working together benefits marine park
The Coffs Coast holds a special place in many people’s hearts. Along with the beautiful backdrop of the Great Dividing Range, the region is blessed with some of the most pristine estuaries in NSW, incredible marine biodiversity and rugged yet stunning Solitary Islands carved by thousands of year of wind and waves.
The first people to walk along the shores, islands and waterways were the Gumbaynggirr and Yaegl peoples. There are many cultural and spiritually significant sites located along the Coffs Coast, including the ancient stone fish traps at Arrawarra Headland.
European travellers arrived late in the 18th century, when the English navigator James Cook sailed along the coast, charting its headlands and naming its features. Observing a scatter of islands, each one standing alone in the Pacific, Cook named them the Solitary Islands, and are now a major feature of the Solitary Islands Marine Park.
The outstanding natural values of the Solitary Islands Marine Park (SIMP) have long been recognised, with protective zoning in place since 1991. The Marine Park covers approximately 72,000 hectares and stretches 75 kilometres from the northern side of Muttonbird Islands at Coffs Harbour to Plover Island at the entrance to the Sandon River. It is particularly diverse for NSW waters, with research identifying over 550 species of reef fish and 90 species of coral as well as threatened and endangered species such as grey nurse sharks, marine turtles and a host of seabirds. The incredible diversity is due largely to the influences of the warm East Australian Current from the north, mixing with the cooler currents from the south.
The management of the Solitary Islands Marine Park is the responsibility of the NSW Marine Parks Authority who works closely with a range of other agencies and organisations to facilitate a balanced approach to conservation and use. National Parks and Wildlife Service manage the five Solitary Islands and are also responsible for the protection of marine mammals and the range of sea and shore birds that rely on our blue backyard for feeding, nesting and roosting. A partnership with Dolphin Marine Magic – Pet Porpoise Pool has enabled sick and injured marine and bird life to be rehabilitated by expert staff in cooperation with NPWS staff.
Dr Duan March, Veterinarian of the Pet Porpoise Pool said “Working with the marine wildlife in this area is a real privilege. When you get to witness the transformation of some of these animals from near death to full health, and eventually release them back into the wild, it is a pretty special feeling and definitely one of the better parts of my job.”
Over the years hundreds of sea creatures have been rehabilitated and released including dolphins, seals, penguins and sea turtles. We are also fortunate to have a leading marine research institution on our doorstep. The National Marine Science Centre, a teaching and learning facility of Southern Cross University, has considerably enhanced our knowledge of local marine habitats, species and processes through ongoing research and monitoring. Not only is the NMSC focusing on addressing key sustainability issues but also insuring that Australia’s capacity to deal with them in the future is enhanced by training a new generation of suitably equipped scientists and managers.
Mike Davey, Owner/Operator of Jetty Dive said “The Solitary Islands Marine Park is host to an abundant variety and diversity of marine life. With the aim to conserve for future generations, our staff participate in projects in conjunction with the NMSC and SIMP to protect the endangered species that are in the area, including the Grey Nurse Shark and Black Cod”.