Western Port is a large tidal bay in southern Victoria, Australia opening into Bass Strait. It is the second largest bay in Victoria. Geographically, the bay is dominated by the two large islands, French Island and Phillip Island.
It is 680 square kilometres in area and is highly valued for its environmental benefits, highlighted by the establishment of three marine protected areas. It contains numerous sea-grass, mudflat, mangrove, saltmarsh and deepwater communities with high habitat values.
While Western Port is generally shallow with 40 per cent of its northern area exposed as mud flats at low tide, the south western part is known for its deeper channels of around 14.3 metres in depth. It is home to many bird and animal species and is listed under the Ramsar Convention for its habitat for migratory water birds.
Western Port has a highly diverse variety of habitat types. In its northern part, are unique and highly productive communities of seagrass, mangrove and saltmarsh habitat. This habitat provides food and shelter for invertebrates, insects, crabs, reptiles, fish and birds, and critical nursery habitats for a range of commercial and recreational fish species.
The area around the bay and the two main islands were originally part of the Boonwurrung nation’s territory prior to European settlement. The bay was first seen by Europeans in 1798 when an exploration crew journeyed south from Sydney to explore Australia’s south eastern coastline.
Threats to Western Port include algal blooms from increased nutrient loading, sedimentation, changes in fresh water quality, clearing of native habitat, impacts from agriculture, introduction of exotic marine organisms and impacts from climate change.