Corner Inlet Marine National Park
This 1,550 hectare park is located to the north and east of Wilsons Promontory National Park adjacent to the southern shores of Corner Inlet.
The Corner Inlet Marine National Park covers part of the existing Corner Inlet Marine and Coastal Park and contains mangroves, mudflats and widespread seagrass meadows, including the only extensive beds of Poisidonia seagrass in Victoria, the most faunally diverse habitat in Corner Inlet. The Marine National Park samples a small part of this important sheltered inlet adjacent to the wilderness coast of Wilsons Promontory and is part of the Corner Inlet Ramsar site that protects the habitat for migratory wading birds.
Corner Inlet is the most easterly, and consequently the warmest, of Victoria's large bays. It boasts a complex network of mangroves, saltmarsh, mud banks, seagrass beds, rocky islands and deeper channels. Corner Inlet supports huge numbers of migratory water birds and healthy populations of seafloor animals and plants that are rare or absent elsewhere in Victoria.
Things to Do
Corner Inlet is a popular visitor destination attracting an estimated 150,000 visitor days per year. Recreational opportunities offered by the marine national park include boating, swimming, sea kayaking, wind surfing, nature appreciation and some diving. Within Corner Inlet licensed tour operators offer a range of activities including sea kayaking and boat tours.
There is considerable evidence that Corner Inlet has been an important part of human experiences for over 5,000 years with extensive Aboriginal shell middens being plentiful along the southern shore. The Brataolong Clan of the Gunai/Kurnai Tribe has strong cultural traditions and practices associated with the Corner Inlet area. Many Aboriginal sites including scarred trees, burial sites, artefact scatters, camps and shell middens have been recorded in the area.
Europeans settled in the area in the mid 1800s and established various mining, agricultural and forestry enterprises. Fishing became established by the 1860's once regular steamers made their way from the region back to Melbourne.
Changes in the catchment for Corner Inlet have been significant with much of the area which collects freshwater that enters the Inlet now being cleared from the forests which once covered South Gippsland. With these changes much greater volumes of sediment flowed into Corner Inlet, one possible cause for the disappearance of many of the Poisidonia seagrass beds in the northern section of the Inlet.
Corner Inlet Marine National Park provides protection of one of the major bays and inlets on Victoria's coast. Within the bays sheltered waters are found communities of four of Victoria's species of seagrasses which form extensive beds here. These include Victoria's most extensive beds of Strapweed or the Broad-Leaf Seagrass Poisidonia australis, the dominant seagrass growing on submerged banks; Swan Grass Zostera muelleri growing in the intertidal areas; Eelgrass Heterozostera tasmanica growing on the top and base of submerged banks; and Southern Paddleweed Halophila australis which grows around the edge of Poisidonia beds and across sandy patches.
Beneath the seagrasses there are often many animals and plants. Around the base of seagrasses are occasional clumps of sea squirts, sponges, and various green algae including the fleshy branching Codium fragile or Dead Man's Fingers, and the beautiful feather-like Caulerpa trifaria. Common crabs beneath the seagrasses include the Red Swimmer Crab Nectocarcinus integrifrons and the long limbed Decorator Crab Naxia aurita. Many of the seagrasses have large seasnail populations feeding on the encrusting and attached algae. These include snails such as turban shells and the beautiful Pheasant Snail or Painted Lady Phasianella australis which gather algae with its long flexible body.
Feeding on the debris that accumulates within the Marine National Park are a range of seastars including the multi-coloured Common Seastar Patiriella calcar and the Velvet Seastar Patiriella brevispina, burrowing Heart Urchins Echinocardium cordatum, as well as many bivalve molluscs that take in the detritus from the water. Feeding on the scavengers are in turn a range of predators including the 11-armed Seastar Coscinasterias muricata, the black and white seastar Luida australiae, Blue Ringed Octopus Hapalochlaena maculosa and a wide range of fish.
Smaller fish and squid hide within the seagrass leaves or emerge to feed on open sandy areas. These include Weed and Rock Whiting, Cobblers, Southern Gobbleguts, Gobies, Toadfish, Globefish, Bridled and Pygmy Leatherjackets, and various Pipefish. Larger animals include Stingarees, Southern Fiddler Rays or Banjo Sharks, Rock and Sand Flathead, Greenback Flounder and schools of juvenile Silver Trevally. Southern Pygmy Squid (Idiosepius notoides), are regular inhabitant of the seagrass beds and the iridescent Southern Dumpling Squid (Euprymna tasmanica) which feeds at night above the seagrass leaves is also common. Larger commercially important species such as King George Whiting adults, Salmon, Garfish and Gummy and School Sharks are not often seen in these areas.
In deeper channels communities include vast numbers of suspension-feeding Brittle Stars (Amphiura elandiformis and Ophiocentrus pilosa) which raise their arms from the sediment in order to capture passing plankton and detritus. 'Mini-reef' systems can also be found around dead shells include communities of sea squirts and attached bryozoans, anemones, sponges, hydroids and some red seaweeds.
Corner Inlet also supports huge numbers of wader birds and water birds including important sites for international migratory waders such as the Eastern Curlew.
Southern Dumpling Squid (Euprymna tasmanica)
A spectacular but rarely seen inhabitant of the park is the shy, tiny, Southern Dumpling Squid. Rotund, big eyed, and iridescent, they are night feeders, burying themselves in the sand during the day. These squid have evolved an unusual symbiotic relationship with light-producing bacteria. As juveniles, Southern Dumpling Squid catch the bacteria and nurture them inside special body cavities. As the squid grows, the bacteria produce light in return for the squid providing food (sugar).
It is a mutually beneficial relationship because at night the squid is able to control the amount of bacterial light that it emits from its underbelly to match the starlight or moonlight that shimmers through the water above. This form of camouflage is called counter illumination and enables the squid to avoid predators like flathead when moving over the seagrass.
King George Whiting (Sillaginodes punctata)
While adult King George Whiting are rarely seen within the seagrass habitats within Corner Inlet Marine National Park, the juvenile fish depend on the habitat of the seagrasses within the inlet for their survival. Ultimately, one of the major fisheries within Corner Inlet for both recreational and commercial fishery, depends on the early survival of larval fish and thus on the health of the seagrass within the Marine National Park.
King George Whiting adults are believed to spawn west of Victoria's bays and inlets, somewhere near the south Australian border, and the larvae resulting drift for 90-150 days before entering Victorian bays and inlets. The larvae settle into shallow seagrass areas and quickly begin to develop into juvenile fish that remain within the seagrasses for four to five months before shifting out of the seagrasses and feeding on the sand flats. During this time whiting are observed to feed over sand at night then return to the shelter of the seagrass during the day. Juvenile fish feed on a variety of small crustaceans including microscopic copepods, polychaete worms and larger crustaceans sourced from the open sand. Adult animals move out from the seagrasses and feed largely in the deeper channels and over algal communities outside of the Marine National Park.
The recreational and commercial fisheries for this species of fish depend largely on the health of seagrasses as well as adequate management of the fishery itself. Unfortunately, mainly due to changes in the catchment, large areas of the seagrasses within Corner Inlet Marine National Park have been lost.
Geological, Hydrological and Landform Features
Corner Inlet is a large submerged plain that is bordered to the west and north by geological faults and is sinking slowly as South Gippsland itself rises. The Inlet however receives a large amount of sediment that washes in from surrounding hills. Large mudflats and sandbanks cover much of the Marine National Park. Some of these banks are exposed at low tide while others remain submerged.
On the ebbing tide a system of deep channels carries the water from the banks to the entrance on the eastern side. These channels range in depth from about 1m to 20m. The main entrance channel is approximately 40m deep. Due to the shallow water and large number of banks tidal flow is slow and many areas have tidal peaks occurring up to an hour and a half after peak tides at the entrance.
The area has high scenic values from the low watery landscapes of the marshes and dunes to the spectacular backdrop of the granite peaks of Wilsons Promontory National Park
Broad Leaf Seagrass (Poisidonia australis)
Broad-Leaf Seagrass is a 'keystone species' in Corner Inlet Marine National Park and provides crucial habitat as a nursery for many important recreational and commercial species of fish, in stabilising the sediment, and in providing shelter and food for many other creatures. Fish and large crabs find refuge beneath the fronds while the leaves themselves become a substrate for a community of small algae and encrusting invertebrates such as bryozoans and colonial ascidians. The leaves of the Poisidonia are an important food source for many animals that feed on the detritus that is formed when dead seagrass leaves are attack by decomposing organisms such as bacteria.
Poisidonia has an interesting way of coping with loss of photosynthetic surface when encrusted in algae or invertebrates. The grasses will produce from the base some new leaf while the older encrusted tips of the leaf are allowed to die and break off the plant. There is a constant cycle during spring and summer of growth at the base then death at the tip ensuring that some fresh green leaf is available for the plant to utilise the light. Poisidonia leaves can reach up to a metre in length despite this process of growth and death and form luxurious underwater meadows. During winter large storms often reduce the seagrass meadows to less than 300mm leaving vast piles of seagrass debris along the shorelines. Even these leaves are important as they are soon attacked by crustaceans such as amphipods or sand hoppers and recycled into valuable food materials.
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 appropriately 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.
How to Get There
tional Park is located 6 kilometres from Yanakie and to the north of Wilsons Promontory National Park This 1 550-hectare park is located 6 kilometres from Anakie and to the north of Wilsons Promontory. Boat access to the Marine National Park is from towns including Port Franklin, Toora Beach, Barrys Beach and Port Welshpool in Southern Gippsland.
Corner Inlet provides excellent opportunities to interpret the natural environment and marine and coastal features in particular.
No formal education programs currently exist but a number of schools and universities use the area for fieldwork.
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.
>>Corner Inlet Marine and Coastal Park
>>Shallow Inlet Marine and Coastal Park
>>Wilsons Promontory Marine National Park
>>Wilsons Promontory National Park
Information for this National Park has been supplied courtesy of Parks Victoria