North Marine Parks

The north marine region includes some of the world’s most intact tropical ocean ecosystems. The warm shallow waters are havens for threatened sea turtles, the islands which dot the coastline are fringed by beautiful colourful reefs and stunning clear waters, while abundant seagrass meadows are hot-spots for globally vulnerable dugong and rare snubfin dolphins. These marine parks will help ensure our Top End and Gulf waters will be a global haven that helps safeguard these and many other species.


Why is the North Marine Region Important?

The North Marine Region encompassing the Top End and Gulf of Carpentaria is home to an abundance of tropical sea life threatened in other parts of the world. The Top End is among the world’s most intact tropical ecosystems.

  • The warm shallow waters of the Timor Sea provide a haven for threatened sea turtles which feed on submerged reefs and nest on nearby beaches. East of Darwin, underwater pinnacles off the Cobourg Peninsula rise dramatically from the sea floor, providing a home for light-loving marine life.
  • At the head of the Arafura canyons, cooler, deeper ocean waters rise, providing feeding grounds for whale sharks and predatory fish. Closer to shore, the islands which dot the Arnhem shelf are fringed by colourful reefs and clear waters, and provide a refuge for large fish like snapper, emperor and groper.
  • Sea grass meadows off Groote Eylandt and Limmen Bight in the Gulf of Carpentaria are a hot-spot for globally vulnerable dugong and rare snubfin dolphins. The soft sea floor of the central Gulf is home to an abundance of heart urchins, which cycle nutrients through the interconnected food web;
  • The monsoonal rivers that flow into the southern Gulf are largely free from dams and large scale water extraction, making the region globally unique. Free-flowing wild rivers bring a flood of nutrients and fresh water each wet season, supporting high levels of phytoplankton: the sea-plants which produce the oxygen we breathe;
  • In the far east of the region, near the Torres Strait, sea turtles swim through a migratory highway between their feeding and breeding grounds in the Gulf and the Coral Sea.


Aboriginal Traditional Owners and Sea Rangers

Indigenous owners are active throughout the region and have a strong and lasting connection to land and sea country. Drawing on traditional knowledge, contemporary science, and their increasing legal rights, they visit sacred sites, track sea life, report illegal fishing and remove ghost nets while maintaining and renewing their cultural connections with the incredible environments of the north marine region.


Region Size Statistics

The North Marine Region stretches from the Western Australian-Northern Territory border in the west through to the tip of Cape York in Queensland. This is a network of Commonwealth marine parks and comprises eight marine parks covering more than 157 483 km² (this is over twice the size of Tasmania!)