Corner Inlet – a Ramsar site, right in our backyard

Corner Inlet is one of the most unique natural wonderlands in Victoria, if not Australia, supporting a huge number of migratory and wader bird populations and is home to many rare species of plants and marine life.

It’s home to the most southerly population of White Mangrove in the world, a feeding, nesting and breeding area for thousands of waterbirds, home to almost 400 native plant and 160 native animal species and supports local farming and fishing industries.

In 1982 it was listed as a wetland of international significance under the Ramsar Convention.

What is the Ramsar Convention?

The Ramsar Convention is named after the small Iranian town of Ramsar where an agreement between nations to conserve important wetlands across the world took place. Each Ramsar listed wetland has a coordinator that works with partners and community to help protect it. West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority (WGCMA) is the site coordinator for Corner Inlet.

Eleisha Keogh, Water Team Leader for WGCMA, said Corner Inlet, located to the north east of Wilson’s Promontory, includes the marine and coastal parks of Corner Inlet and Nooramunga, as well as the intertidal mudflats and barrier islands west of 90 Mile Beach.

“The area has significant cultural value to the Traditional Land Owners, the Gunaikurnai, Bunurong and Boon Wurrung people,” said Eleisha.

 “Locals and visitors alike love it for its striking landscapes, as well as a great spot for boating, fishing, camping and birdwatching.

“Despite the land use and features changing – from bushland to fertile farming land, many features of the catchment remain the same and Corner Inlet still has its special natural environmental character that we’re working to protect,” continued Eleisha.

A partnership approach to protecting Corner Inlet

Many local organisation’s and industry groups work together through the Corner Inlet Partner Group to ensure the inlet has a healthy future. Coordinated by the WGCMA, the partner group has been in place for more than ten years.

Partnerships and Engagement Team Leader at WGCMA, Belinda Brennan, said working these groups is vital for the protection of Corner Inlet.

“Our partners are so varied, which is why they’re so important,” said Belinda. “From farmers and fishers right through to Landcare, Trust for Nature, BirdLife, Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation (GLaWAC), government and Parks Victoria, we’ve all got a role to play in a healthy Corner Inlet.

“A key feature of our approach is to work with passionate local people and groups – because the more advocates we have working for a better Corner Inlet, the better the result for our local environment.”

On-ground works to protect the Ramsar values of the area include treating spartina, controlling foxes, improving water quality and protecting saltmarsh.

Suppressing Spartina 

Spartina (rice grass) was introduced to Australia in the 1920s to reclaim mud flats and prevent erosion. Like so many introduced plant species it became an invasive weed.

Controlling spartina helps improve natural estuary habitat for fish and allows plant species such as saltmarsh, mangrove and seagrass to re-establish. This improves the feeding and breeding sites for local and internationally significant migratory bird species. In the last year, WGCMA worked with Parks Victoria to treat and control over 1,400 hectares of Spartina.

Fox control

Foxes can decimate bird populations and in Corner Inlet many of these are nesting shorebirds or migratory species. Migratory birds fly hundreds of thousands of kilometres annually, such as the Eastern Curlew which fly from Russia and China to Corner Inlet.

In partnership with Parks Victoria, more than 140 hectares of fox baiting works was done in the last year, making Corner Inlet beaches a safer place for bird species.

Protecting saltmarsh

With only around 35% of the original saltmarsh area remaining around Corner Inlet the need to protect and build this population is pressing. Saltmarsh provides critical feeding and breeding habitat for birds, fish and crustaceans. It also filters nutrients and sediments, reduces erosion and maintains water quality.

Recent work with Trust for Nature has focused on a 40-hectare saltmarsh site on the lower Agnes River. This huge site was fenced off, which ensures stock is kept out. Each year, more saltmarsh is protected by a range of organisations. Over the past decade, more than 700 hectares of saltmarsh between McLoughlin’s Beach and Port Albert has been fenced off.

Improving water quality in the catchment

WGCMA has worked with farmers that have rivers and creeks on their property for more than 20 years. In the last financial year, WGCMA’s delivery team worked with six farmers to fence off and revegetate waterways.

Focussing on the hotspot catchments in the Water Quality Improvement Plan, work to date has seen excellent progress towards reducing water quality threats to the Ramsar site. Eighty percent of the Agnes River and 70% of the Franklin River have now been fenced to exclude stock and revegetated to control erosion and create habitat.

In coming years and again working with local landholders and partner agencies, it is hoped to continue the effort, working with more farmers on the waterways and with nutrient management.

This project is supported by West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program and the Victorian State Government. For more on the Corner Inlet Connections Project go to wgcma.vic.gov.au.

 

Corner Inlet from the sky
Corey from GLaWAC tackles weeds in Corner Inlet
Toora Beach, Corner Inlet

Published on 1 December 2020