Cocos (Keeling) Islands Marine Park
Cocos (Keeling) Islands Marine Park covers an area of 467,054 square kilometres and extends from most of the islands’ shoreline to the limit of Australia’s Exclusive Economic Zone (AEEZ), approximately 200 nautical miles from shore.
The marine park’s offshore waters (from approximately 3 nautical miles from shore to the limit of the AEEZ) are a green zone (National Park Zone) where extractive activities like fishing and mining are not allowed. There are also two small inshore green zones, at the area known as the Rip at Direction Island and at Trannies Beach near the northern tip of West Island.
Most of the marine park’s inshore waters are a yellow zone (Habitat Protection Zone) where fishing is allowed, but activities that disturb the seafloor (like mining or dredging) are not allowed. The inter-island ferry route and port refuge area, where large ships sometimes anchor, and some other small areas around the islands, are not part of the marine park.
The marine park adjoins the boundary of Pulu Keeling National Park, which already extends a short distance into the waters that surround North Keeling Island.
Cocos (Keeling) Islands
The Cocos (Keeling) Islands are a group of 27 stunning tropical low-lying coral islands surrounded by the clear turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean. The marine environment includes coral, lagoon and deep-sea habitats and species, with several habitats and species of international conservation significance, including green turtles and hybrid varieties of reef fish.
The location of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, around 2,750 kms north-west of Perth, makes it one of Australia’s most remote communities. Most of the islands’ community members are Cocos Malay, who maintain vibrant and unique cultural traditions, including strong cultural connections to the surrounding marine environment. The lagoon and ocean are an important part of life for all community members living on this remote atoll.
Natural & cultural values
Why Cocos (Keeling) Islands Marine Park is important
On 20 March 2022 the Cocos (Keeling) Islands Marine Park was established by the Australian Government under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act. It is one of 60 Australian Marine Parks, that are managed by the Commonwealth Director of National Parks. Together, these parks are a key part Australia’s National Representative System of Marine Protected Areas. They cover and protect 45% of Australia’s waters, making it one of the largest marine park networks on earth.
Social and economic importance
Cocos (Keeling) Islands Marine Park was co-designed with the local community, as the marine environment is locally important for many social, cultural and economic reasons. The marine park’s warm tropical waters are valued by the community for recreational and subsistence fishing and other activities like boating, diving, snorkelling, kite surfing and kayaking. It is also a major attraction for visitors, which helps to support and promote the local tourism industry. Additionally, the unique marine environment of Cocos (Keeling) Islands means there is potential for increasing scientific study and educational activities in the area.
Cocos (Keeling) Islands Marine Park is of international conservation significance, protecting 467,054 square kilometres of ocean and seafloor features. It provides habitats for a range of unique, migratory and threatened species, in a region of the world where the ocean is facing increased environmental pressures. The marine park also adjoins Pulu Keeling National Park, connecting and increasing protections across land and sea for species like seabirds, which require both environments for their survival.
The tropical waters and marine habitats that surround the Cocos (Keeling) Islands contain a mix of coral reef species from both the Indian and Pacific Oceans and over 600 species of fish have been recorded in the region. The overlap of these waters gives rise to varieties of hybrid marine fish and some endemic species, that are found nowhere else on earth. The central lagoon system and outer reefs are two of the islands important habitats. The lagoon encompasses a variety of unique and distinct habitats. This includes seagrass, which is essential for the resident green turtle population (which is a genetically distinct stock that is unique to the islands) as well as for sustaining fish populations. The outer reef habitats are dominated by hard and soft corals and have a high abundance and diversity of reef fish and other species.
The offshore waters and habitats of Cocos (Keeling) Islands Marine Park are relatively poorly studied. However, we know that they contain a range of unique seafloor features, habitats and species, particularly seamounts, deep-sea plains and a significant deep-sea ridgeline. The marine park also protects the foraging habitat of thousands of seabirds which nest on North Keeling Island (Pulu Keeling National Park), as well as species like dolphins, deep sea fish and sharks that are or may be threatened elsewhere in the region.
Purpose and management priorities
The purpose of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands Marine Park is to provide for:
- the protection and conservation of biodiversity and other natural, cultural and heritage values
- ecologically sustainable use that supports positive social and economic outcomes.
Priorities for managing the Cocos (Keeling) Islands Marine Park include:
- working with the community, scientists, industry and other people to prepare a 10-year management plan.
- protecting, managing and monitoring the marine parks natural environment, particularly working with the community to monitor and manage the lagoon.
- communicating and promoting greater understanding and appreciation of the marine park for the community and visitors
- supporting sustainable use of the marine park by the community and tourists, including through high quality and safe natural and cultural tourism experiences.
- improving scientific knowledge and understanding of the marine park’s natural environment, in both inshore and offshore waters.
Transitional management arrangements are in place for Cocos (Keeling) Islands Marine Park while a management plan is prepared. If you would like to be kept up to date on developments and opportunities to input, please send us an email at email@example.com.
Conservation Action Plan (CAP)– for the southern atoll of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands
In March 2022, the Australian Government established the Cocos (Keeling) Islands Marine Park to help protect the unique marine life found around the remote Cocos (Keeling) Islands.
Since this time, Parks Australia has been working with the local community and other people to commence planning for and the management of the park. This includes contracting the preparation of a Cocos lagoon conservation action plan.
The purpose of the conservation action plan, accompanied by two summary posters, was to identify and help focus management actions at the Cocos (Keeling) Islands’ southern atoll. It was developed by combining scientific and local knowledge to develop a comprehensive understanding of local marine values, key concerns and threats, knowledge gaps and potential solutions.
This plan will complement the Cocos (Keeling) Islands Marine Park Management Plan, which, at the time of the conservation action plan’s completion, is being developed in accordance with the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act 1999.
The plan is designed to be used by other marine managers, researchers, stakeholders and the broader Cocos community to guide activities, identify priority projects and foster collaboration.
Establishing Cocos (Keeling) Islands Marine Park
To find out about how Cocos (Keeling) Islands Marine Park was established, visit Science and Consultation.
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