The southern coast of Australia supports over 12,000 species of plants and animals, with 80% unique to the region. The Victorian coast contains around 120 bays, inlets and estuaries, ranging in area from 1 to 2,000 kilometres, is home to a growing proportion of the Victorian population and attracts more visitors than any other area of the state.

The health of coasts and estuaries is strongly influenced by the condition and management of Victoria’s land and inland waters, and provides important social and economic benefits for Victorians. These include recreation and tourism, commercial fisheries, oil and gas extraction, and ports and trade activity.

A number of pressures can impact on biodiversity and ecosystem health, including coastal modification, pollutants from catchments, litter, changes to natural river flows, introduced species, commercial shipping, recreational boating and port activity.

The most recent coastal monitoring results were included in the 2013 State of the Environment report, and key findings are set out below.

Coastal biodiversity

  • According to the Advisory List of Threatened Vertebrate Fauna in Victoria (2013):
    • six species of marine and coastal fauna are critically endangered,
    • nine are endangered,
    • 19 are vulnerable,
    • 13 are near-threatened, and
    • data was deficient for four species.
  • Between 2007 and 2013, six marine and coastal bird species declined in status and two bird species were added to the Advisory List because of decreasing populations.
  • Only one species improved its threatened status over the period.
  • Marine and coastal ecosystems are under increased threat from invasive species.

Coastal water quality

  • Monitoring by EPA Victoria indicates that Victoria generally has good marine and coastal water quality.
  • Estuarine and bay systems such as Port Phillip Bay, Western Port and the Gippsland Lakes are subject to reduced water quality, which usually occurs after extreme weather events when high pollutant levels are discharged from rivers and drains. In the past, this has resulted in algal blooms, high turbidity, fish kills and elevated bacteria levels.

Mapped chlorophyll-a across Gippsland Lakes in February 2012
Source: EPA

 

  • During the 1996–2009 drought, salinity concentrations in Port Phillip Bay exceeded neighbouring ocean levels in Bass Strait. 

Conservation of coastal areas

  • Victoria’s 13 marine national parks and 11 marine sanctuaries protect around 5.3% of its marine and coastal waters.
  • There are 75,000 hectares of coastal parks and reserves in Victoria. 96% of coastal land is on public land.
  • Coastal land remains threatened by urbanisation. Victoria has consistently had the second-highest percentage of urbanised coastline after New South Wales.

Main image: Hadi Zaher