AND OTHER MARINE INVERTEBRATES OF THE TWEED - BYRON COAST, AUSTRALIA.
Unlike other parts of the New South Wales coastline, the far northern region has very few rock platforms that are sheltered enough to provide a habitat for other than the more hardy species. Woody Head at Iluka is the finest example of such a habitat and has been recognised as such for many years. It has also been included in a National Park and given protection.
Another site of great importance is Hastings Point on the Tweed coast. Although not as large an area as Woody Head, in this area of long sandy beaches and exposed headlands it is a treasure for anyone interested in marine life. The diversity of tropical species observed here at various times can be amazing, notably Molluscs, as the partial checklist I have included will show. Other phyla are also well represented. I have so far been able to photograph 22 species of hermit crabs and 40+ crabs. Tropical Shrimps and Mantis shrimps also occur here as do many species of Flatworms, Polychaete worms, Sea Urchins, Brittle Stars, Anemones, Sponges, Sea Cucumbers and Tunicates. Some tropical species occurring intertidally here have yet to be found elsewhere on the New South Wales coast. For example, the first sighting in Australia of the sea-slug Bosellia sp. was recorded here, it may still be the only place in Australia where it is known to occur.
The only thing that is not well represented is some form of official protection, which I think is necessary as Hastings Point is unique. Situated on the southern side of the entrance to Cudgera Creek it is in an area that, like much of this coast, is being developed rapidly. It has always been a popular camping and caravaning spot for those who knew about it but the new highway has opened up this whole stretch of coast to the large population centres over the border, making it an easy day trip and thereby imposing much more stress on this small area. It is also a popular fishing area. I too have fished and collected bait here at times in the past, however, I also recognise that a stronger form of regulation than that which already exists needs to be applied.
We have enough regulations in our lives but the time has come to realise that this small, unique area needs protection. I also believe that it is not fishing that needs more regulation. It is not fishing that is threatening the destruction of this small, unique habitat. What has to be stopped is the practice of people, sometimes in large groups, stripping the area of species such as Sea Urchins and Turban shells, all for a good feed. Not only are they removing vast numbers of these animals but the destruction that is done in the process can be terrible. Trampling through the intertidal zone and shallows, turning over rocks and not turning them back again, and using screwdrivers and knives to prise animals away. Things may look fine from up on the hill but to snorkel and have a closer look in this area, after such an event, is not a pretty sight. This practice has to stop.
Apart from the pressures of a rapidly increasing population, which inevitably includes occasional acts of vandalism and stupidity there are also natural physical stresses in force. Due to the inshore current moving north along the beach, sand from the beach on the south side occasionally moves around the point and proceeds to fill in many of the rock pools and channels, smothering everything that cannot escape.
After a period of time the sand moves on and the various forms of life begin to slowly recolonize the barren areas. This rebuilding can be hampered by other factors, most obvious of which is the action of the waves that break over the area. Early in 2004 this area experienced some huge seas, with massive swells breaking across the rock-shelf, tearing up not only large areas of marine life but also ripping out parts of the rock reef as well. But this type of destruction and rebuilding has been going on since this area was formed and is probably one reason for the diverse forms that appear here at different times.
As I have no formal qualifications in marine studies, anyone wishing to obtain a much more in depth report on this area and its ecosystem (and why it needs protection) should contact Kerrie Trees or Ted Brambleby at the Marine Environments Field Study and Resource Centre at Hastings Point.
3 Durvilledoris lemniscata - A very rare sight!