In 2019 the State Government announced Plan for Our Parks, an initiative to create five million hectares of new national parks, marine parks and other conservation reserves by 2024. A marine park on the south coast was identified as a key part of this initiative.
The Western Australian Auditor General’s report on the Management of Marine Parks and Reserves noted that several bioregions (areas with distinct biological and physical characteristics 3.15MB PDF) in WA, including the Eucla Bioregion, do not have marine protected areas, and that the South Coast Bioregion is under-represented in WA's existing network of marine parks and reserves. There is currently only one relatively small marine park in State waters on the south coast - the Walpole and Nornalup Inlets Marine Park (WNIMP). While the WNIMP provides protection for local habitats and biodiversity found within the only permanently open lagoonal estuary on the south coast, it does not extend into coastal waters.
The creation of a south coast marine park will ensure representation of the South Coast and Eucla Bioregions within WA’s network of marine parks and reserves, provide protection for important marine habitats and biodiversity and make a significant contribution to Australia's National Representative System of Marine Protected Areas (3.15MB PDF) , while allowing for ongoing sustainable use.
Community consultation is expected to commence in the second quarter of 2021.
Frequently asked questions
What is a marine park?
Why do we need marine parks?
They help protect unique marine environments for present and future generations.
Western Australia’s marine areas are unique and rival our remarkable landscapes in terms of their natural values and ecological significance. They include places like Ningaloo reef, which is one of the largest fringing coral reefs in the world, and Shark Bay, which has the world’s largest seagrass meadows and dugong population. These areas are irreplaceable and, like national parks on land, they warrant protection.
Some human activities can pollute, degrade and deplete the marine environment and put the survival of marine plants and animals at risk. Marine parks help to conserve the marine environment so that we can continue to appreciate and enjoy healthy marine ecosystems into the future.
They provide opportunities for people and businesses
Western Australian’s and visitors alike value our coastal waters. The natural and cultural values of these areas provide a range of social and economic benefits, including generating employment and revenue. Recreation and tourism in the marine environment are vital to our regions and the capacity of our marine areas to continue to support these uses depends on them remaining healthy.
- provide recreational opportunities for people to enjoy the marine environment
- play an important role in scientific research, as well as educating people about the marine environment
- protect areas of significant cultural heritage value
- help to protect areas important for commercial and recreational fishing, such as spawning grounds and nursery areas
- support a growing marine ecotourism industry including wildlife watching, diving and snorkelling, kayaking, glass bottom boat tours and charter fishing.
How do we decide where to put a marine park?
A set of national guidelines is used around Australia to determine where marine parks are most appropriately placed. Western Australia’s coastal waters are divided into different bioregions (areas with distinct biological and physical characteristics) and each bioregion has been assessed to identify the most suitable areas for marine reserves based on the conservation, scientific and public recreation values of the area.
The areas selected for marine parks contain, among other things, representative habitats and biodiversity found within each bioregion, key sites for threatened or protected species, and significant cultural heritage sites.
Why is a south coast marine park being proposed?
Marine parks and reserves conserve the marine environment for people to continue to use and enjoy into the future. While WA’s oceans are some of the healthiest in the world the pressures on these areas are growing. Marine parks play an important role in protecting those areas that are still in the most natural condition (where threats and pressures are minimal). By conserving and maintaining healthy marine ecosystems we can help to increase their resilience against threats such as climate change, pollution and overuse of resources.
While significant progress has been made in the establishment of a system of marine reserves in WA over the last 20 years, the south coast is under-represented in the existing network. There is currently only one relatively small marine park in State waters on the south coast – the Walpole and Nornalup Inlets Marine Park (WNIMP). While the WNIMP provides protection for local habitats and biodiversity found within the only permanently open lagoonal estuary on the south coast, it does not extend into coastal waters.
The creation of a south coast marine park will make a significant contribution to WA’s current network of marine reserves and Australia’s National Representative System of Marine Protected Areas. It will provide protection for representative marine habitats and biodiversity as well as important cultural heritage sites, while at the same time allowing for ongoing sustainable use.
What is the purpose of marine park zones?
Marine parks are multiple use, meaning they have different zones allowing different types of activities. The marine park zoning plan outlines what activities are allowed within each zone. Zoning is an important management tool used to conserve marine habitats and biodiversity, as well as manage potentially conflicting activities within a marine park.
The establishment of ‘no-take’ sanctuary zones allows scientists to carry out long term monitoring of marine habitats and biodiversity which are relatively unimpacted by human activities. These zones provide important reference areas or a baseline against which to compare areas where impacts may be occurring.
How do we zone a marine park?
Once the outer boundary of a marine park has been determined, the area within it is assessed at a finer scale to identify all the different habitat types and to ensure that the natural values that the marine park was created to conserve are all adequately protected. This means that in marine parks in WA:
- 'no-take' sanctuary zones generally include representative areas of different habitat types and biodiversity, threatened species habitat, nursery or breeding areas, important cultural sites, and internationally and nationally recognised areas
- most of the areas within a marine park is included within general use zones to minimise impacts on existing use
- social and economic factors influence the placement of zones to minimise impacts on existing use
- tourism operations are an important aspect of each marine park, often enabling visitors to better appreciate and understand the area and its natural values. Commercial tour operators require a licence which allows them to operate in different zones of a marine park depending on their type of activity
- some areas are important for research and monitoring so that we can continue to learn about the marine parks ecological, cultural and social values, detect impacts and manage for change.
Community support is vital to the success of a marine park, so when the marine park zoning plan is developed, the community and key stakeholders are heavily involved in its design to ensure a balance of conservation and sustainable use is achieved.
What are the different types of zones within a marine park?
The different types of zones used within WA marine parks are:
- General use zone - these zones are used to conserve the marine environment while allowing sustainable commercial and recreational activities to continue.
- Recreation zone - these zones are used primarily for recreational purposes, including recreational fishing where it is compatible with the primary recreation purpose of the zone. Commercial fishing is prohibited in recreation zones.
- Special purpose zone - these zones are used for a specific conservation purpose, such as the protection of marine habitats or cultural heritage values. Commercial and recreational activities that are compatible with the specific conservation purpose of the zone are allowed.
- Sanctuary zones - these zones provide the highest level of protection for marine plants and animals. They generally include representative habitats and biodiversity, important areas for threatened and protected species, and areas that include significant natural or cultural features. Sanctuary zones are ‘look but don’t take’ areas and the only zone where all types of fishing and collecting are prohibited. People can continue to enjoy nature-based activities within sanctuary zones, such as wildlife watching, diving, snorkelling and boating.
Will recreational fishing be allowed in the proposed south coast marine park?
Yes, you will be able to continue to enjoy fishing in the proposed south coast marine park. To conserve representative habitats and biodiversity fishing and collecting will be prohibited in some areas (e.g. sanctuary zones). The proposed south coast marine park will be carefully designed to minimise impacts to recreational fishers while helping to ensure a healthy marine environment that will support sustainable fishing into the future.
Will commercial fishing be allowed in the proposed south coast marine park?
Yes, commercial fishing is important to the region’s economy and existing sustainable commercial activities will be allowed within the proposed south coast marine park. To conserve representative habitats and biodiversity commercial fishing will be prohibited in some areas (e.g. sanctuary and recreation zones).
The proposed south coast marine park will be carefully designed to minimise impacts to commercial fishers and incorporate any existing restrictions into management arrangements where possible. For example, current restrictions to commercial fishing activities on the south coast, such as the Australian sea lion Gillnet Exclusion Zones, will be considered in the development of the marine park zoning plan.
Commercial fishers will be encouraged to attend consultation meetings and provide input during the marine park planning process, including making a submission when the draft management plan is released for public comment. Commercial fishers who hold an authorisation and suffer a loss arising from the creation of a marine park in WA may also apply for compensation under the Fishing and Related Industries Compensation (Marine Reserves) Act 1997.
Who will manage the proposed south coast marine park?
It is intended that the proposed south coast marine park will be jointly managed between the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) and the area’s Traditional Owners. DBCA also works closely with other State Government agencies, such as the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, who help to manage fishing in WA marine reserves.
What public consultation will be carried out?
Consultation with stakeholders and local communities regarding the proposed south coast marine park has already begun. DBCA will hold regular meetings with stakeholders and local communities in regional centres on the south coast throughout the marine park planning process. Commercial and recreational fishers, environment and tourism groups, local government, industry and local communities will all be encouraged to provide input during the planning process.
Once a draft management plan has been finalised it will be released for public comment for a statutory period of at least three months. Stakeholders and local communities will have an opportunity to make a submission regarding the management and zoning arrangements within the proposed south coast marine park during this time.
What is the difference between the Commonwealth Marine Parks off the south coast of Western Australia and the proposed south coast marine park?
The Commonwealth Marine Parks off the south coast of WA (i.e. South-west Corner, Bremer, Eastern Recherche and Twilight Marine Parks) are managed by the Australian Government through Parks Australia. They are in Commonwealth waters, which extend from the limit of State waters to the limit of Australia’s Exclusive Economic Zone. The proposed south coast marine park will be established in State waters – the area of ocean extending from the shoreline to the limit of State waters (i.e. 3nm from the Territorial Sea Baseline)..
The different marine environments found in Commonwealth Marine Parks and the proposed south coast marine park (i.e. deeper offshore waters versus shallower inshore waters) means that different marine ecosystems, habitats and biodiversity are/will be conserved within Commonwealth Marine Parks and the proposed south coast marine park.
Where appropriate, management and zoning arrangements for the proposed south coast marine park will be developed that are consistent with those of adjacent Commonwealth Marine Parks.
More information about Commonwealth Marine Parks can be found at parksaustralia.gov.au/marine.
Oceans of Opportunity: A Proposed Strategic Framework for Marine Waters of Western Australia’s South Coast
Forum Report - Commercial fishing and aquaculture meeting - Albany (PDF 222KB)
Forum Report - Commercial fishing and aquaculture meeting - Esperance (PDF 222KB)
Forum Report - Recreational fishing, environment and tourism meeting - Albany (PDF 217KB)
Forum Report - Recreational fishing, environment and tourism meeting - Esperance (PDF 217KB)
Forum Report - Community - Albany March 2020 (PDF 222KB)
Forum Report - Community - Esperance March 2020 (PDF 211KB)