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.

Our report shines a light on the condition of birds, marine mammals, invertebrates on intertidal and subtidal reefs, coastal vegetation and fish.

Birds

We noted declines in the abundance and diversity of some marine and coastal waterbirds and migratory shorebirds, particularly shorebirds which migrate across the equator. This is likely due to habitat loss on their journey in east Asia, particularly the Yellow Sea between mainland China and the Korean Peninsula.

Australian fur seals

Health of Australian fur seal colonies can indicate trends in the general health of the marine environment. For example, we can learn about the presence of marine toxicants by taking samples from recently deceased seals. Colonies at Cape Bridgewater, Chinaman’s Hat, Phillip Island and Wilsons Promontory are major tourist assets. About 20,000 to 30,000 Australian fur seals live in the Seal Rocks colony at the western entrance to Western Port.

Seagull and fur seal on Kanowna Island, Wilsons Promontory Marine National Park
Image credit - Michael Sale

Dolphins

A stable population of about 100 dolphins lives in Port Phillip Bay. Western Port has a small but stable population of 20 dolphins. A population of between 60 to 100 dolphins also lives in the Gippsland Lakes. However, their numbers have recently declined. This is due to skin infections observed on several dolphins that have been linked with the bushfires in the region during 2019-20. 

Dolphins in Port Phillip Bay
Image credit - Parks Victoria

Little penguins

Little penguins continue to thrive on Phillip Island and around the St Kilda breakwater area. Little penguin numbers on Phillip Island are estimated to be 32,000 while numbers at St Kilda are estimated at 1,400.

Phillip Island’s little penguins (Eudyptula minor)
Image credit - Phillip Island Nature Park

Macroinvertebrates

Macroinvertebrates are animals lacking a backbone and large enough to see without a microscope. Parks Victoria studied macroinvertebrates in Point Addis Marine National Park, which is a Marine Protected Area. They found consistent declines of blacklip abalone and turban shell over the last 15 years. Their research also suggests the Point Addis Marine National Park is providing a haven for the southern rock lobster to flourish.

Coastal ecosystems

Our report shines a light on the health of coastal ecosystems. A dedicated indicator focuses on conservation of coastal ecosystems in protected areas.  We know that the protection levels for coastal ecological vegetation classes (EVC) vary. EVCs are the standard unit for classifying vegetation types in Victoria. Parks Victoria manages around 70% of the Victorian coast as national and state parks or coastal reserves. Analysis indicates that several coastal EVCs have limited data coverage in protected areas.

Anemone

Coastal vegetation

Mangroves and saltmarsh are intertidal communities of plants that grow on the foreshores of estuaries and coastal lakes. These plants are adapted to salty conditions which most other vegetation cannot tolerate. Our report looks at their extent and how this has changed since European settlement. We rated the status of mangroves in Port Phillip Bay, Western Port and Corner Inlet and Nooramunga as good. Saltmarsh was rated as good in Western Port and Nooramunga Islands specifically. Corner Inlet and Nooramunga, Port Phillip Bay and Gippsland Lakes received a rating of fair.

Our report also presents findings on the condition of wetland and estuarine vegetation beyond those covered as standalone indicators. Port Phillip Bay and Corner Inlet and Nooramunga received a rating of fair while Western Port received a rating of good. In Gippsland Lakes, estuarine flora condition is rated as good. Wetland habitat extent received a rating of fair while the condition of paperbark-dominated wetlands is rated as poor.

Commercially and recreationally important fish and invertebrates

Black bream and dusky flathead have both been rated as having a poor status in the Gippsland Lakes. The recreational fishery for adult snapper in Port Phillip Bay is considered sustainable at its current level. However, there is a declining trend in the recreational fishery for adult snapper in Western Port. Recent strong recruitment in Port Phillip Bay is expected to reverse any declining biomass trends. Recruitment is the process of very young, small fish surviving to become older, larger fish. This will improve fishery performance in Port Phillip Bay and Western Port over the next five to ten years. King George whiting is expected to remain sustainable in Port Phillip Bay, Western Port and Corner Inlet. The status of blacklip abalone has been assessed as poor at a statewide scale.

Seastar (Uniophora granifera)
Image credit - Julian Finn, Museum Victoria

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 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.

The biodiversity indicators assessed include Conservation of coastal ecosystems in protected areas; Saltmarsh; Mangroves; Other coastal, wetland, and estuarine vegetation; Species of conservation concern; Mobile invertebrates on intertidal reefs; Sessile invertebrates on intertidal reefs; Invertebrates on subtidal reefs; Commercially and recreationally important invertebrates; Commercially and recreationally important fish; Subtidal reef fish; Diadromous fish; Marine and coastal waterbirds; Migratory shorebirds; Piscivorous (fish-eating) birds; Little penguins; and Marine Mammals.

Theme: Biodiversity
2021 Indicator: 15 Conservation of coastal ecosystems in protected areas
LOCATION
STATUS
TREND
DATA

Statewide

STATUS

Fair

TREND

Unclear

DATA

Low

Data source: Parks Victoria

2021 Indicator: 16 Saltmarsh
LOCATION
STATUS
TREND
DATA

Gippsland Lakes

STATUS

Fair

TREND

Unclear

DATA

Moderate

Corner Inlet and Nooramunga

Nooramunga Islands

STATUS

Good

TREND

Stable

DATA

Moderate

Corner Inlet and Nooramunga

STATUS

Fair

TREND

Stable

DATA

Moderate

Western Port

STATUS

Good

TREND

Stable

DATA

Moderate

Port Phillip Bay

STATUS

Fair

TREND

Stable

DATA

Moderate

Data source: DELWP, Academic researchers

2021 Indicator: 17 Mangroves
LOCATION
STATUS
TREND
DATA

Corner Inlet and Nooramunga

STATUS

Good

TREND

Stable

DATA

Moderate

Port Phillip Bay

STATUS

Good

TREND

Unclear

DATA

Moderate

Data source: Academic researchers, DELWP

2021 Indicator: 18 Other coastal, wetland and estuarine vegetation
LOCATION
STATUS
TREND
DATA

Statewide

STATUS

Good

TREND

Unclear

DATA

High

Gippsland Lakes

Estuarine flora

STATUS

Good

TREND

Unclear

DATA

High

Gippsland Lakes

Wetland Habitiat Extent

STATUS

Fair

TREND

Unclear

DATA

Moderate

Gippsland Lakes

Condition of Paperbark dominated wetlands

STATUS

Poor

TREND

Unclear

DATA

Moderate

Corner Inlet and Nooramunga

STATUS

Fair

TREND

Unclear

DATA

High

Western Port

STATUS

Good

TREND

Unclear

DATA

Moderate

Port Phillip Bay

STATUS

Fair

TREND

Unclear

DATA

High

Data source: DELWP, Academic researchers

2021 Indicator: 19 Species of conservation concern
LOCATION
STATUS
TREND
DATA

Statewide

STATUS

Unknown

TREND

Unclear

DATA

Insufficient Evidence To Assess

Gippsland Lakes

STATUS

Unknown

TREND

Unclear

DATA

Insufficient Evidence To Assess

Corner Inlet and Nooramunga

STATUS

Unknown

TREND

Unclear

DATA

Insufficient Evidence To Assess

Western Port

STATUS

Unknown

TREND

Unclear

DATA

Insufficient Evidence To Assess

Port Phillip Bay

STATUS

Unknown

TREND

Unclear

DATA

Insufficient Evidence To Assess

Data source: Victorian Biodiversity Atlas

2021 Indicator: 20 Mobile invertebrates on intertidal reefs
LOCATION
STATUS
TREND
DATA

OMPA (other marine protected areas)

STATUS

Good

TREND

Stable

DATA

Low

Port Phillip Bay

STATUS

Good

TREND

Stable

DATA

Low

Data source: Parks Victoria

2021 Indicator: 21 Sessile invertebrates on intertidal reefs
LOCATION
STATUS
TREND
DATA

OMPA (other marine protected areas)

STATUS

Good

TREND

Stable

DATA

Low

Port Phillip Bay

STATUS

Good

TREND

Stable

DATA

Low

Data source: Parks Victoria

2021 Indicator: 22 Invertebrates on subtidal reefs
LOCATION
STATUS
TREND
DATA

OMPA (other marine protected areas)

STATUS

Good

TREND

Unclear

DATA

Moderate

Port Phillip Bay

(North)

STATUS

Fair

TREND

Improving

DATA

Moderate

Port Phillip Bay

(South)

STATUS

Fair

TREND

Stable

DATA

Moderate

Data source: Parks Victoria, Reel Life Surveys

2021 Indicator: 23 Commercially and recreationally important invertebrates
LOCATION
STATUS
TREND
DATA

Statewide

Southern calamari

STATUS

Good

TREND

Stable

DATA

High

Statewide

Maori octopus

STATUS

Good

TREND

Stable

DATA

Moderate

Statewide

Southern rock lobster

STATUS

Fair

TREND

Stable

DATA

High

Statewide

Blacklip abalone

STATUS

Poor

TREND

Deteriorating

DATA

Moderate

Statewide

Pipi

STATUS

Unknown

TREND

Unclear

DATA

Low

Statewide

Greenlip abalone

STATUS

Unknown

TREND

Unclear

DATA

Low

Port Phillip Bay

Commercial scallop

STATUS

Good

TREND

Stable

DATA

Moderate

Port Phillip Bay

Short-spined sea urchin

STATUS

Good

TREND

Stable

DATA

Moderate

Data source: Victorian Fisheries Authority

2021 Indicator: 24 Commercially and recreationally important fish
LOCATION
STATUS
TREND
DATA

Statewide

Bluethroat and purple wrasse

STATUS

Good

TREND

Stable

DATA

Moderate

Gippsland Lakes

Black bream

STATUS

Poor

TREND

Deteriorating

DATA

High

Gippsland Lakes

Dusky flathead

STATUS

Poor

TREND

Stable

DATA

High

Corner Inlet and Nooramunga

King George whiting

STATUS

Fair

TREND

Stable

DATA

High

Corner Inlet and Nooramunga

Rock flathead

STATUS

Fair

TREND

Deteriorating

DATA

High

Western Port

Snapper

STATUS

Fair

TREND

Deteriorating

DATA

High

Western Port

King George whiting

STATUS

Fair

TREND

Stable

DATA

Moderate

Port Phillip Bay

King George whiting

STATUS

Fair

TREND

Improving

DATA

High

Port Phillip Bay

Southern sand flathead

STATUS

Poor

TREND

Stable

DATA

Moderate

Port Phillip Bay

Snapper

STATUS

Fair

TREND

Stable

DATA

High

Data source: Victorian Fisheries Authority

2021 Indicator: 25 Subtidal reef fish
LOCATION
STATUS
TREND
DATA

OMPA (other marine protected areas)

STATUS

Good

TREND

Stable

DATA

Moderate

Port Phillip Bay

(North)

STATUS

Fair

TREND

Deteriorating

DATA

High

Port Phillip Bay

(South)

STATUS

Good

TREND

Stable

DATA

High

Data source: Parks Victoria, Reel Life Surveys, ReefWatch

2021 Indicator: 26 Diadromous fish
LOCATION
STATUS
TREND
DATA

Statewide

STATUS

Unknown

TREND

Unclear

DATA

Insufficient Evidence To Assess

Gippsland Lakes

STATUS

Narrative

TREND

Narrative

DATA

Narrative

Western Port

STATUS

Narrative

TREND

Narrative

DATA

Narrative

Port Phillip Bay

STATUS

Narrative

TREND

Narrative

DATA

Narrative

Data source: Academic researchers, DELWP, Melbourne Water

2021 Indicator: 27 Marine and coastal waterbirds
LOCATION
STATUS
TREND
DATA

Gippsland Lakes

STATUS

Fair

TREND

Unclear

DATA

Moderate

Corner Inlet and Nooramunga

STATUS

Fair

TREND

Stable

DATA

Moderate

Western Port

STATUS

Fair

TREND

Deteriorating

DATA

High

Port Phillip Bay

STATUS

Fair

TREND

Stable

DATA

Moderate

Data source: BirdLife Australia, Academic researchers, DELWP, Melbourne Water

2021 Indicator: 28 Migratory shorebirds
LOCATION
STATUS
TREND
DATA

Gippsland Lakes

STATUS

Fair

TREND

Unclear

DATA

Moderate

Corner Inlet and Nooramunga

STATUS

Fair

TREND

Deteriorating

DATA

Moderate

Western Port

STATUS

Fair

TREND

Deteriorating

DATA

High

Port Phillip Bay

STATUS

Fair

TREND

Deteriorating

DATA

Moderate

Data source: BirdLife Australia, Academic researchers, Melbourne Water, DELWP

2021 Indicator: 29 Piscivorous (fish-eating) birds
LOCATION
STATUS
TREND
DATA

Corner Inlet and Nooramunga

STATUS

Good

TREND

Improving

DATA

Moderate

Western Port

STATUS

Fair

TREND

Deteriorating

DATA

Moderate

Port Phillip Bay

STATUS

Good

TREND

Stable

DATA

Moderate

Data source: BirdLife Australia, Academic researchers, DELWP, Melbourne Water

2021 Indicator: 30 Little penguins
LOCATION
STATUS
TREND
DATA

Western Port

STATUS

Good

TREND

Improving

DATA

High

Port Phillip Bay

STATUS

Good

TREND

Improving

DATA

Moderate

Data source: Earthcare St Kilda, Phillip Island Nature Parks

2021 Indicator: 31 Marine Mammals
LOCATION
STATUS
TREND
DATA

Gippsland Lakes

Dolphins

STATUS

Poor

TREND

Deteriorating

DATA

High

Western Port

Seals

STATUS

Poor

TREND

Deteriorating

DATA

High

Western Port

Dolphins

STATUS

Poor

TREND

Stable

DATA

Moderate

Port Phillip Bay

Dolphins

STATUS

Fair

TREND

Stable

DATA

High

Data source: Dolphin Research Institute, Marine Mammal Foundation, Phillip Island Nature Parks, Academic researchers