Victoria has 2,512 km of coastline and approximately 10,000 square kilometres of marine waters. For many Victorians, our marine and coastal environments underpin our way of life, providing immense environmental, cultural, social and economic benefits, in addition to their intrinsic natural values. Traditional Owners have a very strong continuing and dynamic connection with the coast.

Unlike many parts of Australia and the world, 96 per cent of our coast is public land. This gives us a strong starting point to manage and protect these areas for future generations to enjoy. It also ensures that the coast is largely accessible to all of us. It creates a wide range of experiences, from the bustling city beaches to smaller seaside settlements and untouched coastline in remote areas.

Traditional owners have a deep sense of connection and responsibility to Country including Victoria’s coastal and marine environments.  The ancestors of these groups managed traditional areas for many thousands of years, including areas now inundated by the sea. These connections are the basis for maintaining cultural traditions and passing on knowledge across generations. These groups have traditional responsibility for the land, waters and air as a connected whole that forms the basis of their cultural practices. Because of this, they have an important role in managing land and sea country by helping to integrate the natural, heritage, material and spiritual components of land, intertidal areas and sea. Victorian Traditional Owners are increasingly being recognised by the State as partners in land and water management.

The Victorian coast and its marine areas are diverse.

  • Cliffs and coastal plains break up out coastline and form the structure for many different habitats.
  • Large and small beaches give way to dune systems. In the swales behind the dunes, woodlands commonly occur, including small pockets of threatened coastal Moonah woodlands. In other parts, forests and woodland extend almost to the beach.
  • Coastal heathlands are common on cliff tops and rocky headlands.
  • Offshore islands are critical for bird rookeries.
  • Victoria has about 123 bays, inlets and estuaries - varying in water area from around one square kilometre to 2,000 square kilometres. Estuaries are important for fish spawning or as nursery grounds and for recreation. Salt marshes, mangroves and wetlands are important nesting and feeding grounds for a broad range of significant waterbirds and waders, including migratory species.
  • Inter-tidal zones are also significant for flora and fauna. Different levels and frequencies of inundation by seawater create different habitats that support a diversity of species and life stages.
  • Reef systems, seagrass beds, kelp forests, sponge gardens, intertidal rock platforms and other habitats support the world’s largest diversity of red and brown seaweeds, sea mosses, crabs, shrimps and sea squirts.

The Victorian coast is a naturally dynamic environment that is constantly changing and evolving. They change with the influence of wind, tides, waves and weather systems. Within reason, we must plan for and adapt to natural changes. This diversity and change reflect the dynamic, complex and interconnected nature of coastal and marine habitats.

The south coast of Australia is the only major south-facing coastline in the world and has been isolated for approximately 65 million years. Because of this long isolation, many species have evolved that only exist in south-eastern and southern Australian waters. Reef systems, seagrass beds, towering kelp forests, sponge gardens, intertidal rock platforms and other habitats support the world's largest diversity of red and brown seaweeds, sea mosses, crabs, shrimps and sea squirts. Recent marine mapping has discovered previously unexplored seascapes and communities of organisms new to science.

Victoria has a longstanding legacy of communities and individuals being part of caring for the coast. Volunteers and coastal communities are a key part of the way we manage and protect these areas. Around 9,000 Victorians are members of volunteer groups – from Coastcare to committees of management to conservation and friends’ groups.

The coast provides huge social values for Victorians – its natural aesthetics, heritage and diverse recreational opportunities. Coastal heritage values play an important role in creating our sense of place and defining who we are. It has many different layers of history and meaning, from areas of natural significance to past and present Aboriginal traditions.

Commercial activities in coastal and marine environments rely on, and are supported by, natural assets. Coastal-dependent industries such as fishing, aquaculture, tourism and recreational pursuits, ports, shipping, and oil and gas extraction make a significant contribution to local, regional and state economies.

Commercial ecosystem goods and services from Victoria’s coast contribute $9.9 billion per annum to our economy. Non-commercial goods and services (i.e. goods and services that are not traded commercially) are conservatively estimated at $8.4 billion per annum (WorleyParsons 2013). Commercial ports, shipping, commercial fishing, aquaculture and some renewable energy industries rely directly on coastal assets. Together with coastal tourism, these industries contribute over $2.8 billion a year to the Victorian economy. If the petroleum industry is included, the total value is over $5.8 billion (URS, 2007). The value of informal recreation such as walking, recreational fishing, sailing, and sightseeing has been estimated at more than $1.9 billion (URS, 2007). This highlights the importance of coastal ecosystem services.

“Our coasts are coming under increasing pressure for a variety of uses, which can result in land use conflicts and the degradation of coastal habitat. The challenge is to ensure that its many attributes are managed in a sustainable fashion and that decisions about competing uses are balanced in the interests of all Victorians”. (Victorian Coastal Strategy 2014)

Managing and protecting out coastal and marine environments in the best natural state has challenges:

  • Increasing population pressures and use
  • growing cost of providing and maintaining coastal infrastructure
  • increasing coastal hazards and risks with a changing climate and sea level rise
  • potential ecosystem changes from increased ocean temperatures, changes to ocean chemistry,  and ocean acidification.

Page last updated: 30/04/19