Volunteers rip into environmental protection

80 Rip Curl employees have joined forces with locals to protect the coastline as part of an annual event that has seen more than 80,000 indigenous plants planted on the Surf Coast over 14 years.

Enthusiastic Rip Curl staff from the Torquay Head Office worked at a range of sites including Point Impossible, Bells Beach, Bird Rock, and Whites Beach.

Rip Curl staff were divided in to 6 teams, coordinated by volunteers from Surfers Appreciating the Natural Environment (SANE), Jan Juc Coast Action, Torquay Coast Action and staff from the Great Ocean Road Coast Committee (GORCC).

Rip Curl staff Aloise Bersan, Sam O'Dwyer and Robbie Cullen aren't afraid to get their hands dirty on the 2014 Rip Curl Planet Day.
Rip Curl staff Aloise Bersan, Sam O’Dwyer and Robbie Cullen aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty on the 2014 Rip Curl Planet Day.

Rip Curl CEO Stephan Kay said the results give him a sense of achievement and pride.

“It’s great to see the transformation of the coastal foreshore that’s occurred as a result of these efforts.

“I love seeing the regenerated sections of the coast that Rip Curl employees have worked on when I’m going for a surf or walking the cliffs,” Mr Kay said.

Each year, Rip Curl gives back to the community and demonstrates a strong commitment to the local environment by giving their employees the opportunity to participate in a paid work day of volunteering.

Rip Curl employees completed a river clean-up and planting day at Spring Creek, one of many locations targeted on the Day,
Rip Curl employees completed a river clean-up and planting day at Spring Creek, one of many locations targeted on the Day.

Planet Day Director Mark Flanagan said the primary focus of the event is to positively contribute to the public spaces in and around the Surf Coast.

“We liaise with the community groups that help manage the areas throughout the whole year and work under their guidelines,” he said.

GORCC Environmental Projects Coordinator Alex Sedger said Rip Curl is a strong advocate for environmental protection.

“The event allows a major global company to give back to the coastal environment, engage their staff, and raise awareness around local environmental issues.

The Rip Curl staff and volunteers were involved in indigenous tree planting, weed eradication, and coastal cleanup works across two days

“The Rip Curl employees weren’t afraid to get their hands dirty in planting and weeding works, and some went to extreme lengths to collect rubbish in Spring Creek using stand up paddle boards,” said Ms. Sedger.

IMG_8836
The Rip Curl team makes cleaning fun using paddle boards along Spring Creek.

 

Ms. Sedger said a number of unexpected items of rubbish were discovered.

“A car battery, bull-bar and about 50 golf balls were removed in the process,” she said.

Click here for further information on the Rip Curl Planet Day, or here to find out how you can start volunteering along the surf coast.

Surf Coast groups benefit from funding

Local community groups within the Surf Coast and Bellarine have received a share of over $40, 000 in State Government funding.

The Coastcare Victoria Community Grants Program aims to support local action that protects and enhances coastal environments.

In 2014, local groups including Jan Juc Coast Action, ANGAIR, Torquay Coast Action and Surfers Appreciating Natural Environment have all been recognised and received funding for their conservation projects.

Local environmental volunteer group ANGAIR has received $2, 000 to count towards re-establishing threatened Moonah Woodlands in Anglesea – a project the group has been working on in partnership with GORCC for more than 7 years.

ANGAIR volunteer Bill McKellar and GORCC Conservation Officer Georgie Beale on the Melba Parade (Anglesea) site where the seven-year restoration project had been taking place.
ANGAIR volunteer Bill McKellar and GORCC Conservation Officer Georgie Beale on the Melba Parade (Anglesea) site where the seven-year restoration project had been taking place.

ANGAIR volunteer Bill McKellar said the group had just 200m of site left to rehabilitate, with the funding set to help complete the project.

“When we started, coastal tea tree – a native to Australia but non-indigenous to the area and an invasive weed – had taken over.

“The occasional Moonah and Bearded Heath had survived, however, they were stretched to the limit and competing for space,” he said.

Melba Parade, the Anglesea site where the seven-year restoration project has been taking place, has seen significant improvements over the years.
Melba Parade, the Anglesea site where the seven-year restoration project has been taking place, has seen significant improvements over the years.

Mr McKellar said the project had been worth seven years of hard work and dedication.

“The results are magic – it really is extraordinary,” he said.

GORCC conservation officer Georgie Beale said the project was one of GORCC’s most successful restoration projects.

“The increase in biodiversity has been significant.

“As their habitat is re-established, native fauna are moving back into the area as evidenced by the increase in tracks and burrows on the site,” she said.

Schools are also playing an important part in the project.

Christian College students can finally take a break after years of hard work, including this planting day in July last year.
Christian College students can finally take a break after years of hard work, including this planting day in July last year.

“Many school groups have supported the works through the GORCC Environmental Education Program including Christian College and St Bernard’s College who have dedicated many hours to the project over several years,” she said.

Mr McKellar said the work has resulted in the return of indigenous flora as well.

“Satin Everlasting (Helichrysum Leucopsideum) – a very pretty flower – has reappeared on the site. This is the only place it can be found on the Surf Coast,” he said.

The Satin Everlasting flower is starting to provide some beautiful colour to the Melba Parade site.
The Satin Everlasting flower is starting to provide some beautiful colour to the Melba Parade site.

Department of Education and Primary Industries Coastcare co-ordinator Alex Sedger said the contribution of volunteers was integral to coastal management.

“All volunteers are passionate about their special patches, and often work without asking anything for their efforts,” she said.

Want to get involved?  Find out more about coastal, environmental volunteering here.  ANGAIR welcomes new volunteers, and information on the group and the upcoming Wildflower Weekend can be found at angair.org.au.

 

Counteracting the Coast Tea-Tree invasion

 

Christian College year 10 students assemble near Jan Juc for the Coast Tea-Tree working bee.
Areas of the Anglesea Heathland received a makeover between Jan Juc and Bellbrae thanks to Christian College Geelong’s Year 10 Outdoor Education students’ who have been working closely with several conservation groups and private landowners.

Students worked closely with the Otway Community Conservation Network (OCCN), the Great Ocean Road Coast Committee (GORCC), Surfer’s Appreciating the Natural Environments (SANE) and private landowners where they were involved in numerous conservation activities including pulling out Boneseed, cutting out Coast Tea Tree and brush matting to stabilise sand dunes.

“The working bee forms part of the student’s outdoor education class and will equip them with hands on experience and knowledge about the issues affecting our coast,” said Great Ocean Road Coast Committee Conservation Supervisor, Georgina Beale

Coast Tea-Tree has invaded many coastal areas since the 1983 Ash Wednesday bushfires forming thickets on dunes and heathlands, and smothering indigenous vegetation through shading and competition for resources such as water, soil and nutrients.

“Coast Tea-Tree also reduces the habitat of indigenous fauna that inhabits the heathland,” Ms. Beale said.

The environmental weed is spread by wind, water, human planting and through dumped garden waste.

You can stop the spread of Coast Tea-Tree along the coast by ensuring you remove all weeds from your garden to stop the weed from further spreading into our natural areas.

Use green wastes bins or drop weeds at local waste transfer stations to dispose of them.   Stations are located in Anglesea, Lorne, Winchelsea and Deans Marsh. For more information visit the shire’s waste disposal website here.

What does the Coast Tea-Tree look like?

Coast Tea-Tree (Leptospermum laevigatum) is an invasive environmental weed along our coast.
  • Coast Tea-Tree (Leptospermum laevigatum) looks like a shrub or small tree.
  • They can grow to about 5m high.
  • Recognised by a dull grey-green colour with stiff leaves and large white flowers that appear in the spring.
  •  Common along coastal areas because of their good tolerance of salt-spray conditions.

For more information on the Coast Tea-Tree you can visit the Weeds Australia website.

Why Coast Tea-Tree is both native to Australia and an environmental weed:

Although Coast Tea-Tree is native to Australia, it becomes an environmental weed along the Surf Coast when it moves from within its natural habitat into a new area where the species has a strong competitive advantage over the indigenous plants already in that area.

Environmental weeds are plants that grow in environments where they are not wanted and in natural landscapes they can out-compete indigenous species. This affects the balance of the entire ecosystem by reducing biodiversity, taking away vital food sources and habitat for native insects, birdlife and fauna. Many of the plants introduced into Australia in the last 200 years are now considered environmental weeds.

For more information on environmental weeds, check out our website here.

Find out more about weeds along the coast:

Find out more information about the environmental weeds affecting our coast on the  GORCC website.

The Surf Coast Shire has also developed a list of environmental weeds along the Surf Coast on their website here. 

For more information on environmental weeds along the Surf Coast check out the Surf Coast Shire Booklet- Environmental Weeds Invaders of the Surf Coast Shire.

How you can get involved:

Christian College student helping to remove invasive Coast Tea-Tree in the heathland reserve.
Learn more about our GORCC’s Environmental Education Program for Schools and become involved here. 

Learn more about environmental volunteering opportunities on our coast here. 

Finding the source of rubbish

Have you ever considered where the piece of plastic blowing on the beach came from? A team of dedicated  reasearch scientists have made it their mission to trace  rubbish and debris on our beaches back to it’s source.

This research is being conducted to better understand the impact of debris on marine eco-systems.

The team of marine scientists led by CSIRO Research Scientist Dr Britta Denise Hardesty are stopping every 100km around the Australian coastline to catalogue rubbish and debris.

Dr Hardesty said debris collected during the surveys will be analysed by looking for barcodes and other identifying markers to determine its origin.

This picture was taken at Rye Beach. Photo courtesy of the CSIRO

“This research will allow us to determine the distribution of marine debris and whether the debris comes from land based sources or washes in from the sea.

Information about the sources of this rubbish and debris will help create a national map of areas where marine wildlife is likely to encounter debris and determine which animals are most at risk of harm.

“Information about the sources of this rubbish and debris will help create a national map of areas where marine wildlife is likely to encounter debris and determine which animals are most at risk of harm,” she said.

Studies by CSIRO and other research organisations have revealed more than 270 species of marine animals are affected by marine debris worldwide.

This YouTube clip demonstrates why it’s important to make sure you dispose of rubbish correctly.

How can you contribute to the surveys?

Dr. Hardesty said community and volunteer groups can help protect the environment by providing information about the rubbish they collect from beaches to the TeachWild National Marine Debris Database Project.

So far the surveys have revealed even beaches in remote areas can have debris, whilst it is more common to find debris on beaches within easy access of populations centres or towns.

What’s happening on the Surf Coast to reduce marine debris?

President of local environmental volunteer group, Surfers Appreciating the Natural Environment (SANE) Graeme Stockton said there are lots of volunteering opportunities on the coast for those interested in protecting the environment.

“As a community we need to be proactive and join local groups who are campaigning to protect the environment,” he said.

A group of Torquay residents have initiated ‘Plastic Bag Free Torquay’ a campaign to ban single use plastic bags in the Torquay area.

Stacie Bobele from ‘Plastic Bag Free Torquay’ said Australians use 16 million plastic bags each day.

“A ban on plastic shopping bags is the easiest way to reduce the amount of plastic which goes into our oceans and landfill areas.

“By bringing re- usable bags each time we shop, we are taking a significant step toward a healthier ocean and healthier environment,” she said.

Rubbish and debris at Hawaii’s Kamilo Beach, often regarded as the dirtiest beach in the world. Photo: Tim Silverwood.

Are there any areas on the Surf Coast that you think need cleaning up? Can you suggest any other ways we can reduce the amount of rubbish on our beaches?

Follow these links to find out more:

Read the CSIRO fact sheet on tackling marine debris.

Learn more about the National Marine Debris Database.

Find out more or become involved with Plastic Bag Free Torquay.

Learn more about the work of Surfers Appreciating the Natural Environment or get involved.

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

Rare visitors threatened by waste

Rare native birds have been sighted in the Spring Creek Estuary and conservation groups are calling on the community to assist in their protection.

Great Egrets and the Caspian Terns, both on the Victorian Government’s advisory list of threatened vertebrate fauna in Victoria, have recently been sighted feeding in the Spring Creek Estuary.

The Great Egret has been spotted at the Spring Creek Estuary recently
The species are both vulnerable to the hazards of plastic waste, which is estimated to kill up to one million sea birds, one hundred thousand sea mammals and countless fish each year.

Sean Dooley, Editor of Wingspan Magazine said the feeding habits of wetland birds made them especially vulnerable to being caught in discarded fishing line.

“Discarded fishing line is a threat to these species as they feed in estuaries which are popular fishing spots and often fishing line gets caught around their beaks and necks and suffocates them,” he said.

 “Discarded fishing line is a threat to these species as they feed in estuaries which are popular fishing spots and often fishing line gets caught around their beaks and necks and suffocates them.”

Graeme Stockton from local conservation group Surfers Appreciating Natural Environment said species like the Great Egret and Caspian Tern were facing extremely strong competition from people and development pressure.

“These species are unnecessarily stressed by storm water pollution and littering,” he said.

Nevertheless, Mr Stockton is optimistic. He notes how the local community ‘stood up for Spring Creek’. “I think there is an inherent understanding by most people here of nature’s overlapping role in our own wellbeing.”

“The Great Egret and the Caspian Tern areren’t commonly found in the Surf Coast area so it’s important that people understand how lucky we are to have such rare birds come and visit us, it’s a privilege that they choose to   use Spring Creek as part of their home range.

“The Great Egret and the Caspian Tern aren’t commonly found in the Surf Coast area so it’s important that people understand how lucky we are to have such rare birds come and visit us, it’s a privilege that they choose to use Spring Creek as part of their home range,” he said.

Caspian Terns have also been sighted in the Spring Creek area.

ZOO’s Victoria’s new ‘Seal the Loop’ campaign will see  special bins placed at ports and piers around Victoria’s coastline to help facilitate the responsible disposal of fishing waste by recreational anglers.

Ben Sanders, Zoo’s Victoria Community Conservation Officer said the campaign aimed to reduce marine wildlife entanglement rates and raise awareness of the threats that plastics pose to marine wildlife.

“The bins are being offered free of charge to any organisation, council or group who wish to install them, this phase of the program is being funded by the Victorian Government using recreational fishing license fees,” he said.

Coastal users can look out for ‘Seal the Loop’ bins placed at various popular fishing spots along the foreshore by the Great Ocean Road Coast Committee (GORCC).

This article appeared in the Surf Coast Times fortnightly ‘Green the Coast Column’. To visit the Surf Coast Times website click here.

To learn more about the Seal the Loop campaign  click here, for more information about native birds visit the Birds Australia website, click here. If you would like to learn more about coastal conservation and local marine life visit our website, http://www.gorcc.com.au/.

Have you spotted any endangered native birds in the Surf Coast region lately?

Are you  involved in protecting native wildlife?

We’d love to hear from you!

An Underwater World In Decline

Imagine you are in a forest and life is teeming around you.  The forest canopy stretches metres above and as you look up into the filtered sunlight a myriad of lifeforms can be seen living in their sheltered forest home.

No, it’s not a tropical rainforest; it’s an underwater world of Giant Kelps (Macrocystis).

The exceptional biodiversity of these Giant Kelp beds was first noted by Charles Darwin who visited Australia in 1983 and proclaimed, “The number of living creatures of all orders, whose existence intimately depends on the kelp, is wonderful”.

These large, brown algae are attached to the seafloor and are an important feature of many temperate reefs.  Buoyed by large, air filled bladders, they stand up in the water, and create a forest like environment, providing shelter and food for hundreds of species.

Macrocystis is limited to specific areas due to its preference for cool water and their need for rocky reefs to anchor themselves to.  In Australia, Macrocystis is confined to the southeastern parts of the mainland and Tasmania.

Global Distribution of Giant Kelp:

Climate change and the decline of Macrocystis:

Evidence suggests Giant Kelps are in decline.  The problem has been associated with the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) climate pattern, and contributing factors include changes in ocean acidity, increasing sea surface temperatures, more frequent storm surge events, and erosion of the coast.

Scientists believe the increasingly frequent ENSO phenomenon is driving warm tropical currents further south down the east coast of Australia where higher than normal water temperatures in partnership with lower nutrient availability, has seen a crash in Kelp populations, particularly in Tasmania.

Impacts on marine life are already apparent. Distributions of fish and other animals are shifting polewards and the timing of Antarctic seabird breeding and migration is changing, while some fish species previously only seen in Sydney are now being found in Port Phillip Bay.

How you can help

Everyone who cares about the health of our oceans can get involved by reducing their carbon footprint and working together to seek lasting global solutions to climate change.

The Great Ocean Road Coast Committee is currently undertaking a project on climate change and adaption strategies along the Surf Coast which commenced in April 2010.  You can investigate ways make a difference, and find further information at http://www.gorcc.com.au .

To get hands on in the battle against climate change, contact Surfers Appreciating the Natural Environment (SANE), a local community group that conducts environmental activities in the Bells Beach Reserve, on the 2nd Sunday of each month starting at 10:00am. Contact Graeme Stockton on 0425 752 648 or go to SANE’s website at www.sanesurfers.org.au.

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