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Fishing and conservation working together

A spike in sea urchin population in the Gippsland’s Corner Inlet has led to a partnership between conservationists and local professional fishers.

The Nooramunga Marine and Coastal Park, a Ramsar-listed site, has had a huge unexplained spike in the native purple-spined sea urchins population. This led to volunteers culling more than 57,000 of the creatures last year at the Corner Inlet in a bid to preserve seagrass habitat.

Michael Hobson a fifth-generation fisherman from Port Albert and local seafood restaurant owner has been part of the planning discussions for the project and said

“it’s about solving this ecological problem more that out of a significant financial gain”.

The fishermen are an important segment of the Corner Inlet Partner Group. Coordinated by the West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority (WCGMA), the group works together to ensure the inlet has a healthy future.

Corner Inlet and Norramunga includes a complex network of intertidal mangroves, saltmarsh, mudbanks, seagrass beds, islands and deeper channels. A small fleet of commercial fishermen operate in the inlet, they are passionate about the local environment and ensuring the area has a prosperous future. They understand the delicate ecosystem that supports the fishery and value the natural habitat of the inlet.

Sea urchins are one of the most common macro-grazers in seagrass systems. When population expansion exceeds seagrass growth rates, overgrazing can threaten the eco-system services of these underwater meadows. Seagrass meadows support fisheries through providing habitat nursery areas for juvenile species and it has been estimated that without seagrass we’d lose one-fifth of our biggest fisheries.

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