There are a number of issues related to Victoria's marine and coastal environment, with some of the main ones described below:

Introduced Marine Pests

  • Introduced marine pests are species that have moved to an area outside their natural range (generally by human activities) and that threaten the survival of native marine species, human health or marine industries. We can all identify with the impact of the fox, rabbit and carp on the environment and native species, but what about the impact of marine pests?
  • Marine pests are introduced to Australian waters and translocated inside our waters by a variety of methods, including ballast water discharged by commercial shipping, bio-fouling on hulls and internal seawater pipes of commercial and recreational vessels, aquaculture operations (accidentally and intentionally), aquarium imports, as well as marine debris and ocean currents.
  • Marine pests come in all shapes and sizes, from microscopic algae to fish, seastars, molluscs and aquatic plants. At least 250 marine species are known to have been introduced to Australia’s marine waters. Over 100 species are known to have been introduced to Port Phillip Bay alone.
  • But not all become pests. Some do not survive to reproduce in large numbers, or do not compete with other species. A pest species will feed on or compete with native species for food or shelter to the detriment of biodiversity or commercial assets in that area. They usually breed quickly and produce large numbers of offspring which often gives them a competitive advantage over indigenous species.
  • Pests can seriously affect habitats, food chains, and the entire ecosystem. Some marine pests are also a risk to human health and affect the social and economic benefits provided by the marine environment including aquaculture, recreational and commercial fishing, and domestic and international shipping.
  • Australian waters are particularly susceptible to introduced species because we rely heavily on the global shipping trade and because there are many small boats using our waters. With more small boats being used each year, care is needed to ensure that marine pests are not introduced and spread.
  • Is there a solution? “Prevention rather than cure” is the best approach when it comes to managing marine pests. Stopping pests being introduced to Australia and then spreading from one location to another is far more effective than trying to deal with them after they have established. Eradication should not be relied on, as it is only feasible under specific circumstances.
  • In 2004, the Environmental Protection Authority introduced a Ballast Water policy to regulate ships domestic ballast water in accordance with International Conventions for the control and management of Ships Ballast water. This policy aims to reduce the translocation of marine pests from International waters. 
  • With over 12,000 marine animals and plants living in Victoria’s marine waters – many more than most comparable areas in the world – one of the biggest threats to Victoria’s array of marine native plants and animals and to marine industries is introduced pest species - so it’s worth the effort involved in trying to prevent their arrival.
  • Areas that are threatened by introduced species in the central Victorian coast include: Port Phillip Heads to Western Channel Flinders, and Inverloch to Waratah Bay.
  • Threatened bays and inlets include Port Phillip Bay, Westernport, the Northern Channels to San Remo, Anderson, Shallow, Corner and Noramunga Inlets.


Marine pathogens

  • A pathogen is something that can cause disease. Microbial pathogens are microscopic organisms. They include bacteria, viruses, protozoa and fungi. Marine pathogens may affect humans or other marine organisms.
  • Humans are affected by pathogens when they enter in an infected body of water or beach sands. The pathogen can enter the alimentary canal, eyes, ears, nose or throat. Pathogens can also be ingested from the consumption of shellfish.
  • Faecal streptococci/enterococci are examples of pathogens that can be found in marine waters and can cause disease in humans. In Victoria, the EPA monitors water quality at 36 bayside beaches during summer, testing ecoli levels and advising people against swimming if the recommended limit is exceeded.
  • An example of a pathogenic disease affecting fish is epizootic ulcerative syndrome, also known as Red spot disease. Low-pH increases the susceptibility of fish to this fungal disease and it often kills fish.
  • Unsafe densities of pathogens in coastal waters can lead to restrictions on shellfish harvesting, health problems in humans and other organisms. Gastroenteritis is a possible outcome for swimming or recreating in waters contaminated with pathogens.
  • Pathogens can occur naturally or be carried into waterways via sewage effluent, stormwater run-off industrial processes, wildlife, septic tanks or sewage from ships. Following storms or heavy rain, high concentrations of pathogens occur due to surface runoff, sediment re-suspension and leakage from sewerage pipes through faults and illegal connections.
  • Land-based aquaculture, having seawater exchange, can also be a risk with a negative affect on wild-stock genetics and the introduction of pathogens.
  • Turbid water contains suspended sediments and these provide food and transport for microbes. Dredging or boating activity can impact sediment resuspension and release pathogens stored in sediment.


  • The world’s population is growing faster than the supply of fish. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations, most of the world’s fisheries are either fully exploited or over-exploited and consequently any further increases in global consumption of seafood will have a percentage met by aquaculture. Aquaculture is one of the fastest growing food-producing sectors, accounting for almost 50 per cent of the world’s food fish production.
  • In Victoria, aquaculture has been undertaken for over twenty years, growing significantly over the past ten years. Aquaculture is managed under the Fisheries Act (Victoria) 1995. The Act provides for the management, development and promotion of an ecologically sustainable and viable aquaculture industry. Victorian aquaculture is undertaken in a variety of offshore, coastal and inland facilities and includes the production of trout, abalone, blue mussel, aquarium finfish, eel, Murray cod, barramundi and yabby. (Source: DPI) Land-based aquaculture occurs in the Geelong Arm of Port Phillip Bay, Phillip Island and Port Fairy regions.
  • Aquaculture is not without its problems. The impacts of land-based aquaculture vary greatly, depending on the intensity of the aquaculture and the treatment of effluent. The greatest risks of land-based aquaculture are the influence on the genetics of wild-stocks, and the introduction or amplification of pathogens.
  • In 2006 a viral disease, ganglineuritis, was confirmed in wild populations of abalone in the southwest of Victoria. This had followed reports of unusually high mortality rates from several Victorian abalone aquaculture farms in late 2005. It has now been confirmed as far east as Cape Otway and west as far as Discovery Bay Marine Park. The disease causes inflammation of the nervous tissue, resulting in curling of the foot and swelling of the mouth of the abalone.
  • Understanding the ecological role abalone play within a reef habitat will be important to monitoring the changes to reefs as a result of declining numbers of abalone. Research is being undertaken by Fisheries Research and Development Corporation and Fisheries Victoria.
  • The Victorian Abalone Divers Association are also calling for a moratorium along a stretch of the south-west Victorian coast to allow Abalone stocks recover and replenish after the impacts of the virus.
  • Sea-based aquaculture occurs in the Geelong Arm of Port Phillip Bay, southern Port Phillip Bay (in the Pinnace Channel) and at Flinders, Westernport. Blue mussels are the main species being farmed. Sea-based aquaculture carries potential risks to the marine environment, including the risk of translocating marine pests when transferring stock between farms, the risk of releasing non-native species into the marine environment, releasing antibiotics and other growth stimulants, organic enrichment and harvesting pressure on other species used as feed for farmed marine animals. These issues are generally associated with fish farming, rather than farming of invertebrate species such as mussels. Victoria lacks deep, sheltered environments suitable for fish pens, however ocean pens may be implemented in the future, with Portland identified as a potential area for this kind of aquaculture in the future.



  • The Encarta Dictionary defines bioprospecting as: ‘the process of searching for and extracting potential pharmaceutical compounds from plants’.
  • The field of bioprospecting in the marine environment is relatively new compared to terrestrial bioprospecting, and as such there have been relatively few marine-based natural products developed. However, the potential to find potent bioactive materials in marine organisms such as sponges is great given marine organisms such as sponges produce potent chemicals to fend off predators or competitors that attempt to grow over and smother them.
  • Success stories of products produced from overseas marine creatures include an antiviral drug for AIDS treatment developed from the sponge Tethya crypta and a pain management drug synthetically developed from the venom of cone snails (Conus geographicus and Conus magus).
  • Bioprospecting is an extractive process and as such there is the possibility of harm being done to the environment. Some of the dangers arise from over-collecting (especially if the species is rare) or introducing exotic species and pathogens into the habitats where the species is collected.
  • Inappropriate collection methods, such as trawling, that damage habitats or non-target species is also of concern.
  • Bioprospecting in many cases involves the collection of small quantities of material and once chemically analysed the active chemical is often able to be synthesised in a laboratory.
  • There is protective legislation both at State and Commonwealth levels to protect marine habitats and species, with the Commonwealth Governments EPBC Act, requiring an Environmental Impact Assessment if prospecting activities are in World Heritage areas, Ramsar wetlands or Commonwealth land and marine areas. Impact assessments are also triggered if communities of migratory or threatened species are involved.
  • There can be positive environmental benefits to bioprospecting. Knowledge of Australia’s biological resources has increased and new and rare species have been discovered as well as biodiversity hot spots. Species inventories have been developed and specimens collected have been deposited in publically accessible collections.



  • A particular problem with large scale commercial fishing is the indiscriminate nature of many of the fishing methods used. Some trawlers and large-scale fishing operations spread nets up to 2km long or trail lines with hundreds of baited hooks. These large nets and long lines catch not only the economically valuable fish being targeted, but also many other kinds of marine life. Seabirds, dolphins, endangered turtles, and many unwanted fish and cephalopods are caught in these traps and killed. Their unwanted carcasses are simply dumped overboard. This unwanted waste in known as “bycatch.” Bycatch has raised great concern among scientists, conservationists and the media, and many countries have been pressured to improve and reduce their methods, in order to limit bycatch.
  • Despite this, bycatch levels in Australia are still high. Recent studies have shown that about 140 critically endangered Leatherback turtles end up as bycatch every year, as well as approximately 390 endangered Australian sea lions. Hundreds of albatross and thousands of sharks are also killed, as well as many other vulnerable species. (Source: Humane Society International)
  • The Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) requires that all fisheries now develop and implement a Bycatch Action Plan, with the intention of minimising all bycatch to a level below that required to threaten a bycatch species. This has been varyingly successful, and AFMA is putting further efforts into increasing the efficacy of the program. The department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry is also implementing a Bycatch database, to serve as a repository for bycatch data and research. (AMFA, 2008)
  • The ideal way to reduce bycatch is to reduce the amount of large-scale commercial operations in our fisheries. However, increasing the species-selectivity of commercial fishing is also a vital step, and can be accomplished through the use of specialised equipment, such as nets which exploit the behavioural differences between prawns and fish, or which use a system of mesh panels to give larger creatures, such as sharks and turtles, a chance to escape. A similar turtle exclusion device can also be used by commercial fishing nets, and devices which repel sharks and dolphins using sonic or electromagnetic signals are being tested. (WA Department of fisheries Fact sheet 1, 2007)
  • However, when the target species and bycatch do not differ greatly in size or behaviour, often the only way to separate the two is by keeping the catch alive in a “hopper” of seawater, and sorting by hand.


Climate Change

  • Climate Change will have significant impacts on the marine environment, including changes in temperature, sea level, ocean currents, ocean chemistry and solar radiation.
  • These changes will have significant effects on marine life, food chains and the distribution and abundance of marine species.
  • Increasing sea levels will impact on patterns of species distribution, pushing species located in coastal and intertidal areas further shoreward.
  • Increasing acidity due to increasing levels of dissolved carbon dioxide in the ocean will affect the ability of shell forming species such as plankton, molluscs and crabs to grow and develop.
  • Increasing sea temperatures may alter the growth rates, abundance, distribution and timing for planktonic species in the marine environment.(1) The distribution and decline of kelp forests has been linked to warming sea temperatures.(2) And increasing water temperatures may also influence the growth rates of marine seagrasses and macroalgae. Mangrove growth rates may also increase due to increasing levels of carbon dioxide.(3)
  • Changes in ocean circulation, driven by climate change, will have significant impacts on the population dynamics of marine species because of its influence on larval transport and ocean productivity. Species located in Eastern Victoria will be influenced by a stronger and warmer East Australian Current while those in Western Victoria will be impacted by changes in the Leeuwin Current, which is stronger during La Nina years and weaker in El Nino years.(4) El Niño events have been shown to lead to enhanced upwelling along the southern shores of Australia.(5)
  • Increases in solar radiation can have positive and negative impacts. This can increase levels of photosynthesis in some plants such as phytoplankton, kelp and seagrass. But with increasing solar radiation, there is an associated increase in ultra-violet radiation which has been found to negatively impact seagrass, kelp, phytoplankton and zooplankton.(6)
  • Other impacts include changes to rainfall patterns and thus changes to the amounts of nutrients entering marine environments. Storm events may be more frequent and stronger and this may severely impact seagrasses and macroalgae, by directly uprooting or increasing the turbidity of the water. On land, higher temperatures will increase bushfire risk along the coast affecting native habitats.
  • The Victorian Coastal Strategy highlights the need to continue to manage known threats to marine biodiversity, and the emerging threats associated with climate change, informed by the best available science. “We need to build our understanding of how ecologically important marine communities vary naturally over time – and which ecological processes are responsible – so we can better predict their response to pressures arising from climate change, catchment activities and new developments. Sometimes we can use the best international science to inform Victorian management, but often we must develop additional understanding of how global knowledge must be modified for the Australian context, or even down to the scale of local sections of the Victorian coast.”(7)


Coastal Development

  • Victorians may be guilty of loving their coast to death. Our growing population and a trend towards retiring to the coast has seen unprecedented pressure on our coastal landscape.
  • The Victorian Coastal Strategy 2008, reports:
    ‘Coastal [population] growth can lead to biodiversity and habitat loss, water degradation in coastal waters, wetlands, lakes and rivers, coastal habitat loss, damage to wetlands, the introduction of pest plants and animals, coastal erosion, destruction of coastal ecosystems, loss of cultural heritage, conversion of productive agricultural land and impacts on scenic coastal landscapes, views and vistas.'
  • Socially, it can lead to pressures on the particular values and character of coastal areas and settlements – the very reason people choose to move to or visit a place. In settlements that experience high levels of tourism and high ratios of second home owners to permanent residents, these impacts can be more pronounced.
  • Coastal urbanisation directly impacts infrastructure such as water supply, waste management and disposal, roads, drainage and storm water management systems. It also has implications for the delivery of other services such as lifesaving and the development and implementation of emergency management for events, such as bushfire, storm surge, and flooding.
  • The Victorian Coastal Strategy addresses the issue of population and growth by:
    • Planning and managing for coastal population growth and increased visitation so that impacts do not cause unsustainable use of coastal resources.
    • Balancing growth and visitation with the need to respect the unique values and character of coastal areas and coastal settlements
    • Strengthening community understanding and capacity to respond to future patterns of change, particularly those communities experiencing rapid change.’
  • With foresight and prudent management, the optimal outcome is for human residence and development to have minimal impact on the existing coastal environment. Reducing the footprint of development is vital for the future utilisation of the coast by humans and native species.


Coastal Wetlands

  • Often referred to as swamps, coastal wetlands have historically suffered from inappropriate drainage and development.
  • Victoria has wetlands of international significance, including five Ramsar sites and another 18 wetlands of national importance. These sites are noted for their habitat diversity and high biological productivity. They support abundant wildlife, such as resident and migratory shorebirds, water birds, and fish, and unique wetland vegetation communities, such as saltmarsh, mangroves and reed beds.
  • Coastal wetlands also act as sediment traps, filtering nutrients from catchments and thus protecting rivers and marine areas from excess nutrients and other threatening processes. And they protect our shores from the impacts of floods and wave action.
  • Estuaries connect rivers to the sea and form an important part of coastal wetlands. They are also important breeding and nursery grounds for many marine fish and other aquatic fauna. There are 83 estuaries along the Victorian coast, these include inlets, small bays, brackish rivers and streams and coastal lagoons.
  • Threats to wetlands include invasion by weeds and pests, pollution and salinisation. Wetlands are also exposed to high levels of recreation use as well as agricultural and urbanisation development.
  • Climate change will severely impact coastal wetlands, with changes to river flows from lower rainfall, increasing temperatures, inundation from rising sea levels and increased storm events.


Commercial Fishing

  • Commercial fishing is a major industry in coastal Victoria. It is estimated that over 8000 Victorians find their main source of employment in the fishing and seafood industry, and $180 million of seafood is landed in Victoria every year. On top of this, seafood continues to grow in popularity worldwide.
  • Unfortunately, few human actions have as obvious and measurable an effect on the health of a marine environment as commercial fishing. In bygone times, scientists and economists believed the oceans were an inexhaustible source of fish, and could be harvested without compunction. Nowadays we know that the technology and scale of modern fishing has caught up to, and in many cases overtaken the ability of the environment to sustain fish populations. Indeed, since the time of white settlement, every large edible species in Victoria’s marine environment has shown a profound reduction in both abundance and biomass.
  • Victorian fishing product relies more on high value species such as abalone, or lobster, rather than high tonnage (such as school fish), so it can avoid some environmental impact such as bycatch. But many fish populations are still being harvested an unsustainable rate. It is estimated that only 9 per cent of commercially caught species can tolerate an increased rate of catch. Since the 1950s, rock lobster catch has declined from 2.5kg per pot to 0.5 kg today, and egg production is below acceptable international standard.
  • The Fisheries Act 1995 aims to use fisheries in an ecologically sustainable manner. Enforced fishing licences, catch quotas, restrictions on size weight and species, and seasonal closures of fishing are used in an attempt to harvest fish populations in a sustainable way. This has lead to several changes in operation, such as the Port Philip Bay Scallop fishery closing, due to environmental concerns over dredging used for scallop harvesting.
  • Further efforts to reduce the detrimental impacts of commercial fishing have included protecting larger areas of importance and buying back commercial licenses.



  • Desalination is the process of removing dissolved minerals from seawater, brackish water, or treated wastewater to create drinkable water. It results in the recovery of between 15 and 50 per cent of water, the rest being a waste product known as brine.  A number of technologies, including reverse osmosis, have been developed for desalination.
  • There are several environmental impacts from the desalination process. Desalination plants have high energy requirements and heat and electricity is the main source with large amounts of greenhouse gases being produced in the process.
  • The waste generated by desalination plants and discharged into the sea impacts the marine environment. The chemical and metal content of this waste has the potential to kill marine organisms surrounding the outlet. The brine is highly saline and is usually warmer than the temperature of the sea.
  • Direct impacts on marine life include impingement (being sucked up against screens in the intake area) or entrainment (being sucking into the intake) of marine life. Molluscs, algae, fish, plankton and larvae are susceptible to entrainment. Impinged organisms are mostly juvenile or adult fish.
  • Australia’s largest desalination plant is being built in the Wonthaggi region, in an effort to have a drought-proof drinking water source.  The plant will supply water to Melbourne, Geelong and other parts of Victoria.

Dredging and Channel Deepening

  • Dredging has occurred in waterways for as long as humans have had boats.
  • It involves the excavation of bottom sediments from an area in a waterway and moving them to another area. Dredging is used to keep waterways (bays, rivers, estuaries) navigable. It is also used to replenish sand on beaches following winter storm events. 
  • In Victoria, dredging occurs at different times and in varying frequencies at most major ports, including Portland, Geelong, Melbourne and Port Phillip Bay, Westernport, Port Welshpool and Lakes Entrance.
  • The Great Shipping Channel in the southern area of Port Phillip has been dredged and blasted since the late 19th Century to remove large rocky areas.
  • In 2008, the Port Of Melbourne Authority substantially deepened the channel. The blasting and dredging resulted in residual rubble which was moved by swell and currents into the adjacent canyons, exacerbating erosion and causing ongoing rubble formation and periodic rock falls into the canyon. Significant sponge gardens and their associated communities are found in the canyons and surrounding reefs. They are listed by the Victorian Government as a threatened community under the State’s Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act.
  • Other impacts of dredging include removal of sensitive seagrass habitats and changes to water quality by increasing turbidity (decrease in water clarity) and resuspension of toxic substances into the water during the process of dredging.


Illegal Fishing

  • Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing is a world-wide problem that is difficult to police and manage. It is likely to worsen with increasing demand and the decline of fisheries due to over-fishing and changes to the oceans ecosystems as a result of climate change.
  • There are two main laws that regulate fishing in Victoria’s waters:
    • The ‘Fisheries Act 1995 (Vic) amended to incorporate the Fisheries (Abalone) Act 2005. (The Fisheries Act) ; and
    • Fisheries Regulations 1998 (Vic) and Fisheries Management Act 1991 (Commonwealth)
  • To help recreational fishers to comply with the law, the Department of Primary Industries releases a yearly recreational fishing guide, that outlines the types, size and amounts of fish and shellfish that can be caught, the closing of seasons (e.g. lobster and abalone) and which species are protected (e.g. White Sharks and Seadragons, Seahorses and Pipefish).
  • Recreational fishers can be fined if caught without a current license and/or holding illegal quantities of fish or shellfish. Severe fines are also given to those caught fishing within Marine National Parks and Sanctuaries.
  • The public are able to assist in the protection of marine species by reporting non-compliance to Fisheries. If you suspect illegal fishing activity, you can call the Department of Primary Industries’ fisheries offence reporting line on 13FISH (13 3474).
  • Since the inception of 13FISH (133 474) in 2003, more than 11,692 calls have resulted in:
    • the issuing of 594 Infringement Notices,
    • 102 prosecutions launched,
    • 1557 intelligence reports generated,
    • the seizure of countless pieces of fishing equipment, and a
    • a number of significant investigations undertaken.
  • Most offences between July and September 2009 have been recreational fishing marine related offences.


Introduced Coastal Animals and plants

  • More than 500 fauna and flora species and ecological communities are listed as threatened under Victorian legislation (Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988). Many more are included in DSE’s Threatened Species Advisory Lists (over 250 animals and 1800 plants).
  • Reasons for their decline include the loss, fragmentation and degradation of habitat due to urban development, clearing for agriculture, timber harvesting, weed invasion, inappropriate fire regimes, grazing, climate change, and alteration to flows and temperature regimes in rivers. Competition for resources and predation by introduced species (e.g. fox, cats, rabbits, and trout) has also had a significant effect on many species. Effective management of these processes is required to ensure the survival of threatened species and communities into the future. This management needs to be based on information obtained via ecological research.
  • Invasive plants or animals can pose a serious threat to biodiversity. They contribute to land and water degradation, losses in productivity, and they can significantly impact native flora and fauna populations. Coastal spaces will also lose their distinct Australian character when introduced species replace indigenous species.
  • Coastal weeds such as Bridal Creeper, Boneseed and Blue-bell creeper are all having a serious impact on the distribution of native plant species, competing for nutrients, light and space. They also reduce the available food and habitats available for native animals.
  • Coastal weeds are distributed in a variety of ways, from inappropriate garden plantings, car tyres, shoes, and dumping of waste. Animals such as birds and foxes can transport the seeds of invasive weeds via their stools and fur. Since their new environment lacks natural predators, the plants then spread quickly.
  • Introduced animals such as foxes, cats and rabbits have seriously impact on coastal native species through direct predation, competition for food, and destruction of habitat.


  • The sea is the final destination for all the pollutants, sewage and refuse that we tip into our rivers, sewers and drains. It was once thought the sea was limitless, but we now have Antarctic mammals with toxic residues in their body tissues and plastic refuse can float on ocean currents to the most remote places on earth.
  • Marine pollution has many sources. The impacts on marine life of sewage, litter, agricultural run-off, industrial discharges, and oil spills have been well documented
  • Other sources are less obvious, such as hot water released from power stations, or increased sediment (clay, silt and sand) in the water from erosion or dredging activities. These can be equally damaging to marine species and light or temperature sensitive marine plants.
  • More than 50 per cent of beach litter is now plastics. Fishing nets ropes and plastic packaging all cause problems for our marine species. Plastic is ingested by birds, turtles, fish, and whales, while nets tangle and kill many marine species such as seals, dolphins, and sharks.
  • Oil pollution can be damaging, with large numbers of marine birds, mammals and fish perishing from ingestion and suffocation. Contaminants ingested will eventually kill most species that come into contact with the oil. Studies show that birds that have been caught and cleaned usually die within a year of being released. The long term affects of oil spills are still largely unknown.
  • Oil spills in Australia last 20 years:
    10/07/1995, Iron Baron, Hebe Reef (TAS), 325 tonnes
    28/06/1999, Mobil Refinery, Port Stanvac (SA), 230 tonnes
    26/07/1999, MV Torungen, Varanus Island (WA), 25 tonnes
    03/08/1999, Laura D'Amato, Sydney (NSW), 250 tonnes
    18/12/1999, Sylvan Arrow, Wilson’s Promontory (VIC), <2 tonnes
    02/09/2001, Pax Phoenix, Holbourne Island (QLD), <1000 litres
    25/12/2002, Pacific Quest, Border Island (QLD), >70 km slick
    24/01/2006, Global Peace, Gladstone (QLD), 25 tonnes
    11/03/2009, Pacific Adventurer, Cape Moreton (QLD), 270 tonnes
    21/08/2009, Montara Wellhead, NW Australian coast, approx 64 tonnes per day
    03/04/2010, Shen Neng1, Great Keppel Island QLD, 4 tonnes
    09/01/2012, MV Tycoon, Christmas Island, 102 tonnes


Ports and Harbours

  • Ports and harbours can pose a threat to marine environments. Threatening processes associated with ports include dredging, oil spills, land reclamation and modification of estuarine habitats, pollution, introduction of marine pests and recreational fishing.
  • The principal ports and harbours in Victoria are at Portland, Port Fairy, Warrnambool, Apollo Bay, Melbourne, Geelong, Westernport, Port Welshpool and Lakes Entrance.


Recreational Fishing

  • Recreational fishing in is an important leisure activity for many Victorians, with an estimated 700,000 plus fishers in Victoria. The economic value of recreational fishing is thought to be around $400 million a year. However, studies show recreational fishing can have a significant impact on the marine environment.
  • In Port Phillip Bay, recent research found that boat based recreational fishers (not including shore based fishers) spent 2.7 million hours fishing and caught 2.7 million fish, with estimates of a daily catch rate of 469 tonnes of fish. This compares with a commercial catch rate of 482 tonnes, excluding pilchards/sprat harvests.
  • Our fish stocks and their habitats are under threat from many directions. As well as increasing numbers of fishers with increasingly sophisticated equipment, continued poor land management practices, pollution, and habitat degradation is pushing many fish stocks into decline.
  • We are now entering a decade where we may see the decline of our key recreational fisheries unless we alter the way we value our fish stocks and these environments for future generations.
  • Recreational fishing has a number of other actual or potential impacts that add to the pressure of coastal use. These include mortality of released animals, retention of undersized fish, lost gear, habitat damage, hydrocarbon release by outboard motors and the impacts of fish removals on the wider ecosystem.
  • Research associated with the CSIRO Port Phillip Bay Study (2) has highlighted the impacts of fishing on marine community structure. By comparing trawling surveys in Port Phillip Bay carried out in 1972–75 and 1990–91, accounting for statistical factors, Hobday et al. concluded that:
  • ‘Increased fishing pressure is the most likely explanation for declines in several important commercial and recreational species’.
  • The researchers added:
    ‘The most conspicuous change in the 10 most abundant species was the decline of those that are often taken by commercial or recreational fishers (sand flathead, tiger flathead and, except in the shallow region, yank flathead) and an increase in species (eastern shovelnose stingaree and sparsely spotted stingaree) that are rarely caught’.
  • Professor Leon Zann, author of the State of the Marine Environment Report, is also expressed concern about the impacts of recreational fishing:
    ..‘the lack of public understanding of the principles of fisheries conservation and management has meant that even today, many do not accept that there is any great urgency for action to conserve fish resources. Most individual fishers do not accept that their own activities require control, and even less that they impact on other fisheries’. (3)
  • In 2003 a national survey identified the top 10 fin fish species caught and kept by Victorian recreational fishers between May 2000 and April 2001. These were:
    1. 3.3 million Flathead
    2. 975,000 King George Whiting
    3. 950,000 Redfin Perch (freshwater)
    4. 542,000 Australian Salmon
    5. 507,000 Black Bream
    6. 475,000 Snapper
    7. 345,000 Trout (freshwater)
    8. 328,000 carp (freshwater pest)
    9. 302,000 Mullet
    10. 255,000 Garfish.
  • As well as regulating recreational fisheries, part of the solution to overfishing by recreational fishing lies in the protection of habitats that support fish nursery areas, or have existing high abundances and diversity of fish. Studies from around the world have found significant increases in the number and size of marine life inside protected areas.



Department of Primary Industries/Fisheries/Aquaculture,
Victorian Abalone Divers Association,
VNPA Nature Conservation Review: Marine Conservation Priorities and Issues for Victoria, Matt Edmunds et al, 2010,

Inquiry into development of high technology industries in regional Australia based on bioprospecting. House of Representatives Standing Committee on Primary Industries and Regional Services. August 2001,

Humane Society International,
“AFMA’s Program for addressing Bycatch and Discarding in Commonwealth Fisheries: an Implementation Strategy” 2008
Goldsworthy, S.D., Page B, Shaughnessy, P.D and Linnane A (2010). Mitigating Seal Interactions in the SRLF and the Gillnet Sector SESSF in South Australia. Final Report to the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC), FRDC Project Number: 2007/041. South Australian Research and Development Institute (Aquatic Sciences), Adelaide. SARDI Publication No. F2009/000613-1. SARDI Research Report Series No. 405.
Phillips, K, Giannini, F, Lawrence, E and Bensley, N 2010, Cumulative assessment of the catch of non-target species in Commonwealth fisheries: a scoping study, Bureau of Rural Sciences, Canberra
Australian Wildlife bycatch database:

Climate Change
1. Hobday, A.J., Okey, T.A., Poloczanska, E.S., Kunz, T.J. and Richardson, A.J. 2006, Impacts of Climate Change on Australian Marine Life, CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, Hobart.
2. Edgar, G. J., Samson, C. R. and Barrett, N. S. 2005, ‘Species extinction in the marine environment: Tasmania as a regional example of overlooked losses in biodiversity’ , Conservation Biology, vol. 19 (4), pp. 1294–1300.
3. Farnsworth, E. J., Ellison, A. M. and Gong, W. K., 1996. Elevated CO2 alters anatomy, physiology, growth and reproduction of red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle L.). Oecologia 108: 599-609.
4. Feng M, Meyers G, Pearce A and Wijffels S (2003) Annual and interannual variations of the Leeuwin Current at 32°S. Journal of Geophysical Research 108, 3355.
5. Middleton JF, Arthur C, Van Ruth P, Ward, TM, McClean JL, Maltrud ME, Gill P, Levings A and Middleton S (2007) El Niño effects and upwelling off South Australia. Journal of Physical Oceanography 37, 2458-2477.
6. VNPA Nature Conservation Review: Marine Conservation Priorities and Issues for Victoria.
7. Victorian Coastal Strategy 2008, Victorian Coastal Council.

Coastal Development
Source: Victorian Coastal Strategy, 2008. Victorian Coastal Council
Further Information: VNPA Nature Conservation Review: Marine Conservation Priorities and Issues for Victoria. Edmunds et al. 2010.

Coastal Wetlands
Further information:
Nature Conservation Review – Victorian Marine and Coastal Natural Values pg 29. 2.3.15 and pg 73. Table 4.8, lists threatened wetland habitats.

Commercial Fishing
VNPA Nature Conservation Review: Marine Conservation Priorities and Issues for Victoria. Edmunds, M et al, 2010.

Dredging and Channel Deepening
Further information: VNPA Nature Conservation Review: Marine Conservation Priorities and Issues for Victoria. Edmunds, Matt et al, 2010.

Illegal Fishing
Source: Department of Primary Industries, Fishing and Aquaculture.

Introduced Marine Pests
Department of Sustainability and the Environment,
Further Information: See case study on eradication efforts in Anderson’s Inlet:
VNPA Nature Conservation Review: Marine Conservation Priorities and Issues for Victoria. Edmunds, M et al. 2010.

Marine pathogens

Source of Text: Victoria’s Undersea Treasures Series, Tim Allen. MCCN
Further Information: VNPA Nature Conservation Review: Threats Marine Conservation Priorities and Issues for Victoria. Edmunds, M et al. 2010.

Recreational Fishing
Mesa Website:
1. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) (1998) (on-line). Ecological Effects of Fishing by Brown, S., Auster, P. J., Lauck, L. & Coyne, M. NOAA’s State of the Coast Report. Silver Spring, MD.
2. Coutin, P., Conron, S. & MacDonald, M. (1995). The daytime recreational fishery in Port Phillip Bay 1989-1994, Victorian Fisheries Research Institute, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Queenscliff.
3. Conron, S. & Coutin, P. (1998). The recreational snapper catch from Port Phillip Bay: a pilot survey of the boat-based fishery 1994/1995, Marine and Freshwater Institute, Internal Report No. 11, MAFRI, Queenscliff.
4. Hobday, D., Officer, R. & Parry, G. (1999). Changes to demersal fish communities in Port Phillip Bay, Australia, over two decades 1970-1991. Mar. Freshwater Res., Vol. 50, pp.397-407.
Zann, L.P. (1995). Our sea, our future: The State of the Marine Environment Report for Australia. Department of Environment, Sport and Territories, Commonwealth of Australia.
VNPA Nature Conservation Review: Marine Conservation Priorities and Issues for Victoria. Edmunds, M et al. 2010.