Commonwealth marine reserves - Allowed activities

Activities allowed in marine reserves - What does it mean for me?

Many members of the community use the marine environment, either for recreational activities including boating, diving and fishing, or for commercial activities such as tourism, charter fishing and commercial fishing.

Activities in the South-east Commonwealth Marine Reserves are managed in accordance with the South-east Commonwealth Marine Reserves Network Management Plan 2013-2023.

For all other reserves in the South-west, North-west, North and Temperate East networks and the Coral Sea Commonwealth marine reserve transitional management arrangements are currently in place and will apply until statutory management plans come into effect.

There are no changes "on the water" for users in the Commonwealth marine reserve estate.

The management arrangements for former Commonwealth marine reserves, Marine National Nature Reserves and Marine Parks will remain in place under transitional management arrangements until new management plans come into effect.

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Commonwealth marine reserves include a range of different management zones within which different types of activities are or will be permitted.

The zoning restrictions in the new reserves of the South-west, North-west, North and Temperate East networks and the Coral Sea marine reserve will not apply until management plans come into effect.

A general summary for a range of activities is provided below.

Recreational fishing

Recreational fishing is an important leisure pursuit for millions of Australians. The Australian Government understands the importance of recreational fishing and has worked closely with the recreational fishing sector to largely avoid locating highly protected Marine National Park (IUCN II) zones in areas important to recreational fishers.

Recreational fishing will be allowed in all zones in the marine reserves except in highly protected Marine National Park (IUCN II) zones which are coloured green on the available regional maps. Recreational fishing is permitted in Multiple Use (IUCN VI) zones, Special Purpose (IUCN VI) zones, Habitat Protection (IUCN IV) zones and Recreational Use (IUCN IV) zones. These zones are used extensively over the continental shelf and shelf edge where most recreational fishing occurs.

The marine reserves are in Commonwealth waters, which start 3 nautical miles (5.5 km) from shore. They do not include beaches, bays, estuaries or coastal waters.

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Map showing areas open to recreational fishing

Two thirds of the reserves are zoned to allow recreational fishing. A large majority of the highly protected areas are remote from access points such as boat ramps or far offshore. Under the Commonwealth marine reserves network, some 96 per cent of all waters within 100 km of the shore (excluding the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park) are open to recreational fishing.

Find out more about the zoning for new marine reserves of interest to you.

Commercial fishing

Commercial fishing will be allowed in all zones in the marine reserves of the South-west, North-west, North and Temperate East networks and the Coral Sea marine reserves, except in Marine National Park (IUCN II) zones. However, there will be some restrictions on the types of fishing gear permitted in the different zones. These restrictions vary between networks. Information about the restrictions and types of fishing gear that will be excluded is provided in the relevant overview of the zoning scheme for each regional reserves network.

The management arrangements in the reserves that existed before November 2012, have been maintained through transitional arrangements. This includes restrictions on commercial fishing.

Class approvals will apply for commercial fishing activities permitted in marine reserves. In most cases commercial fishers will not be required to seek individual approvals to operate in Commonwealth marine reserves in addition to those approvals required for the relevant state, territory or Commonwealth managed fisheries.

The operations of some commercial fishing businesses will be affected by the new reserves. The Government will provide assistance to help commercial fishers adjust to changes brought about by displacement of commercial fishing from the new reserves.

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Find out more about the zoning for new marine reserves of interest to you.

Marine tourism

Tourism activities that do not involve the extraction or harvesting of marine resources (such as diving, snorkelling, whale watching and photography), will be permitted within all zones in the marine reserves networks. The management of these activities is likely to be through the use of permits or activity class approvals.

Activities that impact on or involve the extraction of marine biodiversity will not be allowed in Marine National Park (IUCN II) zones. Some restricitons may apply in some Habitat Protection (IUCN IV) zones.

Find out more about the zoning for new marine reserves of interest to you.

Charter boat operations (fishing)

Charter boat operations that involve fishing - e.g. charter fishing tours - will be permitted in all zones except in Marine National Park (IUCN II) zones.

Find out more about the zoning for new marine reserves of interest to you.

Mining and oil and gas activities

Mining activities - including petroleum exploration and development - will not be allowed in Marine National Park (IUCN II) zones, anywhere in the Coral Sea Commonwealth marine reserve or in the Special Purpose (Oil and Gas Exclusion) zone in the South-west Marine Reserves Network. Restrictions on mining activities will also apply in Habitat Protection (IUCN IV) zones. Mining operations will be allowed within Multiple Use (IUCN VI) zones and some Special Purpose (IUCN VI) zones in the marine reserves network. A permit or approval by the Director of National Parks will be required for mining activities, some of which will be provided in the form of class approvals, including in conjunction with the assessment and approval provisions of the EPBC Act.

Find out more about the zoning for new marine reserves of interest to you.

Port development and shipping

The transit of vessels though all areas of the marine reserves network, including through Marine National Park (IUCN II) zones, will be permitted. While ballast water exchange is managed under national arrangements, restrictions may apply in sensitive areas.

Activities associated with port operations and development, including maintenance dredging and the dumping of spoil, will be permitted in Multiple Use (IUCN VI) zones, but may be subject to assessment and approval under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). These activities will not be permitted in Marine National Park (IUCN II) zones and Habitat Protection (IUCN IV) zones.

Zoning for marine reserves

Zoning for newly proclaimed marine reserves

Please note that these zoning schemes are not in effect.

Zoning for South-east Commonwealth Marine Reserves

General enquiries

If you have questions regarding the Commonwealth Marine Reserves Network, please send an email to marinereserves@environment.gov.au or call 1800 069 352.