Churchill Island Marine National Park
The Churchill Island Marine National Park is located south of Rhyll, on the eastern shore of Phillip Island, in Western Port. The park extends from Long Point south of Rhyll township to the north point of Churchill Island and along the island's western shore to the bridge, encompassing approximately 670 hectares.
Habitat types represented within the Marine National Park include seagrass beds, mangroves, sheltered intertidal mudflats, sandy beaches, subtidal soft sediments and rocky intertidal shores, which provide habitat for a range of important marine fish and invertebrate species.
The park forms part of the Western Port Ramsar site, and contains significant roosting and feeding sites for migratory waders. The intertidal mud flats extending from Rhyll to Newhaven are of State significance, and the area from Rhyll Inlet to Churchill island is of national significance as part of a group of primary foraging sites for the 32 migratory waders found in Western Port (especially whimbrels and bartailed godwits).
Seagrasses present in the park include Swan Grass (Zostera muelleri), Heterozostera tasmanica (Eel Grass) and Seanymph seagrass (Amphibolis antarctica). Eel Grass is the dominant species in the deeper channels but is replaced by Swan Grass in the intertidal areas. Seagrasses are a major food for Black Swans (Cygnus atratus) that eat large amounts of the thick root like rhizomes that run under the mud. As the seagrass passes through the body of the swan some nutrients are absorbed but most passes out of the swan to provide food for a wide range of invertebrates. Seanymph seagrasses with their wiry stems and grappling hook like seedlings are better suited to survival in area with greater wave intensity on rocky substrates.
The seagrass habitats also are critically important habitat for numerous fish species as an important feeding area and nursery ground. Some species that are known to live in seagrass habitats at different stages of their lives include leather jackets, flounder, King George Whiting, Black Bream, garfish and flathead. The health of seagrasses is important in the productivity of many of our commercial and recreational fisheries.
Geological, Hydrological and Landform Features
The area to the north of Churchill Island is a significant intertidal mudflat, as is much of Western Port, and is derived largely from material that has washed into the bay from surrounding land. The seagrasses within the bay trap sediment and cause it to build up.
Being made of finely divided particles the mud is thick and lacks aeration, the result of which is black mud with a strong sulphur smell, indicating the anaerobic conditions below the surface. For animals and plants to survive in this environment they must have burrows to allow fresh sea water to bring oxygen to them, or have specialised parts of their bodies, such as the breathing roots or pneumatophores of mangroves, to allow tem to breathe air from the surface.
The raised beach between Chambers Point and Long Point and the adjacent Churchill Island is a remnant of times when sea levels were higher than at present such as occurred between 6,000 and 8,000 years before present. Major sea level changes associated with various ice ages have occurred four times over the last 125,000 years and evidence of these changes can been in places such as these. The raised beach is of State geological and geomorphological significance.
Looking After the Park
For the protection of the marine environment, a number of activities are prohibited within the boundaries of Victoria's marine national parks and marine sanctuaries. No fishing, netting, spearing, taking or killing of marine life. All methods of fishing, from the shore or the sea, are prohibited. As users of the marine environment, you can help minimise your impact on these areas by being mindful of the following points:
>>enjoy the marine environment without removing the plants and animals
>>minimise your impact while diving and snorkelling by:
>>being careful to avoid damage to marine life caused by fins
>>developing good skills in buoyancy control
>>securing all gauges and pressure hoses to avoid snagging them on objects
>>take any rubbish home with you - do not dump rubbish into the sea
>>avoid stressing marine life by not chasing or grabbing free-swimming animals
>>exercise great care if approached by large marine animals (including birds) & avoid blocking their paths if moving
>>take care where you anchor your boat (anchor in sand, rubble or mud, avoiding sensitive areas, and use mooring buoys where provided)
>>do not pollute the water with sewage - ensure that if your vessel has an onboard toilet that it has an approved sewage holding facility and that >>sewage is disposed of appropriately on land
>>take the time to learn more about Victoria's marine animals and plants and the habitats they depend upon
Remember, Marine National Parks and Marine Sanctuaries are NO TAKE ENVIRONMENTS. All objects (artefacts), animals eg. fish and crustaceans, plants, and the seabed are totally protected.
For your own safety, only undertake activities appropriate to your skills and abilities. Take all necessary precautions, be aware of changing conditions, and watch for potential hazards, such as rips. A number of Victorian marine animals are potentially harmful if not treated with respect and care, so ensure that you familiarise yourself with these species. Sunburn and hypothermia are also potentially harmful but easily avoided.
SCUBA diving is a potentially high risk activity and should only be undertaken by appropraitely qualified people that have completed recognised training and certification. Victoria's cool water environments can be extremely challenging to those used to diving in warmer waters so ensure that local knowledge is sought before undertaking a dive in a new location. Dive charter operators can provide some of the best advice on diving in Victoria.
Marine National Park and Marine Sanctuaries Resource Kit – This education resources kit contains a comprehensive collection of many materials produced by Parks Victoria in relation to the Marine National Park system including lesson ideas for teachers and links to other resources.
>>Yaringa Marine National Park
>>French Island Marine National Park
>>French Island National Park
Information for this National Park has been supplied courtesy of Parks Victoria