Australian Marine Parks in the Indian Ocean Territories – science and consultation
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:
- James Cook University report: Natural Values of the Inshore Waters of Australia’s Indian Ocean Territories - Christmas & the Cocos (Keeling) Islands
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, prior to 2021 there has had been limited scientific research in these waters. To help fill this research gap and support design and management of the IOT marine parks, Parks Australia supported two voyages by the CSIRO Research Vessel Investigator to explore deep sea IOT marine environments. We engaged Museums Victoria’s deep-sea specialist and lead scientist for the voyages, 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.
Initial reports were prepared based on the information available prior to the 2021 and 2022 voyages, and these have now been updated by Dr O’Hara with new information from those voyages:
- Assessment of the offshore marine natural values of Australia’s Indian Ocean Territories (March 2023)
- Proposed offshore Key Ecological Features and Biologically Important Areas of Australia’s Indian Ocean Territories (March 2023)
The work of 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.
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 in 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.
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.
- Download the Director of National Parks report on the public consultation process
- Download the proclamation proposal (includes maps)
- Formal invitation to comment from the Director of National Parks
- Cocos (Keeling) Islands Marine Park summary – ENGLISH
- Cocos (Keeling) Islands Marine Park summary – COCOS MALAY
- Christmas Island Marine Park summary – ENGLISH
- Christmas Island Marine Park summary – MALAY
- Christmas Island Marine Park summary – MANDARIN
Next steps and how to stay in touch
Now that IOT marine parks have been established, management plans will be prepared for them. The latest information on management plans is available on our Indian Ocean Territories page.
If you would like to receive email updates, please let us know at email@example.com.
Stay in touch
Subscribe to receive important updates about your marine parks. Enter your email address and click "join now".