Victoria became a world leader for marine conservation in 2002, when it established a system of highly-protected national marine parks and sanctuaries.
Why are Victoria’s Marine Parks important?
Victoria’s marine heritage is unique, with over 80% of all marine plants and animals in southern Australian waters being found nowhere else on Earth. This is partly due to its extensive south-facing coastline which is washed by cold Antarctic currents in the west and warm tropical currents in the east.
Victoria’s marine areas include rocky reefs, sponge gardens, towering kelp forests, sandy seafloors, seagrass meadows, mangroves and saltmarsh. This variety of ecosystems along a south facing coastline is complemented by a very high level of species diversity.
The state is also recognised for its wild rocky headlands, long white beaches and subtidal rocky reefs. It also has extensive seagrass meadows which blanket its bays and inlets, providing critical food and habitat for wonderful wildlife such as the weedy seadragon, Victoria’s marine state emblem.
The state has over 12,000 recognised marine plants and animals, and is well known for its Australian fur seals, southern right whales and one of Australia’s largest colonies of little penguins.
Key areas of the Victorian Marine Parks estate
Victoria’s network of marine national parks and sanctuaries stretches across the state coastline, and each protecting portions of the diverse array of habitats and bioregions. In total, there are 24 marine parks and sanctuaries, complemented by a small collection of marine reserves. Despite the appropriate protection these parks offer to Victoria’s stunning marine environment, only 5% of coastal waters are fully protected by high-level protection zoning.
Discovery Bay Marine National Park
A rather exposed piece of western Victoria’s coast, the Discovery Bay Marine National Park experiences high-level wave and current activity, and is well known for whale watching, including endangered blue whales that regularly pass through the area when the Bonney Upwelling is most active. The park has a high diversity of intertidal and shallow subtidal invertebrates, including abalone and rock lobster. Various shark species frequent the area, with a seal colony at the base of Cape Bridgewater – the highest coastal cliff in Victoria.
Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park
Six separate marine areas are included in Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park, located at the southern end of Port Phillip Bay. The Ramsar areas and seagrass meadows at Swan Bay, Popes Eye, intertidal platforms at Point Lonsdale, the Mud Islands, and Portsea Hole, are all protected within the park, encompassing a variety of rich natural, cultural and recreational values.
Wilsons Promontory Marine National Park
This is Victoria’s largest marine national park, abutting Wilsons Promontory National Park. It’s also where two of Victoria’s marine bioregions, the Flinders and Two Fold Shelf bioregions meet, being a the distribution limit for a number of species. The park encompasses sheltered bays and open, wind-and-wave lashed coastline, sea grass beds, granite cliffs, and vibrant sponge forests deep below the surface. Scattered throughout the park are granite islands, some home to Australian fur-seals, penguins and seabirds. Kanowna Island is one of four fur-seal breeding colonies in Victoria.