Cartier Island Commonwealth Marine Reserve

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Transitional arrangements

Until a new management plan comes into effect there will be no changes to management arrangements for the renamed Cartier Island Commonwealth Marine Reserve.

  • Transitional arrangements involve NO CHANGE ON THE WATER for marine users.
  • If you hold an existing approval to undertake activities within the renamed Cartier Island Commonwealth Marine Reserve, you are able to continue to operate under the terms of your existing approval.
  • No additional administrative requirements apply.

Cartier Island Commonwealth Marine Reserve (previously named Cartier Island Marine Reserve) forms part of the North-west Commonwealth Marine Reserves Network. Transitional management arrangements apply until the management plan for the North-west Commonwealth Marine Reserves Network comes into effect.

Cartier Island Commonwealth Marine Reserve is located 25 nautical miles (45 km) south-east of Ashmore Reef. Covering an area of 167 square kilometres, the reserve includes an unvegetated sand island (Cartier Island) and the area within a 4 nautical mile radius of the centre of the island, to a depth of 1 km below the sea floor. The area around the island includes a variety of habitats including a mature reef flat, a small submerged pinnacle, known as Wave Governor Bank and two shallow pools to the north-east of the island.

Original Proclamation Date 21 June 2000, now renamed Cartier Island Commonwealth Marine Reserve
Area 172 km2
Types of zoning IUCN Category Ia (172 km2) - Sanctuary zone

Safety Alert – Unexploded Ordnances

Cartier Island and the surrounding marine area within a 10 km radius was a gazetted Defence Practice Area up to 20 July 2011 and has been used in the past as an air weapons range. Although the site is no longer an active weapons range there is a SUBSTANTIAL RISK that unexploded ordnances (UXO) remain in the area.

Due to the risk posed by UXO, landing on Cartier Island or anchoring anywhere within the Cartier Island Commonwealth Marine Reserve is strictly prohibited without express prior written approval. If anchoring is unavoidable due to emergency (e.g. extreme weather conditions), great care should be taken to ensure anchoring is on sand and anchors do not drag.

Any metal objects or suspicious objects found in the reserve should not be touched or disturbed and reported immediately to the police and the Parks Australia Work Health and Safety Advisor on (02) 6274 2369 or

Major conservation values

  • Ecosystems, habitats and communities associated with:
    • the North West Shelf
    • Timor Province
    • emergent oceanic reefs
  • Cartier Island is an important area for protected species:
    • internationally significant for its abundance and diversity of sea snakes
    • large and significant feeding populations of green, hawksbill and loggerhead turtles occur around the reefs.
    • supports some of the most important seabird rookeries on the North West Shelf including colonies of bridled terns, common noddies, brown boobies, eastern reef egrets, frigatebirds, tropicbirds, red-footed boobies, roseate terns, crested terns and lesser crested terns.
    • important staging points/feeding areas for many migratory seabirds
  • Cultural and heritage site:
    • Ann Millicent historic shipwreck