The project, funded by the Victorian Government and launched in conjunction with the Port Phillip and Westernport Catchment Management Authority, is aimed at conserving the internationally significant Ramsar listed wetlands of Western Port.
The project is engaging with recreational watercraft users across the Ramsar site to raise awareness of the vitally important wetlands and how to limit impacts on them.
Many people don’t realise that most of Western Port has been listed as an internationally significant wetland under the intergovernmental Ramsar convention – a treaty aimed at the conservation and wise use of wetlands.
The wetland is Ramsar listed because of the high representation of marine species and birds that relies on the wetland and the significant expanses of wetland habitat such as intertidal sand and mud flats and areas of saltmarsh and mangroves.
Seagrass meadows, mudflats, mangroves and saltmarshes start the food chains that sustain the fishery and provide for our international migratory shorebirds. These birds rely on the wetland for food prior to their epic migrations to the Arctic Circle.
Our local fish like the King George Whiting grow to a catchable size in the seagrass meadows of Western Port. Whiting from our bay then migrate along the Victorian coast to spawning sites far along the coast to the west.
Western Port faces challenges, as do most natural systems, in balancing conservation with recreation. However, these factors can be reconciled as responses to pressures on conservation can overlap with recreation. For example, damage to seagrass can lead to less fish for us to catch and can deny birds the nutrients that they need for migration.
The project is bringing together bay users to collaborate in looking after this special place so that future generations are able to enjoy it like we have.
We are particularly looking for interested boat users to contact the Biosphere if they’d like more information and perhaps to attend an upcoming field day. Interested community members and those with specific project enquiries can contact Project Officer Casey Lee at firstname.lastname@example.org or (03) 5979 2167.