Australian Marine Parks

Extracted from the Australian Marine Parks North Network Management Plan 2018.

Values are broadly defined as:

  • Natural values—habitats, species and ecological communities within marine parks, and the processes that support their connectivity, productivity and function.
  • Cultural values—living and cultural heritage recognising Indigenous beliefs, practices and obligations for country, places of cultural significance and cultural heritage sites.
  • Heritage values—non-Indigenous heritage that has aesthetic, historic, scientific or social significance.
  • Socio-economic values—the benefit of marine parks for people, businesses and the economy.

The values of individual marine parks are set out in Schedule 2.

In managing marine parks, the Director will need to make decisions about what activities can occur in the marine parks and what actions to take to manage them.

This will involve the Director making decisions that carefully balance the need to protect natural, cultural, heritage and socio-economic values of marine parks with enabling use and managing pressures.

In making these decisions, the Director will carefully consider the impacts and risks to natural, cultural, heritage or socio-economic values for the relevant marine park/s.

The Director will also consider any positive impacts associated with allowing an activity, such as socio-economic or cultural benefits, and ensure that activities are undertaken in a manner that minimises negative impacts.

In marine parks where there is limited information, environmental features are used as indicators for the types, of species and habitats likely to occur. These include bioregions, water depth, seafloor features and key ecological features (Schedule 3).

As understanding of marine park values improves over the life of this plan, the Director will make new information about values available on the Parks Australia website.

Other important sources of information on values include:

  • species profile and threats database for protected species
  • directory of important wetlands in Australia
  • Australian heritage database for natural, historic and Indigenous heritage places
  • Australian national shipwreck database for known shipwrecks
  • National Conservation Values Atlas
  • marine bioregional plan for the North Marine Region (2012)
  • North marine bioregional plan: bioregional profile (2008).
     

Statement of significance

The North Network was designed to protect representative examples of the region’s ecosystems and biodiversity in accordance with the Goals and principles for the establishment of the National Representative System of Marine Protected Areas in Commonwealth waters (ANZECC, 1998).

Natural values

Bioregions—the North Marine Region is divided into areas of ocean with broadly similar characteristics based on the distribution of marine species and seafloor features.

The Network represents examples of the region’s marine environments including ecosystems, species and habitats.

There are four bioregions represented in the North Network (Schedule 2).

Key ecological features—elements of the marine environment considered to be of importance for biodiversity or ecosystem function and integrity, represented in the Network are:

  • carbonate banks and terrace system of the Sahul Shelf
  • pinnacles of the Bonaparte Basin
  • carbonate bank and terrace system of the Van Diemen Rise
  • shelf break and slope of the Arafura Shelf
  • tributary canyons of the Arafura
  • Gulf of Carpentaria basin
  • plateaux and saddle north-west of the Wellesley Islands
  • submerged coral reefs of the Gulf of Carpentaria coastal zone.

Species and habitats—all species and habitats are important components of the ecosystems represented in the North Network.

Many species are protected under the EPBC Act and international agreements such as the:

  • Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species (CMS or Bonn Convention)
  • Japan–Australia Migratory Bird Agreement (JAMBA)
  • China–Australia Migratory Bird Agreement (CAMBA)
  • Republic of Korea–Australia Migratory Bird Agreement (ROKAMBA).

Further information on these agreements is in Schedule 1.

The North Network supports important habitats, including biologically important areas, for a range of protected species.

Biologically important areas are where aggregations of individuals of a protected species breed, forage or rest during migration.

More information on protected species and biologically important areas can be found in the Marine bioregional plan for the North Marine Region (2012) and the conservation values atlas on the Department’s website.

Cultural values

Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders have been sustainably using and managing their sea country for tens of thousands of years, in some cases since before rising sea levels created these marine environments.

Sea country refers to the areas of the sea that Aboriginal and Torres Strait people are particularly affiliated with through their traditional lore and customs.

Sea country is valued for Indigenous cultural identity, health and wellbeing.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continue to assert inherited rights and responsibilities over sea country within the North Network.

It is recognised that sea country extends from terrestrial areas into nearshore and offshore waters; and that songlines traverse sea country.

Sacred sites are also located in marine parks in the North Network and marine animals are recognised for their spiritual values, and their importance for the health and wellbeing of communities.

Within the North Network, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continue to actively manage sea country.

Many groups have prepared sea country management plans and undertake work to protect and monitor the health of culturally significant and threatened species like marine turtles.

Some groups have dedicated Indigenous Protected Areas (IPAs) over sea country, and more groups are in the process of establishing IPAs over their sea country.

IPAs overlap the Wessel and Gulf of Carpentaria Marine Parks.

In the Torres Strait, in recognition of the cultural value of dugong, a dugong sanctuary has been voluntarily established under the Torres Strait Fisheries Act 1984.

This sanctuary extends over much of the West Cape York Marine Park.

This sanctuary bans harvest of dugong by Torres Strait Islanders in an area where they are known to be abundant.

Native title determinations have also been made over sea country within the North Network.

Such declarations have recognised native title exists over waters within the Arafura and the Gulf of Carpentaria Marine Parks.

These native title determinations recognise in law the continuing rights of these groups for sea country in these marine parks.

Heritage values

Protected places (world, national and Commonwealth heritage, historic shipwrecks)

The EPBC Act protects matters of national environmental significance that are classified as protected places, including world heritage properties and national heritage places.

Places on the Commonwealth Heritage List or shipwrecks listed under the Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976 are also protected places.

Historic shipwrecks are a unique historic value and the region is an area of considerable importance in Australia’s maritime history.

There are approximately 500 known historic shipwrecks in and adjacent to the region; five are in the North Network:

  • A.D.C (1886)
  • Ada (1886)
  • Douglas Mawson (1923)
  • Mystery (1902)
  • Wild Duck (1876).

More information on located wrecks and shipwrecks historically reported as lost can be found in the Australian national shipwrecks database.

Social and economic values

The North Network supports a range of important social and economic uses that underpin the prosperity and wellbeing of regional communities.

Shipping, port-related activities, commercial fishing and aquaculture are industries of national economic significance.

The Network also provides some opportunity for offshore mining operations.

Marine tourism such as charter fishing, snorkelling, diving and wildlife watching are also important commercial activities that offer unique visitor experiences on reefs, islands and in deep water environments.

The Network also supports a range of recreational activities including fishing.

Joseph Bonaparte Gulf Marine Park

The Joseph Bonaparte Gulf Marine Park (Figure S2.1) is located approximately 15 km west of Wadeye, Northern Territory, and approximately 90 km north of Wyndham, Western Australia, in the Joseph Bonaparte Gulf.

It is adjacent to the Western Australian North Kimberley Marine Park.

The Marine Park covers an area of 8597 km² and water depth ranges between less than 15 m and 100 m.

The Marine Park was proclaimed under the EPBC Act on 14 December 2013 and renamed Joseph Bonaparte Gulf Marine Park on 9 October 2017.

The Marine Park is assigned IUCN category VI and includes two zones assigned under this plan: Special Purpose Zone (VI) and Multiple Use Zone (VI).

Statement of significance

The Joseph Bonaparte Gulf Marine Park is significant because it contains habitats, species and ecological communities associated with the Northwest Shelf Transition bioregion.

It includes one key ecological feature: the carbonate bank and terrace system of the Sahul Shelf (valued as a unique seafloor feature with ecological properties of regional significance).

The Marine Park contains a number of prominent shallow seafloor features including an emergent reef system, shoals, and sand banks.

It is near an important wetland systems including the Ord River floodplain Ramsar site and provides connectivity between the nearshore and sea environments.

The Marine Park includes habitats connecting to and complementing the adjacent Western Australian North Kimberley Marine Park.

Natural values

The Marine Park includes examples of ecosystems representative of the Northwest Shelf Transition—a dynamic environment influenced by strong tidal currents, monsoonal winds, cyclones and wind generated waves.

The large tidal ranges and wide intertidal zones near the Marine Park create a physically dynamic and turbid marine environment.

The key ecological feature in the Marine Park is the carbonate bank and terrace system of the Sahul Shelf—characterised by terraces, banks, channels and valleys supporting sponges, soft corals, sessile filter feeders, polychaetes and ascidians.

The Marine Park supports a range of species, including species listed as threatened, migratory, marine or cetacean under the EPBC Act.

Biologically important areas within the Marine Park include foraging habitat for marine turtles and the Australian snubfin dolphin.

Cultural values

Sea country is valued for Indigenous cultural identity, health and wellbeing.

Across Australia, Indigenous people have been sustainably using and managing their sea country for tens of thousands of years.

The Miriuwung, Gajerrong, Doolboong, Wardenybeng and Gija and Balangarra people have responsibilities for sea country in the Marine Park.

They are represented by the following Prescribed Body Corporates: Miriuwung and Gajerrong Aboriginal Corporation, and Balanggarra Aboriginal Corporation.

These corporations are the points of contact for their respective areas of sea country in the Marine Park.

The Northern Land Council and the Kimberley Land Council are the Native Title Representative Bodies for the Northern Territory’s northern region, and the Kimberley region.

Joseph Bonaparte Gulf Marine Park

Heritage values

No international, Commonwealth or national heritage listings apply to the Marine Park at commencement of this plan, however the Marine Park is adjacent to the West Kimberley National Heritage Place.

Social and economic values

Tourism, commercial fishing, mining, and recreation including fishing, are important activities in the Marine Park.

These activities contribute to the wellbeing of regional communities and the prosperity of the nation.

Oceanic Shoals Marine Park

The Oceanic Shoals Marine Park (is located west of the Tiwi Islands, approximately 155 km north-west of Darwin, Northern Territory and 305 km north of Wyndham, Western Australia.

It extends to the limit of Australia’s exclusive economic zone.

The Marine Park covers an area of 71,743 km² and water depths from less than 15 m to 500 m.

The Marine Park was proclaimed under the EPBC Act on 14 December 2013 and renamed Oceanic Shoals Marine Park on 9 October 2017.

The Marine Park is assigned IUCN category VI and includes four zones assigned under this plan:

  • National Park Zone (II)
  • Habitat Protection Zone (IV)
  • Multiple Use Zone (VI)
  • Special Purpose Zone (Trawl) (VI).

Statement of significance

The Oceanic Shoals Marine Park is significant because it contains habitats, species and ecological communities associated with the Northwest Shelf Transition.

It contains four key ecological features:

  • carbonate bank and terrace systems of the Van Diemen Rise
  • carbonate bank and terrace systems of the Sahul Shelf
  • pinnacles of the Bonaparte Basin
  • shelf break and slope of the Arafura Shelf (all valued as unique seafloor features with ecological properties of regional significance).

The Marine Park is the largest marine park in the North Network.

Natural values

The Marine Park includes examples of ecosystems representative of the Northwest Shelf Transition— a dynamic environment influenced by strong tidal currents, upwellings of nutrient-rich waters, and a range of prominent seafloor features.

The pinnacles, carbonate banks and shoals are sites of enhanced biological productivity.

Key ecological features of the Marine Park are:

  • carbonate bank and terrace systems of the Van Diemen Rise—an area characterised by terraces, banks, channels and valleys supporting sponges, soft coral, polychaetes, ascidians, turtles, snakes and sharks
  • carbonate bank and terrace system of the Sahul Shelf—an area characterised by terraces, banks, channels and valleys, supporting sponges, soft corals, sessile filter feeders, polychaetes and ascidians
  • pinnacles of the Bonaparte Basin—an area that contains the largest concentration of pinnacles along the Australian margin, where local upwellings of nutrient-rich water attract aggregations of fish, seabirds and turtles
  • shelf break and slope of the Arafura Shelf—an area characterised by continental slope, patch reefs and hard substrate pinnacles that support over 280 demersal fish species.

The Marine Park supports a range of species, including species listed as threatened, migratory, marine or cetacean under the EPBC Act.

Biologically important areas within the Marine Park include foraging and internesting habitat for marine turtles.

Oceanic Shoals Marine Park

Cultural values

Sea country is valued for Indigenous cultural identity, health and wellbeing.

Across Australia, Indigenous people have been sustainably using and managing their sea country for tens of thousands of years.

At the commencement of this plan, there is limited information about the cultural significance of this Marine Park.

The Northern Land Council and the Kimberley Land Council are the Native Title Representative Bodies for the Northern Territory’s northern region, and the Kimberley region.

The Tiwi Land Council collectively represents traditional owners of the Tiwi Islands.

Heritage values

No international, Commonwealth or national heritage listings apply to the Marine Park at commencement of this plan.

Social and economic values

Commercial fishing and mining are important activities in the Marine Park.

These activities contribute to the wellbeing of regional communities and the prosperity of the nation.

Arafura Marine Park

The Arafura Marine Park is located approximately 256 km north-east of Darwin and eight km offshore of Croker Island, Northern Territory.

It extends from Northern Territory waters to the limit of Australia’s exclusive economic zone.

The Marine Park covers an area of 22,924 km², and a water depth range from less than 15 m to 500 m.

The Marine Park was proclaimed under the EPBC Act on 14 December 2013 and renamed Arafura Marine Park on 9 October 2017.

The Marine Park is assigned IUCN category VI and includes three zones assigned under this plan:

  • Multiple Use Zone (VI)
  • Special Purpose Zone (VI)
  • Special Purpose Zone (Trawl) (VI).

Coordinates for the Arafura Marine Park and zones are provided in Schedule 4.

Statement of significance

The Marine Park is significant because it contains habitats, species and ecological communities associated with the Northern Shelf Province and Timor Transition.

It includes one key ecological feature: the tributary canyons of the Arafura Depression (valued as a unique seafloor feature with ecological properties of regional significance).

It is near to important wetland systems including the Cobourg Peninsula Ramsar site, and provides important foraging habitat for seabirds.

Natural values

The Arafura Marine Park includes examples of ecosystems representative of:

  • Northern Shelf Province—a dynamic region, with gently sloping shelf topped with a number of pinnacles at depths ranging from 5 m to 30 m. Tidal eddies induce localised upwellings and hotspots of productivity, which correspond with aggregations of marine life within the Marine Park.
  • Timor Transition Province—includes continental slope, canyons, ridges, terraces and the Arafura Depression. The primary drivers of biological productivity are associated with deep water upwellings at canyon heads, driven by strong tides.

The key ecological feature in the Marine Park is the tributary canyons of the Arafura Depression—an area that contains canyons that are approximately 80–100 km long and 20 km wide with a variety of sediments including sand, mud and rock.

The canyons channel deep ocean waters, enhancing productivity and supporting large predatory fish, whale sharks, sawfish and marine turtles, deep sea sponges, and barnacles.

The Marine Park supports a range of species, including species listed as threatened, migratory, marine or cetacean under the EPBC Act.

Biologically important areas within the Marine Park include internesting habitat for marine turtles and important foraging and breeding habitat for seabirds.

Cultural values

Sea country is valued for Indigenous cultural identity, health and wellbeing.

Across Australia, Indigenous people have been sustainably using and managing their sea country for tens of thousands of years.

The Yuwurrumu members of the Mandilarri-Ildugij, the Mangalara, the Murran, the Gadura-Minaga and the Ngaynjaharr clans have responsibilities for sea country in the Marine Park.

These clans have native title determined over part of their sea country, which is included in this Park.

The Northern Land Council is the Native Title Representative Body for the Northern Territory’s northern region and is assisting these native title holders in the absence of a native title Prescribed Body Corporate.

It is the point of contact for the Marine Park.

Heritage values

No international, Commonwealth or national heritage listings apply to the Marine Park at commencement of this plan.

Social and economic values

Commercial fishing, tourism, and recreation, including fishing, are important activities in the Marine Park.

These activities contribute to the wellbeing of regional communities and the prosperity of the nation.

Arnhem Marine Park

The Arnhem Marine Park is located approximately 100 km south-east of Croker Island and 60 km south-east of the Arafura Marine Park.

It extends from Northern Territory waters surrounding the Goulburn Islands, to the waters north of Maningrida.

The Marine Park covers an area of 7125 km² and water depth ranges from less than 15 m to 70 m.

The Marine Park was proclaimed under the EPBC Act on 14 December 2013 and renamed Arnhem Marine Park on 9 October 2017.

The Marine Park is assigned IUCN category VI and includes one zone assigned under this plan: Special Purpose Zone (VI).

Coordinates for the Arnhem Marine Park and zone are provided in Schedule 4.

Statement of significance

The Arnhem Marine Park is significant because it contains habitats, species and ecological communities associated with the Northern Shelf Province.

It includes dynamic habitats due to gently sloping shelf topped with a number of pinnacles, at depths ranging from 5 m to 30 m.

It is near to important wetland systems including the Blyth-Cadell Floodplain and Boucaut Bay Nationally Important Wetland and provides important foraging habitat for seabirds.

Natural values

The Marine Park includes examples of ecosystems representative of the Northern Shelf Province.

Internal currents in the region drive a net clockwise movement of nutrient-rich coastal water contributing to high biological diversity. Tidal eddies induce localised upwellings and hotspots of productivity that correspond with aggregations of marine life within the Marine Park.

The Marine Park supports a range of species, including species listed as threatened, migratory, marine or cetacean under the EPBC Act.

Biologically important areas within the Marine Park include foraging habitat and a migratory pathway for marine turtles and seabirds.

Cultural values

Sea country is valued for Indigenous cultural identity, health and wellbeing. Across Australia, Indigenous people have been sustainably using and managing their sea country for tens of thousands of years.

The coastal Aboriginal people of West Arnhem Land have responsibilities for sea country in the Marine Park.

The Marine Park contains sites which are registered under Northern Territory Aboriginal Sacred Sites Act 1989.

The Northern Land Council is the Native Title Representative Body for the Northern Territory’s northern region.

Heritage values

No international, Commonwealth or national heritage listings apply to the Marine Park at commencement of this plan.

Social and economic values

Commercial fishing, tourism, and recreation, including fishing, are important activities in the Marine Park.

These activities contribute to the wellbeing of regional communities and the prosperity of the nation.

The Wessel Marine Park

The Wessel Marine Park is located approximately 22 km east of Nhulunbuy, Northern Territory.

It extends from Northern Territory waters adjacent to the tip of the Wessel Islands to Northern Territory waters adjacent to Cape Arnhem.

The Marine Park covers an area of 5908 km² and water depths between 15 m and 70 m.

The Marine Park was proclaimed under the EPBC Act on 14 December 2013 and renamed Wessel Marine Park on 9 October 2017.

The Marine Park is assigned IUCN category IV and includes two zones assigned under this plan:

  • Habitat Protection Zone (IV)
  • Special Purpose Zone (Trawl) (VI).

Statement of significance

The Wessel Marine Park is significant because it contains habitats, species and ecological communities associated with the Northern Shelf.

It includes one key ecological feature: the Gulf of Carpentaria basin (valued for its regional importance for biodiversity and aggregations of marine life).

The Marine Park is adjacent to waters surrounding the Wessel Islands, both of which, are regarded as a biodiversity hotspot, supporting some of the most diverse and species-rich environments in the North Marine Region.

A number of endemic species occur in the area, and nationally and internationally significant aggregations of migratory shorebirds, seabirds, marine turtles and a variety of unique sponge and coral communities.

Natural values

The Marine Park includes examples of ecosystems representative of the Northern Shelf—a dynamic region with gently sloping shelf topped with a number of pinnacles at depths ranging from 5 m to 30 m.

Tidal eddies induce localised upwellings and hotspots of productivity that correspond with aggregations of marine life within the Marine Park.

The key ecological feature in the Marine Park is the Gulf of Carpentaria basin—characterised by soft sediments that support abundant and diverse communities dominated by polychaetes, crustaceans, molluscs and echinoderms, with pelagic fish species such as shark, snapper, tuna and mackerel.

The Marine Park overlaps the Arafura Sill, which is a seafloor barrier that restricts movement of water into the Gulf of Carpentaria basin and forms a distinct biogeographical transition point for sessile invertebrate (e.g. sponges and corals) and fish species.

The Marine Park supports a range of species, including species listed as threatened, migratory, marine or cetacean under the EPBC Act.

Biologically important areas within the Marine Park include breeding habitat for seabirds and internesting and foraging habitat for marine turtles.

Cultural values

Sea country is valued for Indigenous cultural identity, health and wellbeing.

Indigenous people have been sustainably using and managing their sea country for tens of thousands of years.

The Yolŋu people have responsibilities for sea country in the Marine Park.

The Marine Park contains sites which are registered under Northern Territory Aboriginal Sacred Sites Act 1989.

The Northern Land Council is the Native Title Representative Body for the Northern Territory’s northern region.

Heritage values

No international, Commonwealth or national heritage listings apply to the Marine Park at commencement of this plan.

Social and economic values

Commercial fishing, tourism, and recreation, including fishing, are important activities in the Marine Park.

These activities contribute to the wellbeing of regional communities and the prosperity of the nation.

Limmen Marine Park

The Limmen Marine Park is located approximately 315 km south-west of Nhulunbuy, Northern Territory, in the south-west of the Gulf of Carpentaria.

It extends from Northern Territory waters, between the Sir Edward Pellew Group of Islands and Maria Island in the Limmen Bight, adjacent to the Northern Territory Limmen Bight Marine Park.

The Marine Park covers an area of 1399 km² and water depths range from less than 15 m to 70 m.

The Marine Park was proclaimed under the EPBC Act on 14 December 2013 and renamed Limmen Marine Park on 9 October 2017.

The Marine Park is assigned IUCN category IV and includes one zone assigned under this plan: Habitat Protection Zone (IV).

Statement of significance

The Limmen Marine Park is significant because it contains habitats, species and ecological communities associated with the Northern Shelf.

It includes one key ecological feature: the Gulf of Carpentaria coastal zone (valued for high productivity, aggregations of marine life biodiversity and endemism).

It is near to important wetland systems including the Limmen Bight (Port Roper) Tidal Wetlands and provides important foraging habitat for seabirds.

The Marine Park includes habitats connecting to and complementing the adjacent Northern Territory Limmen Bight Marine Park.

Natural values

The Marine Park includes examples of ecosystems representative of the Northern Shelf Province—a dynamic region with gently sloping shelf, topped with a number of pinnacles at depths ranging from 5 m to 30 m.

Tidal eddies induce localised upwellings and hotspots of productivity that correspond with aggregations of marine life within the Marine Park.

The key ecological feature in the Marine Park is the Gulf of Carpentaria coastal zone—nutrients from rivers flowing into the coastal zone support high productivity and some of the most diverse and abundant biota in the North Marine Region.

A prominent seafloor feature within the Marine Park is the Labyrinthian Shoals, a group of sand banks, some with rocky heads, in depths of less than 1.8 m.

The Marine Park supports a range of species, including species listed as threatened, migratory, marine or cetacean under the EPBC Act. Biologically important areas within the Marine Park include internesting and foraging habitat for marine turtles.

Cultural values

Sea country is valued for Indigenous cultural identity, health and wellbeing.

Across Australia, Indigenous people have been sustainably using and managing their sea country for tens of thousands of years.

The Marra people have responsibilities for sea country in the Marine Park, and share song-lines that travel through the Marine Park with the Yanyuwa People.

The Northern Land Council is the Native Title Representative Body for the Northern Territory’s northern region.

Heritage values

No international, Commonwealth or national heritage listings apply to the Marine Park at commencement of this plan.

Social and economic values

Commercial fishing, tourism, and recreation, including fishing, are important activities in the Marine Park.

These activities contribute to the wellbeing of regional communities and the prosperity of the nation.

Gulf of Carpentaria Marine Park

The Gulf of Carpentaria Marine Park is located approximately 90 km north-west of Karumba, Queensland and is adjacent to the Wellesley Islands in the south of the Gulf of Carpentaria basin.

The Marine Park covers an area of 23,771 km² and water depths range from less than 15 m to 70 m.

The Marine Park was proclaimed under the EPBC Act on 14 December 2013 and renamed Gulf of Carpentaria Marine Park on 9 October 2017.

The Marine Park is assigned IUCN category VI and includes two zones assigned under this plan:

  • National Park Zone (II)
  • Special Purpose Zone (Trawl) (VI).

Coordinates for the Gulf of Carpentaria Marine Park and zones are provided in Schedule 4.

Statement of significance

The Gulf of Carpentaria Marine Park is significant because it contains habitats, species and ecological communities associated with the Northern Shelf Province.

It includes four key ecological features:

  • the Gulf of Carpentaria basin
  • Gulf of Carpentaria coastal zone
  • plateaux and saddle north-west of the Wellesley Islands
  • submerged coral reefs of the Gulf of Carpentaria (all valued for high aggregations of marine life, biodiversity and endemism).

Natural values

The Marine Park includes examples of ecosystems representative of the Northern Shelf Province—a dynamic region with gently sloping shelf topped with a number of pinnacles at depths ranging from 5 m to 30 m.

Tidal eddies induce localised upwellings and hotspots of productivity that correspond with aggregations of marine life within the Marine Park.

Key ecological features of the Marine Park are:

  • Gulf of Carpentaria basin—characterised by soft sediments that support diverse communities dominated by polychaetes, crustaceans, molluscs and echinoderms with pelagic fish species, such as shark, snapper, tuna and mackerel
  • Gulf of Carpentaria coastal zone—an area where nutrient inflow from rivers generates high productivity supporting diverse and abundant biota. The coastal zone is near pristine and supports many species that move between freshwater and saltwater environments
  • plateaux and saddle north-west of the Wellesley Islands—an area made up of living patch reefs that support reef fish that are unique within the Gulf of Carpentaria
  • submerged coral reefs of the Gulf of Carpentaria—an area that supports large plate corals, abundant hard and soft corals, breeding and aggregation habitats for many fish species, and refuges for sea snakes and apex predators such as sharks.

The Marine Park supports a range of species, including species listed as threatened, migratory, marine or cetacean under the EPBC Act.

Biologically important areas within the Marine Park include:

  • breeding and foraging areas for seabirds
  • internesting and foraging areas for turtles.

Cultural values

Sea country is valued for Indigenous cultural identity, health and wellbeing.

Across Australia, Indigenous people have been sustainably using and managing their sea country for tens of thousands of years.

The Lardil, Yangkaal, Kaiadlit and Gangalidda people of the Wellesley Islands have a continuing spiritual connection with their sea country and responsibilities for managing that country.

They have had their native title rights recognised.

Both the Thuwathu-Bujimulla Indigenous Protected Area (IPA) and the Wellesely Island Sea Claim determination extend over part of the Gulf of Carpentaria Marine Park.

The Thuwathu-Bujimulla IPA includes 160 sites of cultural heritage significance and the largest collection of stone fish traps in the southern hemisphere.

The Lardil, Yangkaal, Kaiadlit and Gangalidda people of the Wellesley Islands hold a wealth of cultural knowledge about their islands and sea country.

They recognise the presence of the Rainbow Serpent (Thuwathu or Bujimulla) in cyclones, waterspouts and rainbows, and understand that the Rainbow Serpent has the power to cause a special type of sickness known as Markiriil in Lardil.

They also consider that there are dangerous places on their country where spirits can do you harm if you are not accompanied by the right people for that area.

Many prominent marine features, such as reefs, rocks, oyster banks or sand bars have their own specific names.

Among these named sites are special ‘story places’, where significant events happened in the past, where people carry out ritual activities to maintain particular animal or plant species, or which are responsible for making tidal floods, cyclones or strong winds.

The Lardil people, as the traditional owners of Mornington Island and surrounding sea country, are recognised as the people of the Wellesley Islands with the authority to speak for sea country within the Gulf of Carpentaria Marine Park.

The Gulf Region Aboriginal Corporation Prescribed Body Corporate represents the Lardil, Yangkaal, Kaiadlit and Gangalidda native title holders of the Wellesley Islands and is the point of contact for the Marine Park.

The Carpentaria Land Council Aboriginal Corporation is the Native Title Representative Body for the region.

Heritage values

No international, Commonwealth or national heritage listings apply to the Marine Park at commencement of this plan.

Historic shipwrecks

The Marine Park contains four known shipwrecks listed under the Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976:

  • Douglas Mawson (wrecked in 1923)
  • A.D.C. (wrecked in 1886)
  • Wild Duck (wrecked in 1876)
  • Ada (wrecked 1886).

Social and economic values

Commercial fishing, tourism, and recreation, including fishing, are important activities in the Marine Park.

These activities contribute to the wellbeing of regional communities and the prosperity of the nation.

West Cape York Marine Park

The West Cape York Marine Park is located adjacent to the northern end of Cape York Peninsula approximately 25 km south-west of Thursday Island and 40 km north-west of Weipa, Queensland.

It extends from Queensland state waters to the limit of Australia’s exclusive economic zone.

The Marine Park covers an area of 16,012 km² and water depths range from less than 15 m to 70 m.

The Marine Park was proclaimed under the EPBC Act on 14 December 2013 and renamed West Cape York Marine Park on 9 October 2017.

The Marine Park is assigned IUCN category IV and includes three zones assigned under this plan:

  • National Park Zone (II)
  • Habitat Protection Zone (IV)
  • Special Purpose Zone (VI).

Statement of significance

The West Cape York Marine Park is significant because it contains species and ecological communities associated with the Northeast Shelf Transition and the Northern Shelf Province.

It includes two key ecological features:

  • the Gulf of Carpentaria basin (an area valued for its regional importance for biodiversity and aggregations of marine life)
  • the Gulf of Carpentaria coastal zone (an area valued for high productivity, aggregations of marine life biodiversity and endemism).

The Marine Park supports some of the most diverse and abundant biota in the North Marine Region.

The coastline adjacent to the Marine Park is subject to higher wave energy than elsewhere in the Gulf of Carpentaria, and is consequently highly dynamic.

The Marine Park is adjacent to the Jardine River Wetlands and also shares some biological characteristics (such as extensive tidal sandbanks and offshore reefs) with the Torres Strait.

The Marine Park covers part of the largest single continuous seagrass meadow in Australia, and is important as a year-round food source for marine turtles and dugong.

The Torres Strait Dugong Sanctuary overlaps the Marine Park.

Natural values

The Marine Park includes examples of ecosystems representative of:

  • Northeast Shelf Transition—includes continental shelf, shallow water depths and high bottom salinity. It is influenced by tidal currents and has sandy substrates and reefs supporting benthic marine communities, reef-dwelling and pelagic species.
  • Northern Shelf Province—a dynamic region with gently sloping shelf topped with a number of pinnacles at depths ranging from 5 m to 30 m. Tidal eddies induce localised upwellings and hotspots of productivity that correspond with aggregations of marine life within the Marine Park.

Key ecological features of the Marine Park are:

  • Gulf of Carpentaria basin—one of the few remaining near-pristine environments in the world, characterised by soft sediments that support abundant and diverse communities dominated by polychaetes, crustaceans, molluscs and echinoderms, with pelagic fish species such as shark, snapper, tuna and mackerel.
  • Gulf of Carpentaria coastal zone—an area where nutrient inflow from rivers generates high productivity, supporting diverse and abundant biota.

The coastal zone supports many species that move between freshwater and saltwater environments.

The Marine Park supports a range of species, including species listed as threatened, migratory, marine or cetacean under the EPBC Act.

Biologically important areas within the Marine Park include breeding and foraging habitat for seabirds, internesting and foraging habitat for marine turtles and dugong, and foraging, breeding and calving habitat for dolphins.

Cultural values

Sea country is valued for Indigenous cultural identity, health and wellbeing.

Across Australia, Indigenous people have been sustainably using and managing their sea country for tens of thousands of years.

Torres Strait Islanders and coastal Aboriginal people of the west coast of Cape York have responsibilities for sea country in the Marine Park.

The Cape York Land Council is the Native Title Representative Body for the Cape York region, which includes most of the Marine Park.

The Carpentaria Aboriginal Land Council and the Torres Strait Regional Authority also perform the function of Native Title Representative Bodies for parts of the Marine Park.

Heritage values

No international, Commonwealth or national heritage listings apply to the Marine Park at commencement of this plan.

Historic shipwrecks

The Marine Park contains one known shipwreck listed under the Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976.

Social and economic values

Commercial fishing, tourism, and recreation, including fishing, are important activities in the Marine Park.

These activities contribute to the wellbeing of regional communities and the prosperity of the nation.