Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett announced the grants, which are being split between more than 400 groups, during Australia’s Coastcare week.

The funding is part of the Rudd government’s $2.25bn Caring for Our Country Community Coastcare programme.

It will support projects to survey coastal and underwater marine environments and protect wildlife living along the coastline.

“Through Caring for Our Country, the government is taking a comprehensive, targeted and integrated approach to natural resource management funding, encouraging individuals and organisations to work together to achieve its national priorities,” Mr Garrett said.

“Many of the projects funded through Community Coastcare look beyond their local environmental issues to link up with others to take a more collaborative approach.”

The package includes more than $10m for 349 small grants worth up to $50,000 each, and more than $12.5m for 72 larger-scale projects to tackle national environmental issues.

Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Tony Burke said: “The Rudd Government recognises that our farmers, fishers and Landcare groups are already involved in important work to improve water quality, fish stocks, vegetation and more.

“With this funding support, they can continue that work in partnership with other community and industry groups.”

Despite the grants, Coastcare launched a fundraising initiative during Coastcare Week urging Australians to collectively travel round their country’s coastline.

The Life on the Edge Challenge encourages people to each travel along a 100km stretch of the coastline by any non-motorised method, such as walking, running or swimming, while being sponsored.

Coastcare CEO Brian Scarsbrick said: “Many of our bird rescues, marine life surveys, clean-ups and habitat restoration projects in Australia are carried out by more than 60,000 Coastcare volunteers and they need our support to continue looking after our favourite playground.”

Kate Martin

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