Friends of Beware Reef; a small volunteer group, are full swing into photographing the underwater world of the Gippsland Lakes after being one of the groups that secured funding in the Gippsland Lakes Community Grants in 2017.
The grant is for a twelve month project to establish a photo database of all marine fish and invertebrates found during dive surveys in the Gippsland Lakes. Surveys will focus on seagrass beds and rock structures and they will aim to identify any pest marine plants or animals.
Graeme Dear, CEO of the EGCMA said “it’s great to see such an enthusiastic group of people who love what they do and care about our Gippsland Lakes receiving this funding. The Water Plan for Victoria seeks increased participation from many groups and this Gippsland Lakes funding is part of the plan implementation.”
A small group of divers, Friends of Beware Reef have been diving and capturing vision of what is happening under the water’s surface for about 12 years. They have conducted an enormous amount of surveys and captured many stunning visions of the offshore marine life at Beware Reef sancturary near Cape Conran.
Not only are they passionate about diving and interested in what they find but they have also played a very important role in assisting DELWP and other departments gain further understanding of our marine environment. It was during one of their dives a couple of years ago that they discovered the Northern Pacific Seastar in the Gippsland Lakes, an invasive starfish that is an aggressive predator of native marine life.
Friends of Beware Reef pass on their knowledge and experiences to the community via the many talks they do to groups and organisations. With a wealth of knowledge and a superb collection of photos and videos, people have the opportunity to see what is below the surface without getting wet. Don Love, a Friends of Beware Reef member said “It’s about getting the word out and showing and educating people, we say hey the Barrier Reef looks pretty but there is some pretty cool stuff down here in our local area too.”
Funding for this and other projects has been provided by the Victorian State Government based on advice from the Gippsland Lakes Coordinating Committee.
“The Gippsland Lakes has probably got a great deal of biodiversity in it that we don’t really know about yet. Cameras have been dragged though the water but nothing beats the human eye when it comes to finding stuff. We love challenges and it’s about eyes on the bottom, someone just sniffing around and having the ability to observe things.” Don added.
As a ground nesting and feeding bird there are enough dangers in life already without the threat of a fox eating your eggs, your babies or even you. To have survived pressures such as habitat loss and native predators only to have a newly hatched baby bird run down by a fox is a pressure adult birds can do without.
Over 80 waterbird species call the Gippsland Lakes home as well as migratory birds that travel thousands of kilometres every year to feed and rest. These birds depend on the health and safety of the Gippsland Lakes for their existence. This is why the Gippsland Lakes are RAMSAR listed and part of an international agreement to look after worldwide migrating waterbirds.
Foxes are just one of the many potential threats to birds that live in the Gippsland Lakes but it is one threat that is being targeted.
Working together and sharing skills GunaiKurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation (GLaWAC), Parks Victoria, landowners and Trust for Nature are conducting several fox baiting programs in areas around the Gippsland Lakes. The aims are to reduce the fox numbers which will give the waterbirds a chance to survive, breed and increase their populations.
Birdlife Australia together with the regional group of volunteers from Birdlife East Gippsland is also involved with their project being one of eleven that received funding in the Gippsland Lakes Community Grants 2017. They are working on a fox index which will measure the presence of foxes in waterbird breeding sites and their impact on these ground nesting birds. The index will assist managers to measure the success of the baiting program.
Graeme Dear, CEO of the East Gippsland Catchment Management Authority (EGCMA) said “The Gippsland Lakes funding is a priority listed in the Water Plan for Victoria and targeting foxes is an example of agencies and community groups sharing skills and knowledge and working together.”
Deb Sullivan from Birdlife Australia has seen many foxes when out doing field work during the day and is alarmed at how bold they are. “I was putting out song meters used to record Australasian Bittern and a fox swam out from the other side of the wetland, across the river, walked up to the song meter about 50 metres away, had a sniff then decided to swim back across the river into the wetland. I couldn’t believe it, as bold as brass!”
The ground feeding and nesting birds are fair game for the foxes. Deb also said “species such as the small terns, pied oyster catchers and hooded plover’s babies run from the moment they hatch; they don’t sit in the nest and wait to be fed by the parents they are completely mobile, but they can’t fly. They are still perfect prey for the fox even though they are fast they wouldn’t outrun a fox. We are trying to reduce those fox numbers to give the birds a better chance.”
Healthy fisheries need healthy habitat – that was the message at the East Gippsland Fish Habitat Forums held at the Marlo and Nicholson Angling Clubs last week.
Organised by the East Gippsland Catchment Management Authority (the EGCMA), the forums were a good opportunity to discuss the state of the regions fisheries and have a yak with mates. Fishing legend ‘Bushy’ Busch fielded questions about local fish including Estuary Perch and Bass, discussed the benefits of catch and release and talked techniques specific to fishing the waterways of East Gippsland.
EGCMA CEO Graeme Dear was on hand to kick off the Angler River Health Grants with a total of $50,000 available to angling clubs who want to get involved with improving a patch of river in East Gippsland. The grants will give local angling groups the ability to work directly with the EGCMA on the river banks and surrounds that are important to them.
“Angling clubs are amongst the most active users of our waterways; they have completed fencing and revegetation projects in the past, been involved in water quality monitoring and in running kids education days” said Mr Dear. “Having people who love their rivers and fish is an advantage for us. By working together we can improve river health and ultimately get better fishing.”
Angler River Health Grants are an initiative of the Water Plan for Victoria and also compliment the State Government’s commitment to delivering its $46 million Target One Million plan for recreational fishing, which aims to grow participation to one million anglers by 2020.