Marine reserves (also known as marine protected areas or marine parks) are parts of the ocean that are managed primarily for the conservation of their ecosystems, habitats and the marine life they support. The new Commonwealth marine reserves network includes examples of all of Australia's different marine ecosystems and habitats.
The creation and effective management of marine reserves is widely regarded, both nationally and internationally, as one of the most effective mechanisms for maintaining the long-term health and productivity of our oceans. The reserves will help ensure that Australia's diverse marine environment remains healthy, productive and resilient.
While the primary objective in establishing the reserves is the conservation of biodiversity, the sustainable use of natural resources is allowed in some parts of the network where doing so is consistent with this primary objective.
The new marine reserves have added more than 2.3 million square kilometres to the previously existing national system of Commonwealth marine reserves, expanding the overall size of the Commonwealth marine reserve estate to some 3.1 million square kilometres. The number of marine reserves has expanded from 27 (including the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park) to 60, covering more than a third of Commonwealth waters. This is the largest system of marine reserves in the world.
National Representative System
New Commonwealth marine reserves were identified through the marine bioregional planning process as part of Australia's commitment to establish a National Representative System of Marine Protected Areas (NRSMPA) by 2012. This commitment was made by the Commonwealth, State and Northern Territory governments in 1998 and confirmed at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development.
The marine bioregional planning process involved extensive public consultation, and resulted in the development of marine bioregional plans and the identification of new Commonwealth marine reserves.
Public Consultation on reserves and management plans
The development and proclamation of the Commonwealth marine reserves has involved extensive consultation over the past 4 years (including over 150 days of statutory consultation).
In July 2012, the Director of National Parks published a notice in the Government Gazette inviting public comment on the proposal to declare new Commonwealth marine reserves. The 60 day comment period concluded on 10 September 2012 with the department receiving nearly 80,000 submissions. The Director of National Parks considered the comments received and provided a report to the Minister detailing the comments and the Director's views on the comments received. The Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, considered the report and recommended to the Governor-General that the reserves be proclaimed under Australia's national environmental law.
Following the proclamation of the marine reserves, the Director of National Parks initially invited public comment on the scope of the management plans, followed by comments on the draft plans for the reserves. Management plans will provide certainty about the activities that will be allowed in the reserves over the course of the plans' 10-year lifespan, and will provide the stability necessary for marine industries to operate, invest and grow.
The department received over 100 000 submissions in response to the two public comment periods regarding management plans for each of the South-west, North-west, North, Temperate East and South-east Networks and the Coral Sea Reserve. The management plans for the five marine reserve networks and the Coral Sea reserve were finalised, taking account of public comments, and were approved by the Minister.
Find out more
Commonwealth Marine Reserves Branch
Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities
Edgar Waite Building
203 Channel Highway
Kingston TAS 7050
Phone: 1800 069 352