Australian marine parks

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Map showing Australian marine parks, colour-coded by network group. Darker areas highlight Sanctuary or National Park zones ('no take' zones).[1]

Australian marine parks (formerly Commonwealth marine reserves) are marine protected areas located within Australian waters and are managed by the Australian government. These waters generally extend from three nautical miles off the coast to the outer limit of Australia’s Exclusive Economic Zone at 200 nautical miles while marine protected areas located closer in-shore are the responsibility of the states or the Northern Territory.


Under the Howard Government the world’s first Oceans Policy was developed.[2] It included the creation of the Great Australian Bight Marine Park in 1998, greatly increased protection of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, and in 2007, established a series of large marine parks in Australia's south-east, now collectively known as the South-east Marine Parks Network.[3][4][5]

2012 marine parks[edit]

Map of the Commonwealth marine reserves announced in 2012, showing the original scheduled zoning rules.

In 2012, the Australian government under Labor/Kevin Rudd revealed plans to create the world's largest marine reserve network, made up of five main zones in offshore waters surrounding every state and territory.[6] The number of marine reserves off the Australian coast would increase from 27 to 60 and would cover 3,100,000 km2 (1,200,000 sq mi) of ocean including the entire Coral Sea.[7]

The plans were met with criticism by commercial and recreational fishers, for being too restrictive, and by environment groups for skirting areas of potential oil and gas prospectively, and that just a small amount of the total area completely off-limits fishing.[6][8]

Suspension and review[edit]

In the lead-up to the 2013 Australian federal election, the Liberal–National Coalition opposition led by Tony Abbott pledged to stop the expansion of marine protection parks announced during Labor's tenure.[9] Following the election of the Abbott government in September, the reserves announced in 2012 were re-proclaimed new Commonwealth marine reserves, invalidating the management plans and exclusion zones before they came into effect the following year on July 1, 2014.[10][11][12] As such, the suspension left the reserves as "paper parks" with no effective protection measures.[13][14]

A review into the 40 Commonwealth Marine Reserves that were announced in 2012 began in September 2014. This included the reserves of the South-west, North-west, North, Temperate East and Coral Sea marine regions.[10]

The results of the review were released in September 2016, which recommended zoning changes to 26 of 40 reserves and reductions to the area available to mining, while reducing the impact on commercial fisheries.[15][16] A later release of draft management plans showed further reductions in no-take zones, including six of the largest marine parks that had the area of their Marine National Park Zones (IUCN II) reduced by between 42% and 73%.[17]

The new management plans for the 40 marine parks came into effect on July 1, 2018, bringing all marine parks under protection.[18]


During a period of 2017, feedback was sought for the draft management plans of the 2012 Commonwealth Marine Reserves Review. The consultation process included a proposal to rename Commonwealth marine reserves. On 11 October, 2017, the 58 Commonwealth Marine Reserves managed by Parks Australia were renamed as 'Marine Parks'.[19][20]

Protection zones[edit]

Individual marine parks are assigned an IUCN category. However, each marine park may have one or multiple protection zones, each zone has an IUCN protected area category and related rules for managing activities to ensure the protection of marine habitats and species

The following table is a summary of the zoning rules of Australian marine parks:[21]

Zone IUCN Activities permitted
Vessel transiting Recreational fishing Commercial fishing Commercial aquaculture Commercial tourism Mining
Sanctuary Zone Ia No No No No aviation only, with approval No
National Park II Yes No No No excludes fishing, with approval No
Recreational Use II Yes Yes No No excludes fishing, with approval No
Habitat Protection IV Yes Yes most, with approval with approval with approval No
Multiple Use VI Yes Yes most, with approval with approval with approval with approval
Special Purpose VI Yes Yes most, with approval with approval with approval with approval
Note: A summary of zones and permitted activities only.

List of marine parks[edit]

Australian marine parks networks

The Australian marine parks are managed in groups of reserves called 'networks', except for the Coral Sea Marine Park and the Heard Island and McDonald Islands Marine Reserve.

Coral Sea Marine Park[edit]

The Coral Sea Marine Park covers 989,836 km2 (382,178 sq mi), it is the largest of Australia's marine parks and is located off the coast of Queensland in the Coral Sea.[22]

Heard Island and McDonald Islands Marine Reserve[edit]

The Heard Island and McDonald Islands are located in the southern Indian Ocean, approximately 4,100 kilometres south-west of Perth, Western Australia. The marine reserve covers an area of approximately 71,200 km2 (27,500 sq mi).[23]

North Network[edit]

The North Marine Parks Network contains 8 marine parks covering 157,480 km2 (60,800 sq mi), located off the coast of the Northern Territory and Queensland.[24]

North-west Network[edit]

The North-west Marine Parks Network contains 13 marine parks covering 335,341 km2 (129,476 sq mi), located off the north-west coast of Western Australia.[25]

Temperate East Network[edit]

The Temperate East Marine Parks Network contains 8 marine parks covering 383,339 km2 (148,008 sq mi), located off the coast of New South Wales.[26]

South-east Network[edit]

The South-east Marine Parks Network contains 14 marine parks covering 388,464 km2 (149,987 sq mi), located off the coasts of Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia.[27]

South-west Network[edit]

The South-west Network contains 14 marine parks covering 508,371 km2 (196,283 sq mi), located off the coast of South Australia and Western Australia.[28]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Map data: Sanctuary IUCN Ia and National Park IUCN II zones ('no take' zones) from Australian Marine Parks, (2018) Australian Government Department of the Environment and Energy. CC BY 4.0.
  2. ^ Siegel, Matt (14 June 2012). "Australia Plans World's Largest Marine Reserve". The New York Times Company. Retrieved 2 May 2017.
  3. ^ "South-east Marine Region". Retrieved 15 July 2018.
  4. ^ "Abbott turns back on marine legacy for votes". Fairfax Media. 11 August 2010. Retrieved 15 July 2018.
  5. ^ "Commonwealth Marine Reserves Review – Recommended zoning for Australia's network of Commonwealth marine reserves". Commonwealth of Australia. 16 September 2016. Retrieved 2 May 2017.
  6. ^ a b Duffy, Connor (14 June 2012). "World's largest marine reserve network unveiled". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 2 May 2017.
  7. ^ "Australia creates world's largest marine reserve network". Guardian News (Associated Press). 14 June 2012. Retrieved 2 May 2017.
  8. ^ Milman, Oliver (15 June 2012). "Does Australia's marine reserve plan justify the grand rhetoric?". The Guardian News. Retrieved 2 May 2017.
  9. ^ "Abbott pledges to curb marine parks". Fairfax Media. July 28, 2010. Retrieved July 15, 2018.
  10. ^ a b "About the Commonwealth Marine Reserves Review". Australian Government. Retrieved 15 July 2018.
  11. ^ Lawler, Susan (December 16, 2013). "Without management plans, marine parks will not provide environmental benefits". Retrieved July 15, 2018.
  12. ^ "Labor, Greens slam marine park decision". News Limited. December 14, 2013. Retrieved July 15, 2018.
  13. ^ "Abbott government blasted for stalling on marine parks". Fairfax Media. 14 November 2014. Retrieved 15 July 2018.
  14. ^ Butterly, Lauren; Richardson, Benjamin (October 14, 2014). "Marine park review looks set to repeat past mistakes". Retrieved July 15, 2018.
  15. ^ Voyer, Michelle; Kenchington, Richard (6 September 2017). "Government review supports Australia's marine reserves — now it is time to move on". (Australia). The Conversation Media Group Pty Ltd. Retrieved 2 May 2017.
  16. ^ Smail, Stephanie (6 September 2016). "Conservationists critical of plan to reduce Coral Sea marine park protection". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 2 May 2017.
  17. ^ Meeuwig, Jessica (September 21, 2017). "More than 1,200 scientists urge rethink on Australia's marine park plans". Retrieved 16 July 2018.
  18. ^ "New protections for Australia's world class marine parks". Sail-World Australia. July 3, 2018. Retrieved 15 July 2018.
  19. ^ "Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Commonwealth Marine Reserves Renaming) Proclamation 2017". Federal Register of Legislation. Australian Government. 11 October 2017. Retrieved 5 July 2018.
  20. ^ "Explanatory Statement - Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (Commonwealth Marine Reserves Renaming) Proclamation 2017". Retrieved 15 August 2018.
  21. ^ "Management Plans of Australian Marine Parks". Retrieved 14 August 2018.
  22. ^ "Australian Marine Parks - Coral Sea Park". Parks Australia. Retrieved 5 July 2018.
  23. ^ "Location and boundaries". Commonwealth of Australia. Retrieved 2 May 2017.
  24. ^ "Australian Marine Parks - North Marine Parks Network". Parks Australia. Retrieved 5 July 2018.
  25. ^ "Australian Marine Parks - North-west Marine Parks Network". Parks Australia. Retrieved 5 July 2018.
  26. ^ "Australian Marine Parks - Temperate East Marine Parks Network". Parks Australia. Retrieved 5 July 2018.
  27. ^ "Australian Marine Parks - South-east Marine Parks Network". Parks Australia. Retrieved 5 July 2018.
  28. ^ "Australian Marine Parks - South-west Marine Parks Network". Parks Australia. Retrieved 5 July 2018.

Further reading[edit]