee, Rate Payers Association, local businesses, and various Government agencies. These volunteers attended many dive events during the month spent looking for the population, and then months afterwards hand collecting them.
- Unlike the Northern Pacific Seastar population now well established and breeding in Port Phillip Bay, there was a small window of opportunity to eradicate this pest from Inverloch. Had the seastars been left to live and reproduce in the waters around Inverloch, the species could have spread along the east-coast of Victoria and into the southern waters of NSW. This species has the potential to rapidly reproduce and quickly establish large populations. Each female can release up to 20 million eggs. Two years after they were first detected in Port Phillip Bay, their numbers were estimated to have reached 12 million. But thanks to the efforts of the seastar team, this invasive pest was stopped in its tracks at Inverloch. The response appears to have prevented further spread of the marine pest with recent surveys in the area showing promising results. As of 2008, no further sightings of the seastar had been recorded in the area.
- Environmental monitoring is a way of detecting changes in environments. It involves sampling aspects of the environment, such as air, water, soil and animals, and then comparing this with baseline samples to see if anything has changed.
- Environmental monitoring includes many different processes and activities that can be undertaken to monitor ecological, chemical, physical or biological parameters of the environment.
- Environmental monitoring is used in the formal preparation of environmental impact assessments, such as in the Channel Deepening of Port Phillip Heads or the proposal to develop a Desalination Plant at Wonthaggi.
- Environmental monitoring can also be carried out by the community in a variety of fields, such as divers monitoring marine life, birdwatchers counting endangered shorebirds (see Lessons learned), or school students monitoring the water quality of their local creek or estuary. Citizen science projects are a valuable way of gathering data that would otherwise not occur due to limited science budgets and available scientists.
- Monitoring programs are designed to establish the current status of particular parameters in the environment or to establish trends in parameters. The results of monitoring programs should be reviewed, analysed statistically and published. A good monitoring program must therefore consider the way the data will be ultimately used before the monitoring starts.
- According to the Victorian Coastal Council’s Coastal Strategy 2008: 'Collecting information, undertaking research and monitoring coastal, estuarine and marine environments is fundamental to understanding and identifying current and emerging issues. Collecting data and information, and conducting research and monitoring require an integrated and multidisciplinary approach.'
Lessons Learned - Shorebirds 2020, Birds Australia
- Shorebirds 2020 is a collaborative enterprise between Birds Australia, The Australasian Wader Studies Group, World Wildlife Fund and the Australian Government.
- There is increasing evidence that migratory shorebird populations throughout the world are declining. Shorebirds using the East-Asian Australasian Flyway are under threat from widespread habitat destruction, especially prevalent at staging areas in East Asia. Australia, home to 38 species of migratory shorebird during the non-breeding season, is uniquely placed to assess the impacts of these threats on shorebird numbers.
- The primary objectives of the program are to collect data on the numbers of shorebirds in a manner that can be utilised to aid their conservation and management, specifically long- and short-term population trends, and explore what may be causing those changes. This project will also seek to understand the relationship between habitat quality and threats on the distribution and abundance of shorebirds.
Parks and Sanctuaries
- Victoria is home to 13 Marine National Parks and 11 Marine Sanctuaries, which protect 5.3 per cent of Victoria’s marine environment. This system of parks and sanctuaries exists thanks to historic legislation, passed in the Victorian Parliament in June 2002, which came into effect on 16 November 2002.
- Marine protected areas are used worldwide as a method to preserve areas of the marine environment from present and future threats.
- Victoria’s current marine national parks and marine sanctuaries were identified and established based on the principles of comprehensiveness, adequacy and representativeness. They safeguard important marine habitats and species, significant natural features, cultural heritage and aesthetic values.
- Marine National Parks are highly protected areas which contribute to a system representing a range of marine environments in Victoria, and in which no fishing, extractive or damaging activities are allowed. There are no restrictions on access to these areas and activities such as recreation, tourism, education and research are encouraged. (1)
- Since the establishment of the marine protected area network in 2002 we know a lot more about the values, habitats and threats to the marine and coastal environment. However there are still significant knowledge gaps. In fact, it’s been nearly 20 years since the last comprehensive assessment of Victoria’s marine waters.
- We urgently need a new comprehensive science-based assessment of Victoria’s marine waters by the independent Victorian Environmental Assessment Council. This assessment can identify the values, habitats and threats to our marine environment and provide possible recommendations for extensions to the existing marine protected area network.
- Marine National Parks in Victoria include: Bunurong Marine National Park, French Island Marine National Park, Cape Howe Marine National Park, Churchill Island Marine National Park, Corner Inlet Marine National Park, Discovery Bay Marine National Park, Ninety Mile Beach Marine National Park, Point Addis Marine National Park, Point Hicks Marine National Park, Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park, Twelve Apostles Marine National Park, Wilsons Promontory Marine National Park, Yaringa Marine National Park,
- Marine Sanctuaries are smaller highly protected areas designated for protection of their special natural values, in which no fishing, extractive or damaging activities are allowed. They have a range of values, including outstanding examples of habitats not otherwise represented in the system of marine protected areas; areas of special significance; and areas that provide important opportunities for recreation and education associated with the enjoyment of the natural environment. (2)
- Victoria’s Marine Sanctuaries are: Barwon Bluff Marine Sanctuary, Beware Reef Marine Sanctuary, Eagle Rock Marine Sanctuary, Jawbone Marine Sanctuary, Marengo Reefs Marine Sanctuary, Merri Marine Sanctuary, Mushroom Reef Marine Sanctuary, Point Cooke Marine Sanctuary, Point Danger Marine Sanctuary, Ricketts Point Marine Sanctuary, The Arches Marine Sanctuary
- Marine Coastal Parks and Reserves are multiple-use parks that existed before the establishment of the system of Marine National Parks and Sanctuaries in 2002. These are areas of high environmental values, which are managed for a variety of uses including recreation and commercial fishing. For example Point Cook Coastal Park and Marine Reserve features abundant birdlife, a historic bluestone homestead, intertidal sand banks and a Marine Reserve. Located 20 km southwest of Melbourne, it is a popular destination for birdwatchers, nature lovers and family groups. (3)
- Parks Victoria is the organisation responsible for managing our Parks and Sanctuaries.
Lessons Learned - Friends of the Bluff, Barwon Heads
- Formed in 1994, The Friends of the Bluff are a group of volunteers who share a common interest in caring for the complete ecosystem of the Barwon Heads Bluff, located on the Bellarine Peninsula. Their aims are to care for, rehabilitate and maintain the native vegetation, and involve the local community in activities which assist them to appreciate the Bluff environment. They also successfully campaigned for the establishment of the Barwon Bluff Marine Sanctuary. The group has produced a website and educational materials on the Marine Sanctuary. Other activities include a successful environment program during the annual ‘Festival of the Sea’, interpretative programs for school groups and assisting in the running of a local interpretative centre 'the Lobsterpot’, which promotes the environmental, social and cultural heritage of the Barwon Heads.
- There are many benefits to restoring coastal habitats with indigenous plants. Coastal plants provide habitat for native wildlife and stability to dune and wetland systems by preventing erosion from wind and rain and decreasing weed invasion.
- Selecting the right species for revegetation is fundamental to successfully rehabilitating an area. The species chosen will determine the wildlife that will inhabit the site, the stability of the soil and the ecosystem dynamics that evolve over time.
- Indigenous or endemic species should be selected, preferably from seed stock sourced from the local area. This will increase the chances of seedling survival as they should be adapted to local conditions. The Department of Sustainability and Environment has produced a guide to assist in the selection of species. (‘Ecological Vegetation Classes- EVCs’)
- Revegetation of an area can take several years. In the case of sand dunes, introducing dune grasses and succulents can help to create dune stability and act as a buffer for secondary species. Tertiary species such as Coastal Moonah and Banksias require greater protection from both salt spray and wind and will only establish if conditions are suitable.
Lessons Learned - Repairing Swan Bay’s Catchment: a good news story.
- The Bellarine Catchment Network (formally the Swan Bay Integrated Catchment Management Project) is an actions-focused project that aims to improve water quality in the Swan Bay Marine Reserve and the Lake Connewarre Ramsar wetlands. The project has joined forces with farmers, conservation groups, schools, local government and industries to protect and enhance streamside vegetation, saltmarsh vegetation, remove weeds, monitor water quality and raise community awareness of the significance of one of the most intact wetlands remaining in the Port Phillip catchment. The effects of the project will take years to manifest, but it is a shining example of what happens when you get community members with a long-term vision for their local area.
1.Sandy beaches at the brink, Thomas A. Schlacher, Jennifer Dugan, Dave S. Schoeman, Mariano Lastra, Diversity and Distributions, (Diversity Distrain.),(2007),13, 556–560
Lessons Learned Source; Victorian Coastal Council 2010, Joint Winner of the Community Action and Partnerships 2010 http://www.vcc.vic.gov.au/coastalawards.htm
Invasive Species Control
Source Victorian Coastal Awards, Victorian Coastal Council, 2005.
Department of Sustainability and Environment, Case study.
Booth C. 2009. Invasive Species: One of the Top Three Threats to Australian Biodiversity. Invasive Species Council. www.invasives.org.au
Garnaut R. 2008. The Garnaut Climate Change Review. Final Report. Commonwealth of Australia. www.garnautreview.org.au/
Victorian Coastal Strategy, 2008. Victorian Coastal Council.
Further reading: VNPA Nature Conservation Review; Chapter 5, Conservation Status and Gap Analysis, pg 82, 5.2.5 Monitoring (see resources section of the website).
Parks and Sanctuaries
1. Environment Conservation Council, 2000. Marine, Coastal and Estuarine Investigation: Final Report. Gill Miller Press Pty Ltd. East Melbourne Vic.
2. Environment Conservation Council, 2000. Marine, Coastal and Estuarine Investigation: Final Report. Gill Miller Press Pty Ltd. East Melbourne Vic.
3. Victoria’s System of Marine National Parks and Marine Sanctuaries Management Strategy 2003–2010. Parks Victoria, Melbourne
Parks Victoria website: http://www.parkweb.vic.gov.au/index.cfm
Ecological Vegetation Class (EVC) Benchmarks for each Bioregion