SHIRE council officers last Thursday brought an enterprising extractive industry at Balnarring Beach to an abrupt halt.
The first site to come to a standstill was the foreshore and later a small reserve at the corner of Campbell and Highview courts.
Not known as a mining area, the two reserves were nevertheless giving up buckets of saleable items – earthworms.
“It’s amazing how many worms there are in the ground, they were everywhere,” a resident who did not want to be identified told The News.
“I’m sure removing this many worms from one spot can’t be good for the environment.
“The people [collecting the worms] did not speak to anybody, so I can only guess they were selling them for worm farms or bait. They certainly looked to be well organised.”
The worm miners were first spotted on the foreshore, inserting electrical probes powered by a small generator into the earth.
Within minutes the ground was covered in wriggling worms, obviously coaxed into the daylight by the electrical charge.
The foreshore ranger expressed his doubts about their rights to harvest worms on such a scale and the miners packed up their two vehicles and moved on – to the reserve on the outskirts of Balnarring Beach.
Once again the ground was pegged out in strips and the electrical probes again inserted with the wriggling results again ready to be scooped into buckets.
This time, alerted by the foreshore ranger, Mornington Peninsula Shire local laws officers attended and stopped the work.
“Foreshore regulations and the shire local laws apply and operations of this nature, if they are commercial, may require planning permission,” environment protection manager Claire Smith said.
“Penalties, both on-the-spot infringements or court action, can result depending on the nature of the incident or activity. In this instance the matter is considered resolved.”