Australian Marine Parks

Australian Marine Parks contain a variety of habitats including coral reefs, sponge gardens and seagrass beds. These fragile habitats are vital to the health of marine ecosystems and are highly susceptible to anchor damage. By taking care when anchoring you will help protect these sensitive underwater habitats.

Rules for Anchoring

Anchoring is allowed in most zones in Australian Marine Parks and the rules are described in the management plans for the South-west Network, North-west Network, North Network, Temperate East Network, South-east Network and the Coral Sea Marine Park. Anchoring rules for different activities are summarised in the table below.

Specific rules apply to anchoring in the following Australian Marine Parks:

Mermaid Reef Marine Park (National Park Zone)

To prevent damage to the reef, vessels must use existing moorings. If moorings are unavailable, vessels may anchor in the anchorage area. A vessel must not ‘raft up’ to another vessel at anchor in the anchorage area unless the vessel is a tender to the vessel anchored. A vessel at anchor should not be left unattended at any time. Anchoring outside of the anchorage area is not allowed.

For mooring bookings and enquiries please contact or (08) 9195 5500.

Ashmore Reef Marine Park (Sanctuary Zone and Recreational Use Zone)

To protect fragile habitats, vessels are encouraged to use the existing moorings within West Island lagoon of the Recreational Use Zone. Moorings are available on a first come, first served basis. No vessels are to enter or anchor in the Sanctuary Zone without authorisation.

Cartier Island Marine Park (Sanctuary Zone)

Managed to minimise disturbance to the environment from human activities and risk from unexploded ordnances. No vessels are to enter or anchor in Cartier Island Marine Park without authorisation.

Anchoring in an emergency

These rules do not prevent anchoring due to circumstances of force majeure or distress/safety of life at sea or for the purposes of providing assistance to persons, vessels or aircraft in danger or distress.

Unexploded Ordnance (UXOs) risk

Some areas within Australian Marine Parks have historical or current use as military weapons training ranges. Unexploded ordnance (UXOs) from military training exercises may be present and pose a risk to vessels anchoring in these areas. A UXO is any type of military ammunition or explosive ordnance which has failed to function as intended. Australian Marine Parks with UXO risks include Cartier Island, Jervis, Hunter, Beagle, Zeehan and Huon Marine Parks.

The Department of Defence maintains a record of sites confirmed as or suspected of being contaminated with UXOs. For advice on the hazards associated with UXOs please contact Further information the location of UXOs can also be found at

Anchoring guidelines

  • Where possible, anchor in soft sediments such as sand or mud, and away from fragile marine habitats like coral, sponges and seagrass beds.
  • Carry enough chain and line for the depth you want to anchor in and only use as much chain as you need to hold the vessel safely. It’s often the anchor chain that causes the most damage when the boat swings on the anchor, scouring the surrounding seabed.
  • Use your sand anchor and reef anchor (pick) appropriately to minimise damage.
  • Regularly check to ensure the anchor isn’t dragging.
  • Anchor a safe distance from other boats and submerged hazards such as reef edges, coral bommies and sand cays, leaving ample swing room to avoid collision if environmental conditions change.
  • Motor towards the anchor when retrieving it so that the anchor and chain are not dragged towards the vessel across the seafloor.
  • Wherever possible, use public moorings and anchor in determined anchorage areas, as their purpose is to protect the fragile marine environment.

Anchoring rules summary table Table 1. Summary of anchoring rules for different zones in Australian Marine Parks