Our Northern Territory coastline includes some of the last healthy tropical waters in the world. The Territory coasts and seas – its beauty and the bounty it provides, are central to the Top End’s way of life, to economic success, and to Territorians shared futures.
Why is the Northern Territory marine environment so important?
Our Top End coasts are wild, diverse and unique – home to six of the world’s seven sea turtles, migrating whales, the recently-identified snubfin dolphin, the vulnerable dugong and iconic sawfish.
Connecting us to our tropical waters are some of the least disturbed mangrove forests on Earth. More than a third of Australia’s mangroves can be found along our coastlines, rivers and estuaries. They protect our coastline from erosion, storms and cyclones. They filter our waters, and they provide vital nurseries for our fish stocks, including a Top End favourite, the barramundi. Fish abundance is 25 times greater on reefs close to mangrove forests than reefs where mangroves have been destroyed.
Extensive seagrass beds stretch along our shallow coastline and into the Gulf country. These meadows act as filters and stabilise our coasts, while supporting abundant sea life, from grazing sea turtles to dugongs and prawns.
Just under 5% of NT’s waters are currently protected in marine parks. Of this less than 1% is in highly protected marine sanctuaries, which provides the best possible protections for our marine life. The Territory’s marine parks are Cobourg (Garig Gunak Barlu) Marine Park and Limmen Bight Marine Park. These marine parks provide some of the best fishing experiences in the Northern Territory.
Aboriginal Traditional Owners and Sea Rangers
The Northern Territory coastline has provided a continuous home to Indigenous communities for thousands of years and is often known as ‘saltwater country’. For saltwater people all aspects of social, cultural and economic life are intimately connected to the health of their coastal lands and seas.
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 manage sacred sites, track sea life, report illegal fishing and remove ghost nets while maintaining and renewing their cultural connections the incredible environments of the north marine region.
Keep Top End Coasts Healthy
Keep Top End Coasts Healthy is community program run by an alliance of environment groups including the Australian Marine Conservation Society, the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Environment Centre of the Northern Territory.
The great outdoors is the heart of the Top End lifestyle. The NT is home to some of the last healthy tropical waters on the planet – with mangroves, coral reefs and seagrasses, home to turtles, dugongs, snubfin dolphins and huge schools of reef fish. This beauty and the bounty it provides are central to the Top End’s way of life, to economic success and to Territorians shared futures. They are tourism magnet – core to our economy and local livelihoods.
The unique way of life is, however, under stress. The Top End fishing is amazing, but places such as Darwin Harbour are not as good as they used to be. Pollution is damaging our beaches and coasts. Mangroves are being destroyed. Industrialisation is on the Government’s agenda.
These increasing threats are causing stress to our Top End coasts – putting our incredible marine life and treasured way of life at risk. A plan to safeguard the Top End’s coasts is needed now. There are proven solutions on offer, including Indigenous Sea Country protected areas, national parks in the sea, and protecting our tropical rivers, the lifeblood of our seas.