Week 8: Information series for the State of the Marine and Coastal Environment 2021 Report

The Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability is exploring the themes from Victoria’s first State of the Marine and Coastal Environment 2021 Report, over nine weeks.

In our penultimate week of the information series, we cover biodiversity in Victoria’s marine and coastal environment. Biodiversity is the variety of all life forms on the planet, across sea and land. Victoria's biodiversity provides the foundations of healthy ecosystems, such as clean air and water.

The SMCE 2021 report shines a light on the health of our marine and coastal environments to inform management and investment in marine and coastal science. It reinforces the need for a catchment to reefs approach to our policy and program interventions to protect and improve Victoria’s coastal and marine environments.

Dr Gillian Sparkes AM states, “Victoria’s marine and coastal environments are home to more than 12,000 plant and animal species, many not found anywhere else in the world. It is critical that we understand the impact we all have on biodiversity, on and offshore”.

The report includes 17 biodiversity indicator assessments and identifies a range of findings related to biodiversity in Victoria’s marine and coastal environments.

Some key findings include:

  • The main declines in the bird indicators were among trans-equatorial migratory shorebirds. This is likely due to habitat loss on their migratory flyways in east Asia, particularly over the Yellow Sea. 
  • Little penguins continue to thrive on Phillip Island and around the St Kilda breakwater. There are about 32,000 on Phillip Island and 1,400 at St Kilda. 
  • There is a stable population of approximately 100 dolphins in Port Phillip Bay Western Port has a small but stable resident population of 20 dolphins. 
  • There is also a population of between 60 and 100 dolphins living in the Gippsland Lakes. Unfortunately, there has been significant mortality recently, linked with severe bushfire effects. 
  • The health of Australian fur seals can indicate trends in the general health of the marine environment. There are 20,000 to 30,000 at the Seal Rocks colony in Western Port. 

A few important stories emerged on fish and invertebrates: 

  • Black bream and dusky flathead have both been rated as having a poor status in the Gippsland Lakes. 
  • Blacklip abalone has been assessed as poor, with a deteriorating trend. 
  • Southern sand flathead has been assessed as poor in Port Phillip Bay, an unchanged status from State of the Bays 2016. 
  • There is a declining trend in the recreational fishery for adult snapper in Western Port. However, strong recruitment of snapper in Port Phillip Bay is expected to lead to improved fishery performance in Western Port over the next 5 to 10 years.
  • King George whiting is expected to remain sustainable in Port Phillip Bay, Western Port and Corner Inlet. 
  • Abundance and biomass of southern rock lobsters outside the Point Addis Marine National Park increased closer to the park. This suggests that the park may be increasing the supply of lobsters to surrounding waters.

Dr Sparkes said, “In addition to the State of the Marine and Coastal Environment 2021 Report, Victoria's State of the Environment Biodiversity Update 2021 Report, was released in December 2021 and provides a sobering update on the health of Victoria’s biodiversity following the 2019-20 bushfires and ahead of the Victorian State of the Environment 2023 Report”.

View our marine and coastal environment case studies

  • Once on the brink of ceasing to exist, Phillip Island’s little penguin colony is today the largest in the world. Learn more about the island’s conservation history and how the colony is faring today.
  • Phillip Island also hosts one of the world's largest colonies of short-tailed shearwaters. Learn about how research and practical conservation initiatives are helping protect the shearwaters from light pollution. 
  • Mornington Peninsula National Park is an important breeding habitat for the threatened species of beach nesting bird, the hooded plover. Discover what’s being done along the coast to preserve their breeding habitat.
  • The southern rock lobster is one of the species which calls Point Addis Marine National Park home. Find out more about Deakin University and Parks Victoria’s comprehensive monitoring of this Marine Protected Area.

Next week is the final week of our State of the Marine and Coastal Environment 2021 Report information series, and the theme is ‘Stewardship and communities’.

Type: Campaign
Category: Biodiversity
Tags: Environment