Department of the Environment

Archived media releases and speeches

The Hon Tony Burke MP

Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities

Draft South-West marine reserves released for community consultation

Media release
5 May 2011

The Gillard Government today released a draft marine bioregional plan and proposed marine reserves network to protect Australia's unique south-west marine environment.

In Fremantle today, Environment Minister Mr Burke outlined details of a draft South-west Bioregional Plan and proposed Marine Reserves Network that will be open for community feedback for three months before the plan and proposal are finalised.

The proposed network of marine reserves covers breeding and feeding grounds for species such as the Australian sea lion, southern right whales and blue whales. It also includes the Perth Canyon which is a deep sea canyon similar in size to the Grand Canyon.

Under the proposed marine reserve network there would be three zones including:

  • Marine National Park zones which would provide the highest level of protection and would be managed to protect areas where marine life live and the important conservation values of the area; limited activities would be permitted;
  • Multiple Use zones which would protect and maintain the conservation values of the area while allowing sustainable economic use, including all recreational fishing. Some types of commercial fishing would be allowed. As is currently the case, certain production and exploration would be permitted subject to national environment law approval; and
  • Special Purpose zones which would allow some activities not allowed in other zones. For example, Special Purpose zones in the proposed south-west marine reserve network would allow the use of some fishing gear types that would not be permitted in Multiple Use zones.

The proposed network of marine reserves in the South-west region covers an area of approximately 538 000 km2 in Commonwealth waters, which start 5.5 kilometres off the coast.

Mr Burke said there was a unique opportunity for the Government and community to work together to take steps now to protect the region's marine environment for future generations.

"For generations Australians have understood the need to preserve precious areas on land as national parks. Our oceans contain fragile marine life which deserve protection too," Mr Burke said.

"Through our initial consultation in the development of these draft plans where possible we have avoided having an impact on local jobs or people who love to fish.

"We know that Australians need our oceans to be healthy if they are going to keep providing us with fish to eat, a place to fish, sustainable tourism opportunities and a place for families to enjoy.

"Almost 90 per cent of the marine species in parts of the south-west are not found anywhere else in the world and a third of the world's whale and dolphin species are found in this region.

"But the fact is that our marine environment is under long-term pressure from climate change and increasing industry activity.

"Often when we talk about climate change it's about how it affects our land. But climate change is also impacting on our marine environment - ocean acidification and rising water temperatures are putting pressure on our marine life.

"The Gillard Government is working with communities to establish a network of marine reserves, starting here in the South-west, to drive a sustainable future for our marine environment and to ensure our oceans stay healthy and productive."

Mr Burke said the Government had worked with the fishing industry, recreational fishing groups, environment groups and other users in the development of a draft bioregional plan and a proposed marine reserves network for the south-west.

"Now there will be a further opportunity for the community to have their say in this important process and I encourage people to get involved," Mr Burke said.

"We have extended the 60 day consultation period to 90 days to ensure people have every opportunity to provide feedback. The feedback and input the Government receives will assist in finalising the proposal for a new marine reserves network and bioregional plan for the south-west.

"We have a once in a generation opportunity to put in place the measures needed to protect our precious marine environment for future generations."

The Gillard Government has committed to the development of marine bioregional plans and new marine reserves in four identified regions across Australia to protect the nation's unique marine environment for future generations.

Draft bioregional plans and proposals for marine reserve networks for the north, north-west and east regions are being developed. This will be followed by a three month period of community consultation. Once the proposals are finalised, they will be subject to further public consultation prior to being proclaimed under national environmental law.

For more information on the draft marine bioregional plans and the proposed Commonwealth marine reserves in the South-west region, including high resolution maps, go to