Australian Marine Parks

As for all Australian Marine Parks, scientific information and community consultation were a key to the design and establishment of the Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Islands marine parks.

Science and research

Using the best available scientific research and analysis is an important part of any marine park design process.

We engaged James Cook University to review the existing research on the inshore waters of the IOTs and use it to identify the likely key ecological features and biologically important areas of these environments. Their report is available below:

We know that the offshore waters of the Indian Ocean Territories contain a range of unique seafloor features, habitats and species, particularly seamounts and deep-sea plains and ridgelines. However, there has been limited scientific research in these waters. So, we engaged Museums Victoria’s deep-sea specialist, Dr Tim O’Hara to use existing information to prepare reports on the natural values of these offshore waters, and to identify likely key ecological features and biologically important areas.

These reports are available here:

Dr O’Hara is updating these reports with new information after leading a voyage to the deep waters of Christmas Island in mid-2021 aboard the CSIRO Research Vessel Investigator. Dr O’Hara is expected to lead a second voyage to investigate the deep waters around Cocos (Keeling) Islands in late 2022 to further improve our knowledge and understanding of the region’s deep-water features and habitats.

This work by Museums Victoria and James Cook University builds on a significant synthesis report by CSIRO from 2009: Conservation values in Commonwealth waters of the Christmas and Cocos (Keeling) Island remote Australian territories.

More information about science to establish and manage Australian Marine Parks is available here.

Community consultation

Consultation with different community and stakeholder groups and individuals is crucial to marine park design and management. Marine users provide critical information about the marine environment and how it is used for social and economic purposes.

Working with communities in the Indian Ocean Territories

During February and March 2021, Parks Australia commenced consultations with Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Islands communities about the possibility of establishing marine parks at the islands.  IOT communities use their local waters on a daily basis and the Government wanted to ensure that the views and aspirations of these communities were at the forefront of the marine park planning process. The community members we met with during this initial phase of consultation expressed a range of views about marine parks and a report that details these views is available here. Following this initial consultation, we visited the IOT in April, May and June to work with the community to co-design the proposed marine parks.

A summary of these additional consultations can be found here:

Draft marine park proposal

Following initial consultations and co-design work with IOT communities, we developed and released for public comment, a consultation draft Proposal for the establishment of marine parks in Australia’s Indian Ocean Territories (Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Islands).

The draft proposal was available for comment from 16 July to 13 August 2021 and response, we received 60 unique submissions from a range of stakeholders including: IOT organisations, groups/associations and individuals; mainland commercial fishers and representative bodies; recreational and local fishing groups; research and conservation organisations and mainland-based individuals. We also received 15,184 ‘campaign’ submissions facilitated by the conservation sector. A detailed report on the comments received was prepared.

Leading up to the release of the consultation draft and during the comment period we contacted and/or met with a broad range of stakeholders with interests in the marine environment surrounding these islands, including members of the commercial and recreational fishing sector, marine science community, and the conservation sector. We also visited Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Islands to seek feedback from local communities on the consultation draft.

Feedback on the consultation draft was considered in preparing a Proclamation proposal for IOT marine parks.

Proclamation proposal

Between 5 October and 6 December 2021, the Director of National Parks invited comments from all interested stakeholders and members of the public on a proclamation proposal for marine parks in Australia’s Indian Ocean Territories—Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Islands. Comments are now closed but the proclamation proposal and summaries are available below for reference.

In response to the proclamation proposal, we received 45 unique submissions from a range of stakeholders including: IOT organisations, groups/associations and individuals; mainland-based commercial fishing concession holders and representative bodies; recreational and local fishing groups; research and conservation organisations and mainland-based individuals. We also received 12,733 ‘campaign’ submissions facilitated by the conservation sector.

The Director of National Parks considered all comments that were received through this public consultation process and provided a report to the Minister for the Environment in accordance with the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

Next steps and how to stay in touch

Now that IOT marine parks have been established there will be further consultation with IOT communities and other stakeholders in relation to:

  • projects to support management of the marine parks
  • the development of management plans for the marine parks.

If you would like to be kept up to date on developments and opportunities to input, please send us an email at iotmarineparks@environment.gov.au.