The Cape Otway coast is a place worth exploring with its dunes and complex reef systems that house an exquisitely diverse range of marine creatures. From feather stars hidden in rocky shores, to zebra fish darting around submerged reefs, to humpback whales that can be seen from the point, this marine area is sure to amaze.
What are the key natural features of this area?
- The habitats and species in the waters around Cape Otway are subject to high swells and moderate wind exposure, and are influenced by the waters of both Bass Strait and the Southern Ocean.
- The Cape Otway coast includes dune limestone and younger dune sands overlying Mesozoic and Tertiary rock, with a sandy dune-backed alluvial basin where the the Aire, Calder and Ford rivers meet.
- Cape Otway has an extensive and highly complex intertidal reef system that offers a variety of physical habitats for a very diverse range of species. The major marine habitats are intertidal and subtidal reef.
- Marengo Reef Marine Sanctuary protects the only offshore exposed reef between Cape Otway and Cape Schanck.
- These intertidal reefs are full of rockpools, gutters and ledges that hide a variety of sea snails, from large abalone to tiny periwinkles. Many filter-feeding animals such as tubeworms, barnacles and bryozoans (sea-moss) trap floating food brought by the waves.
- Reefs below the surface are covered with beds of bull kelp that host red and brown algae and a wealth of invertebrate life, including soft corals and sponges. Canopies of bubble weed and other brown algae are a habitat for red and coralline algae, and invertebrates such as abalone, rock lobster and sea urchins.
- Along the rocky shores, anemones, brittle stars, feather stars, abalone, bryozoans, crabs, seastars and a wide variety of shells can be found among the seaweeds and algae. Cape Otway supports a very rich community of invertebrates. More than 108 species have been identified in the area.
- The permanently submerged reefs support sea-urchins, green warreners, sea tulips, elephant snails, tulip shells and blacklip abalone. Many kinds of wrasse, schools of black and white zebra fish and spiny globefish swim among the kelp fronds. Other reef fish here include herring cale, horseshoe leatherjacket, scaly fin, magpie morwong, old wives, bullseye, toothbrush leatherjacket, sea sweep, bastard trumpeter and silver sweep.
- Shorebirds using the area include Crested Terns, Black-faced Cormorants and Pacific Gulls. Among other species recorded are the Australasian Gannet, Fairy Tern, Great Egret, Pacific Gull, Pied Cormorant and the Shy Albatross.
- Hayley Point and Mounts Bay are important nesting sites for Hooded Plovers.
- Marine mammals recorded in the area include the Australian Fur Seal, Southern Elephant Seal, Sub-Antarctic Fur Seal, Humpback Whale and Southern Right Whale.
- Hayley Point is a non-breeding haul-out site for Australian Fur Seals, with the seals inhabiting a small group of near shore rocks. Fur seals also use Henty Island within Marengo Reef Marine Sanctuary.
Marine Protected Areas
Great Otway National Park
Marengo Reefs Marine Sanctuary