Northern Port Phillip Bay
Some incredible marine environments can be found right on Melbourne’s doorstep, including coastal dunes, wetlands, highly productive seagrass meadows and unique drift algae beds. There are saltmarsh areas, mangrove stands and rocky reefs as well as three marine sanctuaries and a coastal park.
What are the key natural features of this area?
- Saltmarsh areas at the Point Cook Coastal Park, west of Melbourne. These areas are an important habitat for the endangered Orange-Bellied Parrot, as well as stabilising the shoreline, limiting flooding and helping improve water quality by trapping sediments and acting as a sink for pollutants. Point Cooke is part of a nationally significant shorebird feeding area that extends between Altona and Williamstown.
- The unique drift algal beds, found from Point Wilson to Altona in Melbourne’s west. These exist alongside patches of shallow rocky reef. Small patches of drift algae can also be found near Sandringham, in Melbourne’s south-east.
- The wetland areas along the shoreline from Point Cooke to the mouth of Skeleton Creek. These provide an incredible diversity of habitats for marine organisms and important feeding grounds for fish and seabirds.
- The nearby Jawbone Marine Sanctuary at Williamstown, which supports diverse habitats including rocky reef, seagrass meadows, intertidal flats and saltmarsh.
- The largest surviving stand of mangroves in northern Port Phillip Bay occurs along a 200m section of this coast near Williamstown.
- Subtidal sediments in Williamstown support many species and the basalt platform is a feeding and roosting site for migratory and waders and seabirds. The seagrass meadows are a nursery for juvenile fish and habitat for invertebrates. Because intertidal reef and coastal habitats at Williamstown have a long history of protection from direct human disturbance, unique intertidal population structures have developed over time.
- The rocky reefs of south-east of Port Melbourne, from Saint Kilda to Ricketts Point.
- Ricketts Point at Beaumaris is a marine sanctuary and home to a great diversity of habitats, making it an incredibly interesting area. There are rocky intertidal and subtidal reefs, sandy beaches, subtidal soft sediments, intertidal and subtidal seagrass meadows, algae-covered bommies, off-shore ledges and channels. An extensive area of shore platform extends over 150m seaward when exposed at low tide, supporting a high diversity of invertebrates. The offshore rocks and ledges attract fish too, including schools of Southern Hulafish, and occasional wrasse and Victorian Scalyfin. Cryptic weedfish and shrimp can be found amongst the algae.
- The intertidal reef at Ricketts Point is an important feeding and roosting habitat for large numbers of seabirds and shorebirds, and has a high diversity of Port Phillip Bay invertebrates including abundant populations of bryozoans (sea mosses) and rare hydroids. The threatened Snapping shrimp Athanopsis australis is also found at Beaumaris.
- Immediately to the east of Ricketts Point are the vertical cliffs of Table Rock Point. The area between Ricketts Point and Half Moon Bay (southeast of Sandringham) has shallow rocky reefs near the shore. Ricketts Point and Table Rock Point in Beaumaris also support small isolated seagrass meadows.
- There is a breeding colony of Little Penguins at St. Kilda, and pods of dolphins are a common site in the entire area. If you’re lucky, you may even spot the odd Humpback Whale.
Marine Protected Areas:
Point Cooke Marine Sanctuary
Jawbone Marine Sanctuary
Ricketts Point Marine Sanctuary
Point Cook Coastal Park