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

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!

Taking the initiative

The Eagle Rock Marine Sanctuary is regularly frequented by a group of local snorkelers from Anglesea and Aireys Inlet. Some 12 months ago, this informal group identified that, while the Friends of Point Addis group encompasses Eagle Rock, there was certainly room to establish a standalone friends group.

With Eagle Rock right on the snorkelers’ doorsteps, the group recognised the importance of the sanctuary to the local community – who share a sense of pride in it – and to the snorkeling/diving community (several times a year, it produces conditions for snorkeling and scuba diving that would be hard to beat anywhere in the world).

In addition, members felt that the sanctuary itself would benefit from an organisation that provided opportunities for the general public to engage with it in more meaningful ways (e.g. monitoring, stewardship, training).

Consequently, the Friends of Eagle Rock Marine Sanctuary group was created to work on projects specific to the sanctuary.

Noticing that the Eagle Rock Marine Sanctuary Management Plan (which is incorporated within the Point Addis Management Plan) recommends regular monitoring to compare locations inside and outside of the sanctuary’s boundary, several group members have since put up their hands to bring this monitoring to life.

The group will work with Reef Watch, Sea Search, the Great Victorian Fish Count and Eco-Logic to engage local and visiting school groups, and members of the public in the monitoring project. Plans are also afoot to create an interactive website to educate and engage sanctuary visitors. This would include underwater footage, monitoring data, visitor information and the like.

As the Marine Parks and Sanctuary system is still relatively new, the group is also interested in the management plans for these parks, including how recommendations should be addressed to make the pending review of these documents worthwhile. With questions around the role and importance of marine parks and sanctuaries on the political agenda, the group believes a true understanding of their economic, ecological and social values is yet to be determined.

While still early days, the establishment of the Friends of Eagle Rock Marine Sanctuary group illustrates:

  • the value of people who enjoy a common interest joining together to share their passion with others
  • how identifying an existing shortfall can create new opportunities
  • the benefits of taking the initiative on an issue rather than waiting for someone else to take action, and
  • the importance of putting something back into the community or environment rather than taking it for granted.

Story by Andy Gray, Director, Eco-Logic Education and Environment Services