Marine Pests and Westernport
Westernport and Peninsula Protection Council are pleased to announce the completion of their Marine pest survey at Yaringa and Stony Point.
The good news is that the worst marine pests that Fathom Pacific found in Westernport were pacific oysters. They are of concern but no way as significant as Northern Pacific seastar or Japanese kelp.
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Westernport Peninsula Protection Council (WPPC)
and Save Westernport
Arrange for Marine Pest Monitoring in Westernport Bay
Community groups Save Westernport, and Westernport Peninsula Protection Council Inc, now celebrating its 50th year, were each formed by passionate local residents to ensure that Westernport’s unique marine and coastal ecology is protected and enjoyed.
In 2019 we successfully applied through the Commonwealth Stronger Communities Environmental Grant program, and the local Member for Flinders, Mr Greg Hunt MP, for funding to allow underwater surveys for invasive Marine pest species to be carried out at key locations in Westernport Bay.
We were concerned that Kawasaki was due to begin exporting hydrogen in Westernport Bay, without addressing the risk of introducing invasive marine pests.
WPPC initiated a letter to Kawasaki Heavy Industries, endorsed by eight local environmental groups, requesting the urgent monitoring for marine pests at the project site at BlueScope Hastings pier. https://drive.google.com/file/d/12knec8EN4-v8xrMycrgrUU7m1TIsZ0cM/view?usp=drivesdk
Because early detection and removal are the only effective means of preventing infestations, when Kawasaki declined our request, we decided to develop our own project, and sought funding for professional divers to assess the conditions under BlueScope pier. Several years ago, BlueScope stopped sending Jan Watson under their pier to monitor for toxicity, and despite its location within the Westernport Ramsar site, the Port of Hastings Development Authority does not require or carry out its own regular assessment of marine pests from commercial shipping. It is widely recognised that commercial woodchip ships from Japanese waters were responsible for the devastating infestations in neighbouring Port Phillip Bay.
When BlueScope refused access to professional divers from Fathom Pacific, we had to change our project location.
Finally in September 2021, our project got underway. Westernport’s Stony Point jetty and Yaringa Harbour were assessed for invasive species Northern Pacific Seastar (Asterias amurensis) and Japanese Kelp (Undaria pinnatifida) by professional divers and remote cameras. Professor Adrian Flynn from Fathom Pacific produced a report of their findings.
Snorkelers taking part in our citizen science project observed no signs of Northern Pacific seastar or Japanese kelp at underwater sites at Merricks, Pt Leo and Flinders.
Recent government surveys found no signs of the species at San Remo and Hastings Marina, and during their EES surveys, AGL recorded neither species at Crib Point jetty, nor a large area in lower North Arm.
This suggests that Westernport’s marine environment remains free from the two most damaging invasive pest species.
The Westernport Site Management Plan (2017) lists marine pest infestation as fourth among 17 of its top priority threats to the Westernport Ramsar site.
After writing to Kawasaki and meeting with them, and answering questions about our project, in 2021 we welcomed news from Kawasaki confirming their decision to assess the BlueScope jetty for signs of marine species before, during and after the Hydrogen Energy Supply Chain pilot, or shipping trial.
Letter from Kawasaki
WPPC and Save Westernport remain opposed to Kawasaki’s hydrogen export trial. We believe the dangers associated with the project can be neither managed, nor justified. In addition to the terrible threat of marine pests, the project prolongs the use of the most polluting form of lignite brown coal to produce hydrogen for the benefit of the Japanese market, while sustainable Green hydrogen sources abound.
In 2019, Victoria’s Planning Minister inexplicably ruled it “an essential project for Victoria”, exempting it from the scrutiny of an Environment Effects Statement.
If allowed to proceed to its commercial stage, it is highly likely dredging would be required as the deep draught of the commercial hydrogen transport ships, are bigger than current ships entering Westernport’s shallow NE Arm.
We need to learn from past mistakes and protect Westernport’s unique marine ecology from ill-considered development proposals and environmental exploitation.
While commercial shipping is mainly responsible for the spread of destructive marine pests, the species can also travel onboard recreational boating and fishing equipment.
As part of our project, we placed advertisements in local papers, with tips on how to prevent the spread of invasive pests. Fishing and boating equipment should be washed and dried between each outing, particularly when boats are brought from Port Phillip Bay to Westernport.
You can help protect Westernport Bay and show your support for the voluntary work of Save Westernport and of WPPC by becoming a Member on our websites:
Save Westernport Inc Website: https://savewesternport.org/the-bay/
Westernport Peninsula Protection Council (WPPC),
ID Picture thanks to Pt Phillip Bay Ecocentre:
Some photos supplied by Fathom Pacific
Figure 4 Diver at Stony Pt
Figure 5 Sponges at Stony Pt
A 2019 Article on the threat of Marine Pests in the Bayside News https://drive.google.com/file/d/1PkOjDtObO6mZHw3w_qNVVns6N5vog3yf/view?usp=drivesdk
2021 Article about our project