Port Phillip Bay is a truly special part of Australia.
It boasts a rich cultural heritage, an astounding array of wildlife, and a wealth of opportunities for adventure.
Together, we can ensure it has a happy and healthy future.
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Who am I?
How can you tell it’s me?
I’ve got a distinctive orange column with white stripes surrounded by many small white tentacles that I use to catch my prey.
Where is the best place to find me?
I am one of the most common anemones and you can find me on rocky reef and on jetty pylons throughout the Bay.
Why am I important for Port Phillip Bay?
I am a carnivore who eats larvae of some invasive species, preventing them from settling on artificial structures.
Like all leatherjackets, I have a rough skin and a spine on top of my head for protection and a small mouth with very sharp teeth. My body is greyish, with yellow-orange patches separated by blue lines.
There’s no specific spots to find me in Port Phillip Bay, but it’s easier to spot me when I am young, as adults live at greater depths. As a young fish, I hang out under the bell of jellyfishes. When I am older, I move to piers and other man-made structures, and when I am adult, I prefer rocky reefs.
How can you help understand me better?
If you’re keen to jump in the water, join hundreds of citizen scientists who come together every year to record the number of a selection of fish species and report sightings of rarer species. This yearly event, the Great Victorian Fish Count has been held since 2002 and help collect vital information on our marine fishes.
I have got a soft body like all squids and cuttlefishes, but mine is elongated and most of my body is surrounded by diamond-shaped fins. I can change colour quickly.
I am the most common squid species in the Bay and can be found in shallow waters, under piers and at a variety of reefs and seagrass beds; I am most often seen at night.
I am food for several important predators living in the Bay including dolphins, seals, snappers and some sharks. Humans like to eat me as well.
If you’ve come across me (or any species at all, aquatic or terrestrial), why not submit a sighting on iNaturalist? You can include photos as well if you have some. This is a great way to contribute to science and help increase our understanding of the distribution and ecology of different species.
Wandering anemone aka swimming anemone
During the day, I look like a collapsed bag of orange and sometimes whitish or bluish baked beans with blue lines on the seafloor. At night, I cling to higher locations and you can see my numerous orange tentacles, which help me catch my prey.
You will find me in shallow areas of up to 10 meters, where algae and seagrasses are present.
How can you help understand me better? If you’ve come across me (or any species at all, aquatic or terrestrial), why not submit a sighting on iNaturalist? You can include photos as well if you have some. This is a great way to contribute to science and help increase our understanding of the distribution and ecology of different species.
Australian fur seal
I’ve got large eyes, a pointed face with long whiskers, little ears. My fur is brown.
Whilst I’ve been reported in different parts of the Bay, your best bet if you want to see me in and out of the water is to go to Chinaman’s Hat, a man-made structure near the South Channel of Port Phillip. I love resting and basking in the sun there even though the platform gets pretty crowded!
As a top predator, I am an important part of a healthy ecosystem. I keep the populations of my preys in check like fishes, squids and octopus. I remove vulnerable prey that are old, sick, or injured, leaving more food for heathier ones to live and reproduce.
How can you help protect me better?
If you find a seal (or any other marine mammal) that is injured or entangled anywhere in Victoria, call the Marine Response Unit to report it so it can be rescued.
Photographer – Matt Krumins
Magnificent biscuit star
I’ve got 5 arms that are not as thin and long as most seastars and I’ve got colours that vary between purple, pink and red.
I am one of the most common seastar in the Bay. You’ll find me in rock pools, and on rocky and sandy bottoms around the Bay
I feed on small plants and microbes that I find on the bottom of the ocean and help keep their numbers in check.
Verco’s Tambja aka Verco’s nudibranch
As a mollusc, I have a soft yellow body with sky-blue spots. I also have blue gills that you can sometimes see on my back and blue sensory organs on my head.
I am one of the most common nudibranch aka sea slug that can be found in Port Phillip Bay. I feed on a bryozoan, a small animal that forms little blue-green tufts and you’ll find in any reef my food is found.
As a lot of my nudibranch friends, I am very picky in what I eat and my presence is a good indication that the environment is healthy. By identifying the areas I don’t like anymore, scientists can find out where the environment might be changing
Do you have an underwater camera? Why not take part in the Victorian National Parks Association’s Sea Slug Census. A few times a year, divers, snorkelers and beach goers exploring rock pools take on the challenge to spot and report as many of my sea slug friends as possible and send the photos with information about the observations (locations, depths, etc) to help scientists understand where sea slugs are found and how their environment changes.
Photographer – Gareth Dixon
Weedy sea dragon
I’ve got a long body with leafy growths and beautiful iridescent coloured spots and stripes. I’ve got a long snout and I am tricky to spot amongst seaweeds, hence my name. If you are lucky to see me during the breeding season, you’ll notice some bright pink eggs under my tail if I am a male
There are a few piers around the Bay where you can dive and snorkel to see me like Portsea, Flinders; Mushroom Reef is also a good spot to see me
With my bright colours and long body, I am one of the most popular fish of Port Phillip Bay. People come from far and wide to see me underwater and love the challenge of spotting me amongst seaweeds.
Why not join Dragon Quest? If you have an underwater camera, send your photos of me along with information on location, date and depth to the Victorian National Park Association. The spots on my body are unique and thanks to profile photos, scientists can identify me and my friends, which help knowing how much of us there are in different areas.
Photographer: Adriana van Leeuwen
Giant spider crab
I’m the biggest crustacean in Port Phillip Bay; I’m mostly orange with long legs and a hard, rough carapace. Algae and sponges on my back sometimes help me blend into my environment
I live a rather solitary life in the deeper parts of Port Phillip Bay but I aggregate in shallow waters in different parts of the Bay (e.g. St Leonards, Blairgowrie, Rye) at certain times of year. If you have a thick enough suit to brave the cold waters of Port Phillip Bay at the end of Autumn, you can find me at Rye or Blairgowrie, with thousands of my friends. We seek safety in numbers as we need to get rid of our carapace to grow.
The spider crab aggregations provide a lot of food for other marine creatures. Big rays, Port Jackson sharks and more love a soft, freshly moulted crabs, but smaller critters such as shrimps and sea stars also feast on bits of flesh attached to the old carapaces and on the crabs that are not luck enough to make it through the adventure
You can report your sightings (including date, time, number of crabs, location and depth) on the “Spider Crabs Melbourne” Facebook page and help track the crabs’ movements.
Little penguin aka fairy penguin or blue penguin
I am a bird that can’t fly! I am a great diver, but I am a bit clumsy on land. I’m the smallest penguin species in the world. I have a white belly, a blue back and head and strong flipper to propel myself through the water.
Although I can pop up in different places in the Bay and divers and snorkelers are lucky to see me from time to time, the best place to see me is on land, on the St Kilda breakwater. We started living there over 50 years ago and now we are around 1,400 nesting there in-between the rocks.
As a top predator, I am an important part of a healthy ecosystem. I keep the populations of my prey in check like small schooling fish. I remove vulnerable prey that are old, sick, or injured, leaving more food for heathier ones to live and reproduce.
If you find a penguin (or any other marine wildlife) that is injured or entangled anywhere in Victoria, contact the Marine Response Unit, or Wildlife Victoria after hours, to report it so it can be rescued. If you see me on land, don’t come too close, don’t take photos with flash or disturb me; I need to focus on caring for my babies after a long day fishing in the Bay. If you live near St Kilda, you can volunteer with Earthcare St Kilda to help keep me safe on the breakwater.