caring for our coast

On this day in 1987 Western Australia’s first marine park was created. Marmion Marine Park follows Perth’s coast from Trigg Island north to Burns Rocks.

Marmion Marine Park

The elephant seal (Mirounga leonina) which came ashore in Perth last month after his long swim from Antarctic waters, rested on Sorrento Beach within the Park. Sea lions and dolphins are more common visitors to the area and the reefs support abundant marine life, from fish to sponges and gorgonian corals. Snorkelling at Mettams Pool and dive sites accessible by boat allow visitors to see these oceanic wonders. The park includes three sanctuary zones: Boy in a Boat Reef, Little Island and The Lumps. People can visit these no-take areas but fishing isn’t allowed.

Marmion Marine Park follows the rocky limestone coast

I keep to the shallows and the shore. The more southerly beaches and dunes of Marmion Marine Park are where Stirling Natural Environment Coastcare (SNEC) works. I volunteer with this Coastcare group, planting native coastal plants and weeding out the plants that don’t belong (if left to grow they would choke out the native plants). The dunes are home to birds, insects, bobtail lizards and snakes, as well as introduced rats which I’ve scared from their hiding place while weeding.

coastcare planting on the dunes last winter

Coastal areas are very changeable as the sea erodes rocks and wind blows sand. Plants stabilize the dunes and different species grow at different points.

Leucophyta brownii

Some grow on rocky areas where salt spray blasts them eg. Frankenia pauciflora and Threlkeldia diffusa

Threlkeldia diffusa growing in limestone

Some grow on the edge of the primary dune eg. Spinifex and Leucophyta brownii

spinifex growing on the primary dune as the dune is eroded and roots exposed

Larger plants grow further back in the swale between dunes or on the secondary dune.

larger plants growing on the secondary dune

Cottesloe Coastcare provides a list of 66 plants that are found in the dunes and beach at Cottesloe (with photos & descriptions). Many also occur further north in Marmion Marine Park.

these stairs used to lead to the beach but are now blocked off as the beach eroded

We’ve built roads and other structures on or next to the dunes and when this unstable land is encroached on by wind and sea we try all sorts of things to fortify it. The City of Stirling has trucked in limestone rocks to build up the eroded land at North Beach Jetty and piled sand bags against the dune at Watermans Beach. Many dune areas are fenced off from beach goers so we won’t trample vegetation on our way to the beach.

sand dunes are fenced to stop beach goers trampling plants

There are many Coastcare groups which need volunteers to help with dune rehabilitation. Contact your local council to find out which group is in your area. Even one Sunday morning before or after a swim will help our coastline provide shelter for wildlife and a beach for us to enjoy into the future.


3 thoughts on “caring for our coast

  1. I found it curious that the species name for an elephant seal refers to a lion, but then it occurred to me that seals are often called sea lions.

    This park looks like a fun place to visit. In Australia I’ve only been to Sydney and vicinity, but maybe someday I’ll get to see the other side.

    • i noticed that leonina too. i looked up the relationship between elephant seals and sea lions. Sea lions have external ear flaps and are in the family Otariidae, along with fur seals. Elephant seals are earless “true” seals in the family Phocidae. the southern elephant seal which has the species name leonina is the largest true seal and maybe this is how it came to be leonine (as well as math, i love species nomenclature, nerd that i am)

      make sure you visit the west coast sometime, our landscape, wildlife and weather is very different to Sydney

      • Because I knew essentially nothing about seals, I too did a little searching and found out about the Otariidae (the first part of which I recognized from otitis and otolaryngologist) and Phocidae (which I can relate to phoque and foca, the French and Spanish words for seal). I also found out that the southern elephant seal is the largest of the “true” seals. You may well be right that as the lion is considered the king of beasts, the southern elephant seal is the lion of “true” seals.

        Near the end of this year I’m probably going to visit New Zealand for the first time, but who knows when I’ll make it to western Australia. One of these years, I hope.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s