MEDIA RELEASE 21 November, 2021 |

Critically endangered sea slugs are among the incredibly diverse marine life under the Phillip Island bridge in need of urgent protection from growing threats.

A whopping 51 species of stunning sea slugs, also known as nudibranchs, have been found in waters near the bridge that connects San Remo to Phillip Island.

But development and urbanisation is increasingly threatening this Victorian ecological wonder.

More than 50 business, tourism, environmental and community groups have backed a plan to protect Western Port Bay.

It involves a new strategic approach to the bay and a dedicated fund to protect the area, which is an internationally recognised Ramsar wetland.

“These incredible creatures are a beautiful – and largely unknown – part of our precious marine ecosystem,” said Victorian National Parks Association nature conservation campaigner Shannon Hurley.

“Most people probably think of penguins at Phillip Island, but Western Port Bay is home to this mind-blowing collection of colourful sea slugs.

“You can see why they’re nicknamed the butterflies of the sea with their bewitching spectrum of colours.

“Out of all the sea slugs found along Victoria’s coastline, 125 species have been recorded at San Remo alone – that’s 25% of the known southern Australian species and more than 6% of the world’s species.

“But without a comprehensive and collaborative strategy to protect Western Port, the 51 species found by citizen scientists alone, including some that are endangered, could be under serious threat.

“Sea slugs aren’t on their own. Other marine biodiversity relies on a healthy Western Port Bay, including 65% of Victoria’s threatened bird species, seals and the elephant fish”

“That’s why we’re urging whichever party forms the next state government to back this business and community-endorsed plan to protect Western Port Bay.”

A new state-wide poll of 1000 Victorians found 82% backed the plan with 34% showing strong support.

The survey, commissioned by the Victorian National Parks Association and conducted by independent research firm Longeran Research, confirms the need for government to act.

“It’s clear that Victorians want their governments to protect Western Port Bay,” Ms Hurley said.

Citizen scientists have been at the heart of discovering and documenting the sea slug hotspot under the San Remo bridge.

Sea slug census events identify and monitor the animals, which helps collect crucial information about environmental changes.

Photos and footage of sea slugs in Western Port Bay:

About the poll: 

The research was commissioned by Victoria National Parks Association and conducted by Lonergan Research in accordance with the ISO 20252 standard, and in compliance with the Australian Polling Council Quality Mark standards (  Lonergan Research surveyed 1,000 Victorians aged 18+. Surveys were distributed throughout Victoria, and conducted online amongst members of a permission-based panel, between Friday 28 October and Sunday 6 November 2022. After interviewing, data was weighted to the latest population estimates sourced from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. found at