Coral Sea Commonwealth Marine Reserve - Overview


Transitional arrangements

Until a management plan come into effect transitional arrangements apply.

  • Under the transitional arrangements, there are NO CHANGES ON THE WATER for users of new areas added to the Commonwealth marine reserves estate.
  • NOTE: There are no changes to management arrangements in the marine reserves that existed prior to the establishment of the new reserves, that is, the same restrictions on activities will continue to apply even where those reserves have been incorporated into new reserves.

The Coral Sea Commonwealth Marine Reserve encompasses the former Coral Sea Conservation Zone, former Coringa-Herald National Nature Reserve and former Lihou Reef National Nature Reserve. Transitional management arrangements apply until a management plan for the Coral Sea Commonwealth Marine Reserve comes into effect.


Overview of the Coral Sea Commonwealth Marine Reserve
Size of reserve 989 842 km2
Depth range <15-5 000 m
Types of zoning
  • Marine National Park Zone (IUCN Category II) - 502 654 km2 or 50.78% of reserve
  • Habitat Protection Zone Coral Sea (IUCN Category IV) - 182 578 km2 or 18.45% of reserve
  • Habitat Protection Zone Seamounts (IUCN Category IV) - 85 507 km2 or 8.64% of reserve
  • Conservation Park Zone (IUCN Category IV) - 20 570 km2 or 2.08% of reserve
  • Multiple Use Zone (IUCN Category VI) - 194 233 km2 or 19.62% of reserve
  • General Use Zone (IUCN Category VI) - 4 300 km2 or 0.43% of reserve

Key conservation values

  • Habitat and important areas for a range of species have been identified in the region, including for:
    • humpback whales during their annual migration along the east coast of Australia;
    • nesting and inter-nesting sites for green turtles;
    • breeding and foraging areas for multiple seabird species including noddies, terns, boobies, frigatebirds, and tropic birds;
    • white shark distribution and whale shark aggregation.
  • Transient populations of highly migratory pelagic species, including small fish schools, billfish, tuna and sharks.
  • The East Australian Current forms in the region and is considered a major pathway for mobile predators such as billfish and tunas. Black marlin undergo seasonal movements into the Queensland Plateau area.
  • Includes three Key Ecological Features: the reefs, cays and herbivorous fish of the Queensland Plateau and the Marion Plateau and the northern extent of the Tasmantid seamount chain.
  • Heritage values include several historic shipwrecks including three World War II shipwrecks from the Battle of the Coral Sea.
  • The reserve represents the full range of seafloor features found in the region, including numerous reefs ranging from Ashmore and Boot Reefs in the north of the region to Cato Island and surrounding reefs in the south. The reserve includes canyons, troughs and plateaux, including Bligh Canyon approximately 200 kilometres off the coast from Lockhart River and the Townsville Trough, which separates the Queensland and Marion Plateaux. The reserve extends into the deeper waters of the Coral Sea Basin in the north, and provides protection for the pinnacles of the northern extent of the Tasmantid seamount chain.
  • Six provincial bioregions, 94 depth ranges, and 16 seafloor types are represented in the reserve.