In June 2012 Australian Environment Minister Tony Burke announced the Federal Government’s plan for a new network of marine parks and marine sanctuaries around Australia (see map). If passed into law, it will be the largest network of marine protected areas in the world.

 The number of marine reserves around Australia will increase from 27 to 60, expanding the national network to cover more than a third of Commonwealth waters (3.2 million square kilometres). While most of this area will be Marine Park (parts of which still allow forms of commercial and recreational fishing), around 13 percent of Australia’s territorial waters will now be properly protected to national park standard through the creation of marine sanctuaries. This is an area of ocean equivalent to the size of New South Wales within which an array of unique and important marine life and their critical habitats would be protected.

You can find out more details about the plan and download regional maps of the proposed parks here.

Final sign-off of the plan is expected by mid-2013 when a majority in both houses of the Australian Parliament will be required to allow the boundaries and management plans for the new marine reserves to become law. If you’d like to be involved in the community campaign to get these marine sanctuaries finalised, join the Big Blue Army.

Networks of Marine National Parks exist to varying degrees around the country in other state waters.

Western Australia

South Australia


New South Wales


Northern Territory

Case Study: Ningaloo Marine Park

Case Study: Great Barrier Reef Marine Park

Western Australia has thirteen multiple use marine parks, marine management areas and marine nature reserves, covering 11.7% of the state waters, with a high level of protection offered to 2.4% of the state waters. For more information visit: or for kids

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South Australia has twenty-one wilderness protected areas, aquatic reserves, shipwreck reserves, defence zones and the Great Australian Bight Park offering a high level of protection to 1% of their state waters. They are currently undergoing a planning process to identify a comprehensive, adequate and representative network of multiple use marine parks for the state. The outer boundaries for the network have recently been confirmed, covering 44% of the state waters. They are now developing the zoning for this network. For more information on this process go to

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Queensland is fortunate to be home to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, the largest marine park in Australia. 70% of Queensland’s coastal waters are in six multiple-use marine protected areas, with 22% of the state highly protected (including in the GBRMP). For more informaiton on Queensland’s marine parks, go to:

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In New South Wales the Marine Park Authority oversees twelve aquatic reserves and six multiple use parks which cover approximately one third of state waters, with a variety of access permitted ranging from recreational and commercial fishing to non-extractive uses. High protection is afforded to 6.7% of the coastal waters. Some of the 62 national parks in NSW also include marine components. NSW state waters have been divided into six bioregions and are being assessed to identify the need for additional marine protected areas.  You can find out more about New South Wales’ Marine Parks by visiting:

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In Victoria there are thirteen marine national parks and eleven smaller sanctuaries that offer a high level of protection to 5.3% of the Victorian coast and include a range of ecosystems and species. There are also four multiple use marine parks.  Click this link to learn more about Victoria’s Marine Parks:

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The Northern Territory currently has only one marine park encompassing less than 4% of NT coastal waters. The Government has committed to developing a MPA strategy, which will pave the way for establishing a network of marine parks across the NT. The strategy was due to be released in 2007 but has encountered serious delays. Visit for more information.

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Ningaloo was first declared as a marine park in 1987 and has been since extended twice. Covering 5070 sqare kilometres along the coast of Western Australia, Ningaloo Marine Park is a joint state and commonwealth reserve. It is the longest fringing reef in Australia and the only example in the world of an extensive fringing coral reef.

This reserve is special for the way in which the depth of the water varies from 30-500m with rapid drop-offs. The waters are in a transitional zone and so host both tropical and temperate flora and fauna. With a huge diversity of species and unique geomorphic features, Ningaloo provides biological and ecological links to deeper off-shore environments.

Ningaloo Marine Park is home to dugongs, manta rays, four species of turtle, four types of shark and at least five types of dolphins. It is on the migratory route of shore birds and waders, the spectacular whale shark, and is the home to over 200 types of corals and over 460 species of reef fish.

Recreational fishing and commercial tourism is permitted and commercial fishing is partly restricted. Only 34% of the marine park is fully protected.

Visit,com_hotproperty/task,view/id,50/Itemid,1584/ to find out more about this part of Australia’s unique marine environment

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The Great Barrier Reef is an icon of the natural world and its reservation as a marine park has been a boon to the ecology, economy and social capital of Queensland and beyond.

From just north of Bundaberg and extending to the tip of Cape York, the Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef system. It boasts the status of both marine park and World Heritage Area. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (GBRMP) covers 344 400 square metres, is more than 2000 km in length and several hundred kilometres wide in some parts, and has been classified into 70 bioregions. It was initially established in 1975 and was declared a World Heritage Area in 2004. It has a number of zones to accommodate various uses such as recreational and commercial fishing, tourism and conservation, with 33% of the area highly protected.

The GBRMP is home to a vast array of species that are protected at an international, national and state level making it a critical habitat zone. With over 2900 reefs, 900 islands the GBRMP biodiversity hosts protected species such as seahorses, pipefish, barramundi, Maori wrasse, whales, grey and great white sharks–and these are just a tiny fraction of the life that lives there.

To learn more about this amazing part of Australia, go to:

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