A note from Neil Blake
Wednesday, 28 February 2024
With the aim of providing an ‘independent voice for the Bay’ the Port Phillip Baykeeper engages in a wide range of issues affecting the health of Port Phillip Bay. Effective education, action and advocacy all take time to prepare and deliver; along with positive relationships with stakeholders from various sectors: state and local government agencies, schools, research institutes, community groups and non-government organisations, and the general public.
While respectful cross-sectoral collaborations provide for the best outcomes over time, very few organisations have a core purpose of building such wide-ranging relationships. Government agencies tend to be constrained by geographical and jurisdictional boundaries; whereas, non-government organisations with appropriately skilled and motivated staff are well placed to fulfil this goal at a regional scale.
My association with the Bay began in 1985 as a St Kilda Park Ranger; affording unique opportunities to observe the wonders of the Bay, with a particular focus on the St Kilda penguin colony, and the various human threats it faces. I’ve been honoured to be the Port Phillip Baykeeper since 2008, responding to issues and government consultations as they arise, while engaging everyday people with citizen science opportunities to discover the Bay.
Key activities include:
- Working with Traditional Owners to protect their cultural heritage and support their endeavours for recognition and respect;
- Campaigning against shipping channel deepening at Port Phillip Heads and the stockpiling of contaminated dredged sediments in the Bay;
- Developing guidelines for removal of pest seastars;
- Coordinating St Kilda penguin protection during major construction works;
- Conducting shoreline shell surveys at reference sites around the Bay;
- Contributing to a range of ‘issues’ consultative committees, government policy workshops and waste industry forums;
- Designing and delivering a range of survey methods to establish baseline data on microplastics on suburban streets to rivers and creeks to the Bay;
- Developing a method for dune, beach and inter-tidal profiling, including vegetation mapping, to monitor change and inform future management.
All of the above, mostly unprecedented challenges, were undertaken as needs arose, often with no funding and requiring substantial time for desktop and field research. Meanwhile, the impacts of sea level rise and extreme weather are reshaping coasts around the Bay, with profound but largely undocumented impacts on biodiversity.
In 2022, I aim to focus wholly on engaging communities in monitoring coasts where they live to measure the impacts of climate change. I’ll be backing the next generation Baykeeper to take on the myriad other (non-coastal) issues and tasks.
In summary, despite the diverse demands, the Baykeeper role has been personally rewarding but it just never stops! There is so much more to do than can be achieved by one person; but we need your support to fund the new Baykeeper.
Neil Blake OAM, Port Phillip Baykeeper
Why we need a Port Phillip Baykeeper
Port Phillip Baykeeper connects everyday Bay users, community groups and organisations to learn about and protect the Bay and its catchments for today and future generations. 76% of Victorians live and work around Port Phillip Bay, depending on and impacting its health. As climate change, pollution and population growth put pressure on the Bay, the Baykeeper links community networks with local knowledge and passion to agencies and institutions with technical skill, resources and management responsibilities. Visit EcoCentre.com/Baykeeper to learn more.