Port Phillip Bay marine fauna
Port Phillip Bay has always played a significant role in the life of the citizens of Melbourne. It is an access route for shipping, a place for recreation, and it also receives most of the discharge from the city’s sewage treatment works.
The Port Phillip Biological Survey Committee was established in 1888 to report on the biology of the bay. Collections made then by dredging remain in the museum today. So, too, do more extensive samples taken during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s by the museum and the Fisheries and Wildlife Department, and the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works, and in the mid-1990s by the museum itself.
The first survey was undertaken simply to document the fauna in the new colony, but those taken in the 20th century were concerned about environmental changes resulting from urban and industrial development.
The surveys concentrated on collecting samples of the molluscs, worms, crustaceans and other kinds of animals living in the mud and sand at the bottom of the bay. Thousands of species have been identified over the years, hundreds of them new to science. Together, this series of samples is an historical archive that maps changes in density and distribution of species known to occur in the bay and documents when introduced species have appeared.
Interpretation of collections like these inform environmental managers faced with decisions about dealing with waste water in the catchment, the location of marine parks and legislating for fisheries.