The Federal Government has released a draft marine bioregional plan that proposes to establish marine reserves networks to protect marine environment in Australia’s north and north-east.


Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke outlined details of draft north and north-west bioregional plans and proposed Marine Reserves Networks that will be open for three months community feedback before the plans and proposals are finalised under national environmental law.


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 north and north-west marine reserve network would allow the use of some fishing gear types that would not be permitted in Multiple Use zones.


The proposed networks of marine reserves are in Commonwealth waters which start 5.5 kilometres off the coast. The proposed reserves in the north-west region cover an area of approximately 377 296km2 and those in the north cover 121 723km2.


The north region extends from as far west as the Northern Territory-Western Australian border to the Gulf of Carpentaria, Arafura Sea and the Timor Sea and the north-west region extends from Kalbarri, south of Shark Bay in Western Australia to the Western Australian - Northern Territory border.


Officers from the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water Population and Communities will be visiting coastal centres throughout the North and North-west regions in the coming weeks to hold information sessions and meet with representatives of various industries and stakeholder groups.


Once the draft proposals for the four identified regions are finalised they will be subject to a 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 North-west and North regions, including details of public information sessions scheduled across the regions, go to