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Bridgewater Bay

The coast between Discovery Bay and Portland is a unique and important area of Victoria. It has an interesting and rich array of sea-life amongst the reefs and rocks, from kelp, sponges and microscopic organisms to Australian fur seals, little penguins and blue whales.

What are the key natural features of this area?

  • The constant pounding of the cold, wild waters of the Southern Ocean and the Bonney Upwelling increase primary productivity and so have a major influence on marine habitats and species in this area.
  • Discovery Bay, with its adjoining dune and dune lake system, encompasses intertidal, nearshore and deep reef habitats. Calcarenite reefs are covered with thick growths of sponges, ascidians, bryozoans and gorgonians, while basaltic reefs in the area are covered by large kelps that are a home for a range of marine organisms.
  • Around Cape Nelson, a coastal mallee scrub habitat unique to the region is dominated by the Coast or Soap Mallee (Eucalyptus diversifolia). There are important subtidal reef habitats and organisms offshore at Cape Nelson.
  • The waters surrounding the volcanic Lawrence Rocks at Portland support spectacular kelp forests, fish and other marine organisms and attract divers from across the state. The rocks are the highest offshore point of a largely submerged volcanic caldera beneath Nelson Bay.
  • Bays and estuaries in this region support important sheltered seagrass and sandflat habitats, and ecologically significant wetlands.
  • Sediment beds and seagrass are habitats for a range of marine organisms and support important recreational and commercial fish species. They also contribute to nutrient cycling and water quality in marine ecosystems, help regulate climate and atmospheric conditions, can help control erosion; and provide opportunities for recreation, education and research.
  • The diverse sea-life in this area derives in part from cold nutrient-rich water sucked up to the surface by offshore winds and currents during summer. This water encourages the growth of microscopic plants and animals, a feast for fish and seafloor life.
  • Discovery Bay has rock lobster and abalone populations and habitat and is known for visitation by Blue Whales and Great White Sharks. Deeper reefs support a variety of red and brown algae and a range of ascidians, bryozoans and gorgonians.
  • Bridgewater Bay contains sandflats and Heterozostera seagrass that are important habitats for many species of fish, crustaceans (including the listed Southern Hooded Shrimp) and other marine animals.
  • Bridgewater Bay is one of only two mainland Australian Fur-seal colonies. A small number of New Zealand fur seals are also reported to come ashore here.
  • Lawrence Rocks supports the largest colony of gannets in Australia, as well as breeding colonies of other seabirds. Species that use the area include the Little Penguin, Fairy Prion, and Common Diving Petrel.

Marine Protected Areas

Discovery Bay Marine National Park