Australian Marine Parks

Timothy D. O’Hara, Museums Victoria, V3.02, March 2023


Proposed offshore Key Ecological Features and Biologically Important Areas of Australia’s Indian Ocean Territories.


Prior to 2021, scientific knowledge of the marine biodiversity values of Cocos (Keeling) Islands and Christmas Island was largely restricted to inshore waters. From previous surveys and studies, we knew that the vast majority of the marine realm across the two territories is deep-sea, with seamounts and ridges, and abyssal and hadal plains. However, most areas had not been mapped with modern multibeam technology and only incidentally been surveyed by research vessels, which largely focused on geology or oceanography.

To gather more detailed knowledge, Museums Victoria led two RV Investigator voyages to the IOT to explore deep sea habitats—a 2021 voyage to Christmas Island and a 2022 voyage to Cocos (Keeling) Islands. In the context of establishing these waters as marine parks, Parks Australia supported these voyages and commissioned Museums Victoria to write this report to identify potential Key Ecological Features and Biologically Important Areas in the offshore waters of these islands.

Three versions of this report have been produced to assist Parks Australia with the IOT marine parks planning process:

1. A first version relied on information available prior to the RV Investigator voyages.

2. A second version incorporated new information from the RV Investigator voyage to Christmas Island in 2021.

3. This third and final version incorporates new information from both the 2021 and 2022 RV Investigator voyages to the IOT.

This report is complemented by the report Assessment of the offshore marine natural values of Australia’s Indian Ocean Territories, also by Museums Victoria.