Point Hicks Marine National Park
This 4000 hectare park, adjacent to Croajingolong National Park, is about 25 kilometres southeast of Cann River in East Gippsland. The granite cliffs of Point Hicks overlook the park which contains a very rich marine fauna. This includes intertidal and shallow subtidal invertebrates, colourful and diverse sessile invertebrates living on spectacular subtidal reefs, kelps and small algae and a high diversity of reef fish.
Diving around Whaleback Rock or Sensation Reef is a truly amazing experience. The water is often very clear with sunlight glinting off schools of silver fish. A forest of gently swaying brown seaweeds covers the seafloor. Amongst the seaweed fronds lives a remarkable mat of colourful sponges, sea-squirts, sea-moss and sea-fans of all shapes and sizes. The sponges are orange, red, purple, white and brown and intertwine around each other forming reticulate patterns, knots, balls, cups, carpets and terraces. Many other creatures are visible between the sponges, under rocks and poking out of the seaweed holdfasts. There are numerous brightly coloured sea-stars, brittle stars, abalone, fan worms, large sea shells, hermit crabs and beautiful delicate nudibranchs (sea-slugs). Fish include schools of Butterfly Perch, Silver Sweep and Long-Finned Pike and Banded Morwongs are common amongst the deeper boulders.
Point Hicks represents Victoria's warm far-eastern marine environment. Many animals occurring here will not grow or survive in the cooler waters further west. The most obvious of these is the large Black Sea-urchin (Centrostephanus rodgersii) that mows down the seaweeds near its shelter, creating an open environment of pink coralline-encrusted rocks.
Besides subtidal reef, the environment around Point Hicks includes attractive intertidal rock platforms and offshore sands. The seafloor drops away rapidly from shore, descending to 90 metres depth and is one of the deepest marine areas within Victoria.
Things to Do
>>The area's rich marine life makes snorkelling and scuba diving a popular pursuit in the region.
Point Hicks was the first Australian landmass sighted by Captain James Cook although the area's underwater landscape is still largely awaiting discovery. The area contains some of Victoria's most interesting and beautiful reefs. These reefs were a deadly concern to early sailors who pressured the government into constructing the lighthouse that still dominates the cliff tops. Today, these underwater crags can be admired for their stunning sea-life.
Banded Morwong (Cheilodactylus spectabilis)
Docile, curious, slow and gregarious in nature, Banded Morwongs are prominent inhabitants of the park area and can be easily approached by divers. A large fish growing to over 75 centimetres, they are the old timers of the park's boulder fields and reefs. Many of the larger fish could have been present in the area for over 30 years. Banded Morwongs are very faithful to their home turf and populations that you can see probably took decades to establish. With their big eyes and small fleshy lips, watch out for them head down and tail up sucking and sifting small animals off the boulders. The cool waters of Australia and New Zealand have the greatest diversity of morwongs in the world.
Feather Star (Cenolia tasmaniae)
Feather stars, or crinoids, live between boulders and amongst crevices and are part of an ancient animal group related to sea-stars and sea-urchins. A shy animal during the day, all that you will see of them are their many long, branched feeding arms stretched out into the current attempting to trap tiny animals. This food is passed down the arms in a string of mucus to the soft-bodied animal concealed beneath. With a u-shaped stomach and an anus close to their mouth, feather stars have become adept at the careful art of waste excretion. Two hundred million years ago feather stars were prolific in the ocean but, with the evolution of predatory fish, their numbers were reduced.
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.
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.
>>Alfred National Park
>>Cape Conran Coastal Park
>>Cape Howe Marine National Park
>>Croajingalong National Park
Information for this National Park has been supplied courtesy of Parks Victoria