Friends support sea research

Friends of Point Addis (FoPA) volunteers are working with Parks Victoria to monitor the health of marine national parks as part of a state-wide coastal data collection project.

The Sea Search program is a Parks Victoria initiative which sees local volunteer groups conduct research into marine wildlife populations and environmental processes in marine protected areas.

Counting the number of algae and invertebrate species, particularly sea snails, has been FoPA’s main focus since becoming involved in the program.

Parks Victoria’s Sea Search program is an initiative which sees local volunteer groups conduct research into marine wildlife populations and environmental processes in marine protected areas. Photo: Luka-Lesosky Hay

Parks Victoria Ranger Peter Hayes hopes the data collected will be used to support efforts to tackle environmental threats and to encourage others to take responsibility for their coastline.

“The information we gather will help us to identify the number of different species, especially algae and invertebrates, in the area and to monitor their health,” he said.

Pest species are also identified, with information collected used to assist in the prevention of outbreaks and reduction of threats.

“We are also tracking a number of invasive species with particular focus on the Northern Pacific sea star and Japanese Kelp,” said Mr. Hayes.

FoPA President Bronwyn Spark said the ongoing program will provide reliable data about the number of species local to Point Addis and how to protect them.

“The data we collect will tell us what is living in our backyard and will be reported back to the community.

“The project has provided FoPA with more information than ever before about the variety of species in the area,” she said.

“The program’s ongoing nature results in a good snapshot of the health of the area and helps us to identify if a trend is seasonal or long term,” said Mr. Hayes.

Parks Victoria provides an experienced ranger and equipment to support volunteers as they conduct the comprehensive research.

“Sea Search is about getting people in the marine sanctuaries, discovering what is there, teaching people to identify the different species and helping educate others,” Mr Hayes said.

More information on the program is available at Parks Victoria.

To learn more about the Friends of Point Addis and other environmental volunteer groups operating across our region, visit

Have you thought of volunteering? Visit our website for more information.

Simple steps can halt plant killer

Participants in a recent local workshop on Phytophthora Dieback which threatens the Surf Coast’s bushland were shocked to learn that the water mould that rots the roots of plants is much tougher than at first thought.

Friends of Point Addis form a boot spraying conga line at a recent workshop. Photo: MELANIE WRIGHT

Dr Jane Allardyce of Deakin University told 25 people at the Friends of Point Addis workshop that the mould spreads by moving through water and moist soil but it can survive for six to eight years in leaf litter and dry soils up to three metres deep.

Research has shown that Phytophthora (pronounced Fy-toff-thora) Dieback can attack more than a quarter of taller plant species and between half and three-quarters of low-growing flowering plants, just the sort of plants that make the Surf Coast’s bushland and heathland so beautiful.

The plants most at risk in the Surf Coast are the ancient grasstrees, Coastal banksias and Horny conebush.

But home gardens, in which the beauty comes from non-native species, are equally in peril. Among susceptible plants are apple, peach and apricot trees, grapevines, camellias, azaleas, roses, proteas and rhododendrons.

Healthy Grass Trees won’t stay green for long with infected neighbours nearby.

It is in everyone’s interest to minimise the spread of the disease and workshop participants learned some simple precautions they could take including:

  • Anyone walking or riding bikes in bushland should start the trip with clean footwear, camping gear, bike frames and tyres and avoid walking or riding in puddles.
  • Carry a spray bottle containing 70 per cent methylated spirits and 30 per cent water and a small brush to clean and disinfect footwear, gear and tyres before leaving a diseased area. Horse-riders should treat their horses’ hooves as if they were boots.
  • Stick to formed tracks and avoid walking or riding in wet or muddy conditions if at all possible.
  • Use wash-down stations if they are provided.

Gardeners can take extra precautions to safeguard their gardens including:

  • Never taking plants, soil, gravel or bush litter from bushland.
  • Mulch should be properly sterilised and plants sourced from reputable nurseries.
  • Using clean and sterilise equipment and tools with 70/30 methylated spirits and water, which is good garden hygiene even if Phytophthora Dieback isn’t present.

How do we know where the killer is lurking?

Workshop participants learned to assume the worst and to always use the hygiene precautions when enjoying Surf Coast bushland.

Weeds are also threatening flora on the Surf Coast: For more information read Identifying the enemies and What is an environmental weed? 

Related blog post: 

Dieback fight back – protect plant-life on our coast
Weed Profile: Boneseed
Weeding out coastal invaders

Dieback fight back – protect plant-life on our coast

It takes a mere few months for beautiful native plants to become infected and killed by the root-rot fungus known as Phytophthora Dieback.

Healthy Grass Trees won’t stay green for long with infected neighbours nearby

What is the effect of the root-rot fungus?

The root-rot fungus works by spreading through moist soil and quickly infecting and killing a number of native plants – from the well-known ‘Grass Trees’ particularly prevalent in the Great Otway National Park, to coastal Banksias and even large trees.

How does the disease spread?

If you have walked through the Great Otway National Park, you probably would have come across easily recognizable Grass Trees.  The effect of the fungus on these Grass Trees, as well as other plant, is also recognizable. From beautiful blue-green fronds to tangled brown in just a few months – the rapid effect is devastating.

What is being done about it?

The Friends of Point Addis together with the Victorian National Parks Association and Deakin University are currently monitoring the Grass Trees in Ironbark Basin.

Parks Victoria have set up stands for brushing and washing shoes and bike tyres around the Ironbark Basin area.

How can you get involved?

The Friends of Point Addis are this month holding an information session for any concerned locals, landowners and visitors to learn more about the disease and what they can do to help stop the spread of disease.

Register to attend the workshop by emailing ( or calling Bronwyn Spark on 5263 2224. Then come on down to the Ironbark Basin car park off Point Addis Rd Saturday July 21 to learn more in the free Workshop.

Remember – we all need to pull together to stop the fungus from infecting our native flora!

This story featured in the Surf Coast Time’s fortnightly Green the Coast Column.

Do you have any more ideas about how we can protect our native flora and fauna? Let us know!

Who let the cats out?

They may seem like friendly members of the family but cats can be ferocious hunters and a threat to native animals.

Cats on the Surf Coast are endangering native wildlife, which is why it’s so important that owners keep their pets inside at night.

President of local environmental volunteer group, Friends of Point Addis Marine National Park, Bronwyn Spark says that people need to keep an eye on their cats, especially at night.

The Surf Coast Shire imposes a curfew for cats between 8pm and 6am to help reduce the number of attacks on native animals, such as this unfortunate galah.

“As native marsupials are nocturnal most people don’t realise cats are threatening them.

“Cats are problematic because you can’t see them and they threaten bird nests and small native animals,” she said.

Have you seen any feral cats in your neighbourhood?

Great Ocean Road Coast Committee Coastal Reserves Manager Mike Bodsworth says the coast’s unique native wildlife is under threat on a number of fronts.

From cats and foxes to litter and road traffic our coast is a minefield of dangers for local wildlife.

“From cats and foxes to litter and road traffic our coast is a minefield of dangers for local wildlife.

“It doesn’t take much to help to minimise such threats so that our native animals have the best chance of survival, and keeping your cat indoors is just one of the ways you can help,” he said.

For more information about threatend species on the Surf Coast click here

The Surf Coast Shire has implemented a ‘cat curfew’ to reduce the impact feral cats are having on native animals.

Under the curfew cats must be confined to the owner’s premises between 8pm and 6am daily.

To read about the Surf Coast Shire’s cat curfew click here

The council can seize cats found roaming in any public area or outside their owner’s property in this period and cats seized and not reclaimed within eight days may be destroyed.

Surf Coast Shire Mayor Brian McKiterick says its important owners register their cats.

It is particularly important that all cats are registered and are confined during the curfew hours; for their welfare and for the sake of native wildlife.

“It is particularly important that all cats are registered and are confined during the curfew hours; for their welfare and for the sake of native wildlife.

“Cats that are allowed to roam at night can have huge impacts on our environment and are also in much greater danger of being lost or hit by a car.  I urge people to be responsible and look after their pets,” he said.

Under the Domestic Animal Act the owner of a cat found at large can be fined $100 for the offence and up to $300 for further infringements.

Click here to check out the Australian Government’s fact sheet on feral cats.

For more information about the cat curfew or if you notice any lost or feral cats in your neighbourhood contact the Surf Coast Shire ph: (03) 5261 0600, or visit their website

 For more information on how you can protect native wildlife on the coast, visit

This column appeared in the Surf Coast Times fortnightly Green the Coast Column.

Do you have any suggestions about how we can reduce the number of feral cats on the Surf Coast?

We’d love to hear from you!

Protecting spectacular Point Addis

Stand at Point Addis and look east to Port Phillip Heads in the distance. Gaze west along the coast to the Split Point lighthouse at Aireys Inlet. Look across the southern ocean and glimpse gannets diving or swallows swooping past the cliff face.

Spectacular Point Addis and the Ironbark Basin are fairly new additions to the Great Otway National Park but they have been important to people for thousands of years.

The importance of the area is evidenced by the middens that have been found in the Basin.  Middens are the remains of meals of shellfish once gathered and eaten by Aboriginal people.  These middens show that the Wathaurong people feasted on the sea bounty available here thousands of years ago.

Unfortunately the area’s more recent popularity has put increasing pressure on this fragile but beautiful and diverse environment, already scoured by wind and wave. Some older locals remember driving their cars onto Addiscott beach to go surfing and swimming although fortunately beach access is now only by foot on a new boardwalk and steps.

The work of volunteers in the area has become integral to its wellbeing. The Friends of Point Addis (FOPA) formed around the time that Point Addis became a Marine National Park in late 2002. Under the passionate guidance of Lynne Flakemore, the group embarked on cliff top revegetation, intertidal monitoring of the shore species, film nights and disseminating information to the public.

In the past two years, FOPA have worked closely with Parks Victoria which now manages the Ironbark Basin and Point Addis. Rip Curl and Quicksilver have also given invaluable support to the group.

Working bees have included a ‘Boneseed Blitz in the Basin’, weed eradication, plantings of indigenous species on degraded areas, mulching and fencing to protect against rabbits.

Members have also been on “rock pool rambles” and participated in the Great Victorian Fish Count to assist in monitoring marine species at the Jarosite Reef at the eastern end of Addiscott Beach.

Warning to visitors: stop the spread of Phytophthora cinnamomi!

The group has turned its attention to the dangers posed by Phytophthora or Cinnamon Fungus as it was once commonly referred to.  The FOPA is calling for all visitors to the area to be aware of the damage caused by the Phytophthora which can be spread by walkers and bike-riders. You can avoid the spread of this disease by sticking to the designated track signs and keeping their dogs on a lead.

An invitation to all those passionate about the area:

To get involved, call Bronwyn Spark 5263 2224 or email to register your interest.

This article was published in the Surf Coast Times as part of the publications fortnightly “Going Green Column”.

The Surf Coast’s Hidden Wonderland

Most of us are familiar with the local birds who frequent our gardens and we can probably put a name to those visitor’s who fly in during summer and leave before winter begins.  Well the story is the same in the sea.

Living amongst the soft sponge gardens, seagrass meadows or swaying algal forests is a marine wonderland of colourful reef fish, spiky urchins, seastars, crabs and shellfish.  Many are resident all year, feeding and breeding within the habitat in which they live.

The cool ocean waters of Southern Australia are home to an estimated 12,000 species; over 85% are endemic and as such are not found anywhere else in the world.

Reef Watch volunteers have been recording the species they see at their favourite reefs for nearly 10 years, bringing to the surface data on the types and numbers of species found at reef sites along the Victorian coast and in our bays.  Reef Watch Victoria is a project of the Victorian National Parks Association, funded by the Australian Government through Caring for Our Country and Supported by Museum Victoria.

Along the Surf Coast, groups such as the Friends of Point Addis National Park are involved in the programme and have been surveying the parks abundant fish life during the Great Victorian Fish Count, held in December each year.  They have discovered Blue-Throated and Senator Wrasse, Sea Sweep, Banded and Magpie Morwongs, Southern Hulafish, Leatherjackets, Toadfish and Stingrays.  The diversity of fish species paints a picture of a healthy reef providing for the different requirements of the fish.

Leather jacket
Leather jacket

For the past three years, Grade five and six students from Lorne-Aireys P-12, have also been involved in the Great Victorian Fish Count and have had fun surveying the fish under the Lorne Pier.  They have been surprised to find there is quite a variety of fish living under the pier, including stripy Zebra fish, Old Wives and Six-spined Leatherjackets.

6 spine

At the Ingoldsby Reef near Anglesea, divers are able to see an abundance of marine life.  It is one of the longest shallow offshore reefs in Victorian waters and is home to over a hundred species of algae, as well as colourful ascidians, fanlike gorgonian corals and feathery hydroids.

Ocean visitors to the Surf Coast can occasionally be seen breaching the surface, including Humpback and Southern Right Whales, Bottlenose Dolphins and giant pelagic sunfish.  Below the surface, Mulloway, Australian Salmon, Wobbegongs and School sharks move through the reefs on their way to breed in the bays and inlets or to follow the migratory path of their prey as they move with the seasons of the sea.

Reef Watch volunteers also monitor the marine life at their favourite reefs during the year, providing a seasonal snapshot of the species found.  Species lists for each monitored site have been produced, providing a record of the marine biodiversity and complexity of reefs found along the coast.

For further information on Reef Watch Victoria visit or to find out more about the Surf Coasts marine life and community groups, visit

Or contact: Wendy Roberts, Coordinator, Reef Watch Victoria, C/- Museum Victoria, GPO Box 666, Melbourne, 3001. E-mail: Tel: 03 8341-7446