Australian Marine Parks

While huge tides and a shallow, muddy seafloor create the turbid waters of Joseph Bonaparte Gulf Marine Park, they also support an abundance of crabs and other sea life.

Joseph Bonaparte Gulf Marine Park is shaped by huge tides (up to seven metres), ebbing and flooding across the shallow muddy seafloor.

The tidal waves are compounded by monsoonal winds and cyclones, creating a physically dynamic environment with very turbid waters.

Sea fans, sea squirts and lace corals embed themselves in the muddy seafloor in the marine park, filtering food particles from the murky waters swirling around them.

Crabs are abundant here and are sought out by sawfishes who scan the muddy waters using their highly sensitive snout.

Australian snubfin dolphins feed and give birth in the shallow waters here.

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

Joseph Bonaparte Gulf Marine Park straddles the Western Australia-Northern Territory border. It covers 8597 square kilometres, with depths from less than 15 metres to 100 metres.

The marine park has Multiple Use and Special Purpose zones.


Areas in and adjacent to the marine park are important for recreational and charter fishing. Commercial fisheries operate in the region.


Joseph Bonaparte Marine Park is home to Australian snubfin dolphins.

These dolphins were described as a species new to science in 2005, separated from Irrawaddy dolphins.

Australian snubfin dolphins live in coastal areas of northern Australian, preferring shallow, turbid waters.

To spot one, look for a dolphin with a round head, obvious neck crease and no sign of a beak.

They have a snubby dorsal fin (the fin on the back) and paddle-like flippers.

These dolphins were surveyed in 2014 and 2015 as part of an aerial survey of dolphins, dugong and turtles.

Click on the map below to see what you can do in the Joseph Bonaparte Gulf Marine Park.

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Park area

8,597 km²

Depth range

15 to 100 m

Average depth

22 m