Australian Marine Parks

The Oceanic Shoals Marine Park supports rich sponge gardens, corals and a diversity of fish life, as well as providing important resting and feeding areas for breeding marine turtles.

Shoals have a bad reputation. They’re undersea features that, for many sailors at least, just aren’t undersea enough.

But research in the Oceanic Shoals Marine Park has revealed the astonishing diversity of some of our shoal systems, and suggests we’ve still got lots to discover about these amazing places.

Under the sea there are carbonate (limestone-like) banks, terraces and pinnacles formed during reef-building times when sea levels were high, then exposed, weathered and cut through by rivers as sea levels fell.

Submerged again today, these features support rich sponge gardens, corals, sea squirts, sea snakes and many different fishes.

Oceanic Shoals Marine Park stretches far out to the deep ocean at the limit of Australia’s Exclusive Economic Zone and is adjacent to the maritime boundary with Timor-Leste which is established by the Maritime Boundary Treaty.

The marine park lies just to the west of the Tiwi Islands, about 150 kilometres north-west of Darwin. It covers 71,743 square kilometres, with depths from less than 15 metres to 500 metres.

The marine park has National Park, Habitat Protection, Multiple Use and Special Purpose (Trawl) zones. 

While some types of commercial fishing are allowed in the Habitat Protection Zone, others are restricted in order to protect important habitats.


Fishing is important in this region, including commercial, charter and recreational fishing.


Biologists and oceanographers from the National Environmental Science Program have been making great discoveries in the Oceanic Shoals Marine Park.

Using sophisticated sea-floor mapping tools they’ve already found dozens of new undersea pinnacles.

The area is a hotspot for sponges. Biologists have recorded 350 sponge species in the area so far, and predict the total number may be as high as 900 species.

Find out more about the National Environmental Science Program Oceanic Shoals work.

Click on the map below to see what you can do in the Oceanic Shoals Marine Park.

Download map


Park area

71,743 km²

Depth range

15 to 500 m

Average depth

87 m