French Island Marine National Park
The French Island Marine National Park is located about 10 km south of Tooradin, and is adjacent to the northern shoreline of French Island National Park, in Western Port Bay. The park extends approximately 15 km along the northern shore of French Island then the park's northern boundary follows North Arm and the Horseshoe Channel. The entire Marine National Park encompasses approximately 2,800 hectares.
The northern shore of French Island has one of the most extensive areas of saltmarsh and mangrove communities in Victoria and the mudflats are of State geomorphological significance. The seagrass beds are nursery areas for fish, including commercially and recreationally important species such as King George Whiting, Bream and Mullet.
The area is especially significant as feeding habitat for the 32 species of migratory waders found in Western Port. The waters around Barralier Island, one of the bay's 13 high tide roost sites, are particularly sensitive to disturbance.
Habitat types represented in the park include seagrass beds, mangroves, sheltered intertidal mudflats, sandy beaches and subtidal soft sediments in tidal channels. The park's well developed tidal channel system of varying depth, profiles and orientations, contributes to the high diversity of habitats.
The north shore of French Island is one of the major areas of saltmarsh and mangrove fringe in Victoria and is of State geomorphological significance. These plants are unusual in that they are able to cope wth the highly salty conditions of this environment. Mangroves are also able to cope with living in thick, airless mud.
The Marine National Park also contains extensive areas of seagrass (Heterozostera tasmanica and Zostera muellleri), including some areas where little loss of seagrass has been recorded. Seagrasses have disappeared from more than 80% of Western Port during the 1970 and 1980's and little of this has recovered. Despite small incraeses in recent years, seagrass loss still remains as a major concern for Western Port. Seagrasses are extremly important habitats and play a major role as nursery areas for many fish species, including commercially important species such as whiting.
The mudflats suport a wide diversity of deposit feeding animals such as worms and bivalve molluscs like pippies. These animals convert the debris that accumulates in the bay into animal tissue which is then available as food for animals like birds and fish.
Western Port as a whole is of great importance as a bird habitat, with over 295 species having been recorded. These include extensive populations of Black Swans (Cygnus atratus), Pied Oystercatchers (Haematopus ostralegus) and Royal Spoonbills (Platalea regia). For many wader birds, the main habitat requirements are mudflats for foraging and high tide roosts where birds wait for the next feeding period.
Many of the migratory wader birds that spend summer in Victoria depend upon Western Port, and particularly the region now protected in the French Island Marine National Park. The area is used by up to 32 migratory bird species and is part of the Western Port Ramsar site. These birds migrate from the northern hemisphere and spend our summer feeding on the wde diversity of invertebrates found in the mudflats and seagrasses. Some of the notable migratory species include the Eastern Curlew (Numenius madagascariensis), whose nonbreeding birds migrate from north-eastern Asia, the Bar-tailed Godwit (Limosa lapponica), which breeds in Arctic regions of Eurasia and Alaska, and the Curlew Sandpiper (Calidris ferruginea), which breeds in the Arctic regions of eastern Siberia. The Marine National Park includes the waters around Barralier Island, which is one of the bay's 13 high tide roosts and is particularly sensitive to disturbance.
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.
>>Churchill Island Marine National Park
>>French Island National Park
>>Yaringa National Park
Information for this National Park has been supplied courtesy of Parks Victoria