Australian Marine Parks

Transitional management arrangements are in place for Indian Ocean Territories Marine Parks

Parks Australia has commenced consultation to prepare management plans for the Christmas Island Marine Park and Cocos (Keeling) Islands Marine Park. Management plans will establish the detailed management arrangements for these marine parks for 10 years. Read more information about the management plan development process.

While the management plans are developed, Parks Australia will manage the marine parks in line with the transitional management arrangements described below, which reflect the Proclamation Proposal for the establishment of marine parks in Australia’s Indian Ocean Territories. The information should be read in conjunction with the zoning maps of the marine parks. These arrangements came into effect in April 2022.

Zoning and continuing activities

IOT marine parks have two zone types:

  • Yellow/Habitat Protection/IUCN Category IV 

  • Green/National Park/IUCN Category II 

These two zone types and their locations reflect the co-design process for establishing IOT marine parks, undertaken with island communities.

Generally, zoning determines what activities can take place in different areas of marine parks. Yellow zoning has been implemented across most inshore waters of IOT marine parks, as this allows activities that were occurring in these waters before the new marine parks were declared to continue. For example:

  • Recreational and subsistence fishing (including spearfishing) can continue within the yellow zones of the marine parks as long as it is in accordance with the Christmas Island Applied Laws Ordinance 1992 and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands Applied Laws Ordinance 1992. Note that no fishing is allowed in the green zones of the marine parks, including the two small inshore green zones in the Cocos (Keeling) Islands Marine Park at The Rip and Trannies Beach. 
  • Commercial fishing under applicable commercial fishing management arrangements can continue in the yellow zones of the marine parks. 
  • Commercial tourism activities (for example, established small-scale dive, snorkel, canoe, birdwatching and kitesurfing tours) can continue throughout all areas of the marine parks.
  • Charter fishing tours are only allowed in the yellow zones. 
  • Critical infrastructure activities—for example commercial shipping movements for freight, industry and transit; and ocean outfall associated with established wastewater treatment plants on the islands can continue.
  • Note that most areas where there is established critical infrastructure, or operations associated with this infrastructure, are not part of the marine parks—active port areas for example.
  • Most scientific research activities can continue, noting that extractive research (that involves the taking of native species) may require assessment—see ‘new activities and assessment requirements’ below.

More detailed information on activities is provided in the zoning table below.

In the green zones of the marine parks, only ‘non-extractive’ uses are allowed. For example, snorkelling, diving and boating are allowed but fishing and activities that disturb the seafloor are prohibited (e.g. mining, dredging). The large offshore green zones start around 12 nautical miles offshore at Christmas Island and 3 nautical miles offshore at Cocos (Keeling) Islands and extend to the limit of Australia’s maritime jurisdiction—generally 200 nautical miles from the shore. There are also two small inshore green zones in the Cocos (Keeling) Islands Marine Park, at The Rip and Trannies Beach.

Christmas Island National Park and Pulu Keeling National Park both extend a short distance into the marine environment—50 metres from the shore around most of Christmas Island and approximately 2 kilometres from the shore in a square around North Keeling Island (the land area of Pulu Keeling National Park). Established management arrangements for the marine areas of these national parks continue to apply.

Parks Australia does not manage activities in the areas that are not part of the marine parks or national parks (like port areas).

Assessment of new activities

Some new activities in the marine parks may require assessment by the Director of National Parks to decide if and how they can proceed. This will help to ensure that risks to the values of the marine parks are reduced as much as possible and that there is appropriate consultation with local communities and other stakeholders.

New activities requiring assessment include, but are not necessarily limited to:

  • the installation of structures in the marine parks
  • excavations or other works in the marine parks—dredging for example
  • aquaculture proposals
  • extractive scientific research in green zones

More detailed information on activities is provided in the zoning table below.

If you are considering undertaking one of these activities or another activity not covered in the zoning table below, you must contact Parks Australia at Assessment is in two steps:

  1. Proponent provides basic information about proposed activity—what it is, where it is to be done and when. Parks Australia will then liaise with the proponent to clarify if formal assessment will be required.
  2. If formal assessment is required, the proponent may need to provide further information for the Director to assess whether: 
  • the activity is consistent with the objectives of the zone or zones in which it is to be undertaken
  • the potential impacts and risks of the activity on the marine park’s values will be avoided or reduced to as low as reasonably practicable
  • the potential impacts and risks of the activity on marine park values and representativeness are acceptable.

If the Director is satisfied as to these matters, they will issue an authorisation for the proponent to carry out the activity.

Parks Australia will continue to work with IOT communities and other stakeholders to establish more detailed guidance on assessment arrangements and adjust these if necessary during the transitional management period.

IOT Marine Parks: activity and zoning table

IOT Marine Parks: activity and zoning table

✓       Activity is allowed.
X     Activity is not allowed.
A     Activity is allowable, subject to assessment by the Director of National Parks.
B      Anchoring is not allowed except in anchoring areas determined under r.12.56 of the EPBC Regulations.
C      Vessel disposal only allowed in accordance with the Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Act 1981.
*     Scientific research not considered ‘limited impact’ is research that includes the taking of any species that is protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act; and/or a species in the class Mammalia (mammals), class Aves (birds), class Reptilia (reptiles), or class Amphibia (amphibians).

All allowed and allowable activities must be undertaken in accordance with applicable Commonwealth, State and Territory laws.

More information