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Seagrass meadow saved from sea urchin attack

Friday 28 July, 2017

A South Gippsland seagrass meadow has been rescued from the jaws of a sea urchin infestation thanks to a team from Parks Victoria, Fisheries Victoria and a dedicated group of volunteers.

The internationally-recognised seagrass meadow is based in the Nooramunga Marine & Coastal Park.

The team snorkelled through the shallow waters of the park using a hammer to cull 57,000 purple sea urchins by hand.

This painstaking effort was necessary as tens of thousands of the urchins had invaded the park’s Broadleaf sea grass (Posidonia australis) meadows, eating their way through the seagrass and creating large areas of bare sand.

If left unchecked, the urchins’ voracious appetite would have seriously impacted the seagrass meadows, destroying important feeding, breeding and nursery areas for other marine life in the marine protected areas of the Corner Inlet Ramsar site. Any loss of seagrass is a threat to the future of this world class wetland.

Nooramunga Marine & Coastal Park, along with other parks in the area, is part of the internationally-recognised Corner Inlet Ramsar Site. It’s the only place in Victoria where large, continuous beds of the seagrass meadows are found. These meadows are the corner stone of Corner Inlet’s special marine ecosystems and are why the area is recognised as a Wetland of International Significance under the Ramsar Convention.

The Purple Urchin (Heliocidaris erythrogramma) is a rocky reef species common in Victoria but is generally not found living in seagrass meadows. It occurs naturally in this park, but typically in low numbers around small areas of reef where it has no impact on nearby seagrass meadows. The control program was prompted by the population of urchins increasing by tens of thousands and settling in the Broadleaf sea grass meadows near Sunday Island.

This control program is the start of an ongoing program coordinated by Parks Victoria. The team will continue to monitor the seagrass and sea urchins. Further programs are planned to eliminate this spiny threat.

Nooramunga Marine and Coastal Park protects a variety of Gippsland coastal islands, tidal flats and channels between Port Welshpool and McLoughlins Beach.

Media enquiries
Gareth Rees
0417 067 706

Parks Victoria media centre