Care for St Kilda

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By Daniel Smith

Formed in 1989, Earthcare St Kilda is a non-profit volunteer group that works in partnership with local government, state government bodies and scientists to improve the natural resources of the City of Port Phillip, from Port Melbourne to Elwood. While the original goal of Earthcare was to protect the Little Penguin colony which live on the rocks that form the St Kilda breakwater, Earthcare has grown to provide volunteers from both the local and surrounding municipalities with opportunities to help enhance and protect the natural land and marine environments of the City of Port Phillip, meet and work on environmentally based projects alongside other enthusiastic volunteers, and learn from each other and scientific specialists about the amazing range of wildlife that inhabit this inner city location.

The 22nd of September marks another day where residents of St Kilda (and surrounding suburbs) are invited to participate in an act of preservation. Unfortunately, not all the marine life residing in Port Phillip Bay is good for the environment. The Northern Pacific Seastar is a good example of how one species can do much damage to the native marine environment, and it is the goal of Earthcare to minimise its impact on the native fauna. The Northern Pacific Seastar (Asterias amuensis) has five arms with pointed tips and is mottled yellow and purple in colour, it is native to the north eastern pacific; around Japan, Korea, Russia and China. It was discovered in Port Phillip Bay in 1995, where it has been introduced in the ballast from container ships from the Northern Pacific and is now widespread.

With the help of countless volunteers, Earthcare St Kilda has been removing Northern Pacific Seastars from the seagrass beds in St Kilda Harbour since 2008. Once a month, volunteers attempt to minimise the impact of these Seastars on the native habitat in the St Kilda harbour and near Brighton Sea Baths (homes to our own native Seastars and Rakali) by removing them by hand. This feat is pulled off by two teams: the Water Team and the Land Team (for those of you who would rather stay high and dry). The Water Team consists of volunteer licenced divers, snorkelers and people who are willing to wade to pick out any Northern Pacific Seastars sighted by hand. The Land Based Team assist in the counting, weighing and measuring of Seastars removed.

If you’re willing to help out your community and are up for the task, feel free to meet up with members of Earthcare and other volunteers at the start of St Kilda Pier at 9:30am, September 22nd

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