Our History

From the Great Barrier Reef to Ningaloo, no other organisation has done more to secure a healthy future for our seas and shores.

Tim Winton

In the Beginning

The Australian Marine Conservation Society is one of the oldest conservation groups in Australia, and the only conservation group dedicated solely to protecting Australia’s amazing oceans and marine wildlife.

It all began a long way from the sea, around a campfire in central Queensland in 1965. A group of marine scientists and avid bushwalkers from the University of Queensland and the CSIRO were sitting under the stars one night on a camping trip at Carnarvon Gorge. Eddie Hegerl (our founding Director) and others were discussing their concerns about overfishing and coastal pollution, and there and then they pledged to do something about it.

So this group of concerned colleagues started an independent body for our oceans, a united voice that would speak out against the injustices to the sea and its wildlife, which can’t speak for itself.

And the precursor of the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) was born. In the early days AMCS was called the Queensland Littoral Society (QLS), reflecting our concern for coastal conservation between the high and low tide. Years later we broadened our focus to take on national issues (as the Australian Littoral Society – ALS) and in the mid 1990s changed our name to what it is today.

The story of AMCS illustrates how a group of passionate and committed people really can make a difference.

In the early years AMCS members established an active program for carrying out underwater fish counts on reefs which proved crucial in saving a number of coral reef areas from coral mining for limestone. These surveys occurred in Moreton Bay, Queensland (Myora, Goat Is, Bird Is, and Peel Is).

Our first major campaign commenced in the mid 1960s, when we legally contested and successfully defeated an application to mine coral on the Great Barrier Reef.

This victory was followed by Australia’s largest sea-based campaign which culminated in the formation of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park World Heritage Area – an international tourist destination and one of the natural wonders of the world.

Since this great endeavour, AMCS has continued to secure the protection of habitats and species throughout Australia’s oceans.

Along the way

The first high profile activity faced by AMCS (then called the Queensland Littoral Society - QLS) was in 1967 when an application was sought to mine coral at Ellison Reef, off Innisfail in North Queensland.

This was a test case for widespread mining of the Great Barrier Reef, and AMCS jointly launched the Save the Barrier Reef campaign with the Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland (WPSQ).

After many years of hard work from AMCS and our conservation colleagues, the Australian Government banned limestone mining and oil drilling on the Reef and established the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and World Heritage Area.

AMCS continues to devote much of our energy to protecting the Great Barrier Reef through our 'Fight For Our Reef' Campaign.

Since our earliest days, AMCS has been extensively involved in wetlands conservation. In 1967 AMCS established an expert group of volunteer scientists that began carrying out the first extensive natural resource inventories of Australian tidal wetlands.

As a result of this work many threatened areas around Australia have been protected in conservation reserves, such the Boondall Wetlands in Moreton Bay, Queensland and Kakadu World Heritage Area in the Northern Territory.

AMCS was also the first community charity in Australia to focus public attention on the threats to Australia's waterways from sewage waste, industrial discharges and urban and rural runoff. In the 1970s book Water Pollution in Australia, our then President, Professor Des Connell, warned that sewage and fertiliser pollution could cause blue-green algae outbreaks.

Although Australia still has a long way to go to properly protect the quality of our waterways, we believe that AMCS has played a very important role in fostering the current understanding of Australian water pollution problems.

A Plotted History
1965Foundation of the AMCS (then called the Queensland Littoral Society, QLS). Marine parks advocacy. Studies of fish populations.
1966Surveys of Tweed River (fish study), Flinders Reef off Cape Moreton (Moreton Island), Myora (Stradbroke Island), and other biologically rich areas be set aside as “Sea parks”.
1967Extensive surveys conducted of reef fish in 45 reefs from the southern Barrier Reef to northern NSW. Ellison Reef surveyed.
1968Tallebudgera Creek development proposal opposed. Mangrove surveys of Coomera Island commence. Moreton Island surveyed. Artificial reefs, Hervey Bay. The Great Barrier Reef Petition with 13,120 signatures presented to Parliament
1969Tallebudgera Creek development proposal opposed. Mangrove surveys of Coomera Island commence. Moreton Island surveyed. Artificial reefs, Hervey Bay. The Great Barrier Reef Petition with 13,120 signatures presented to Parliament
1970“Oceanic Grandeur”. Field data sheets used by the Wetlands Committee. Swan Bay Habitat Reserve. Gold Coast benthic surveys continue. The Hervey Bay wetlands.
1971“Field Manual for Tidal Swamps” created. INSPECT in Brisbane. Qld Clean Waters Act. Fishes of the Tweed River Estuary.
1972Field studies of Noosa wetlands
1973Campaign to stop large heavy industrial development in Jervis Bay, NSW. Tallebudgera wetlands, Gold Coast. Water pollution surveys of Oxley Creek, Brisbane. Bogimbah Creek, Fraser Island.
1974Capricorn Coast tidal wetlands.
1976EIS statements. Admiralty Island in Trinity Inlet, Cairns.
1977/8Cardwell area of north Queensland and Moreton Bay. Towra Point Survey
1979Capricorn Section of the GBRMP. IUCN Working Group in Mangrove Ecosystems. Kakadu. Bulimba Creek revegetation project.
1980/3Great Barrier Reef Resource Inventory. Seabird census taking in the Capricorn Bunker Group. Asian mangrove symposia at the IUCN General Assembly.
1985/9Great Barrier Reef island research and review of zoning plans.
1988River Scientific conference. Published the Moreton Bay Resource Kit.
1989Moreton Bay in the Balance conference.
1990IUCN Perth General Assembly. Published Brisbane River Story
1991National Biodiversity Advisory Committee. Brisbane River Discussion Paper.
1992Qld Wetlands Resource Inventory. Published Moreton Bay in the Balance. SEQ2001 Project
1993Boondall Wetlands Reserve, Marine and Coastal Community Network established, environment  and coastal protection, marine pollution, natural resource management, Fisheries and Planning and Environment Parliamentary Bills.
1994IUCN Council, International Marine Conservation Network, planning for Ramsar, Wetlands database.
1995Name change to AMCS, new logo, established branches in Bundaberg and Moreton Bay and in Sydney, Coastcare, Iron Baron grounded, head office at Yeronga, Ramsar preparation, Brisbane River Management Group.
1996Ramsar Conference, branches established at Kangaroo Island, Perth, Melbourne and Great Ocean Road, new style Bulletin. AMCS publications, The Brisbane River Story Meanders through Time.
1997International Year of the Ocean, Three more branches established, heavy involvement in Australia’s Oceans Policy, coral mining in Moreton Bay ceases, AMCS principals involved in numerous national and international committees and workshops, Branches lobby for the declaration of State Marine Protected Areas, migratory wading birds, dugongs, fishing VMS (vehicle management systems) and bycatch reduction, Great Barrier Reef involvement ongoing.
1998Oceans Policy: Representation at federal level and heavy input into reports and issues paper. International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN): Involvement at International level into fisheries, South Pacific seagrasses and Marine Protected Areas, conservation strategies. Marine & Coastal Community Network (MCCN): A very productive year with International as well as national recognition. Wetland Conferences and hosting of tours by Dr Amanda Vincent and Professor David Bellamy.
1999Progress on Oceans Policy, Tasmanian Seamounts MPA, a MPA off Macquarie Island progressed, Successful in getting marine and estuarine priorities to 11th Ramsar meeting, Costa Rica, Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act established, input into ongoing management of the Great Barrier Reef, Brisbane River and Moreton Bay successes. MCCN ongoing involvement.
2000Long term officers conclude formal employment, new National Coordinator appointed, new website URL.
2000/2All seahorses and their relatives (33 species) protected in NSW waters. Working with local ENGOs, prevented unsustainable sea cage aquaculture development near a significant sea lion breeding colony in South Australia. Marine National Parks and Sanctuaries declared in Victoria. Heard and McDonald Islands Marine Reserve declared.
2004Great Barrier Reef Marine Park green/protection zones increased from 4% to 33%. QLD critical habitats of the endgangered grey nurse shark protected. Shark finning at sea (live finning) banned in Northern Territory – the last jurisdiction in Australia where this barbaric practice was still permitted.
2004Unsustainable sea cage aquaculture proposal prevented in Moreton Bay. Produced Australia’s Sustainable Seafood Guide, an independent guide for people who love their oceans but also love their seafood.
2005Working with local groups, secured 27% of Cape Byron Marine Park in sanctuary zones, protecting threatened little terns, grey nurse sharks and sea turtles.
2006Award-winning ‘Living Treasure’ Tim Winton joins as AMCS Patron. Unsustainable sea cages kept out of Darwin Harbour, Bynoe Harbour and Snake Bay. Increased protection for orange roughy, now listed as ‘conservation dependent’.
2007Industrial development rejected at Glyde Point, a culturally and ecologically significant coastal jewel of the north, 40kms north-east of Darwin.
2008Shark fin exports banned from the Joint Authority Northern Shark Fishery – WA.
2009Secured a reduction in the shark fishing quota along the World Heritage Great Barrier Reef coast.
2010Participated in International Seafood Summit and International Whaling Commission meeting to uphold the global ban on whaling. Launched Australia’s Sustainable Seafood Guide online.
2011Western Australia’s Ningaloo Coast declared World Heritage. Launched Australia’s Sustainable Seafood iPhone App. Through partnerships with Traditional Owners in the NT, protected Sea Country from seabed mining. Ongoing fisheries reforms, protecting billfish, tunas, marlins from increased quota proposals on the east coast. Increased pilotage for ships travelling through the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
2012World’s largest network of marine reserves secured in Commonwealth waters, increasing Australia’s offshore protected area network from 4% to 13%, putting it on par with our protected areas on land. The Dutch-owned supertrawler rejected in Australia’s southern seas. Marine sanctuaries declared in South Australian state waters. Submitted an FOI to the Australian Government to determine how much shark fin Australia is exporting and importing.
2013Fight for the Reef campaign launched to protect the Great Barrier Reef from rapid industrialisation. Secured a $40M commitment from the federal government to fund the Reef’s restoration. Launched The Good Fish Project – Australia’s first sustainable seafood initiative for chefs to serve better fish to their customers. Funded equipment for wildlife carers to rescue and treat injured sea turtles and seabirds from plastic pollution. Launched our ‘shark fin free cities’ campaign.
2014Fight for the Reef becomes Australia’s largest conservation campaign, attracting hundreds of thousands of supporters. NT government issues a moratorium on seabed mining. Our rapid, passionately supported campaign defended Moreton Bay Marine Park’s sanctuaries from being wound back. Launched Australia’s Sustainable Seafood Guide for all smartphones. Defended NSW sanctuaries against moves to bring fishing back (though the battle isn’t over). Japanese Government’s Antarctic whaling program defeated in the International Court of Justice. AMCS and our Director fought long and hard for the Australian Government to take Japan to court, and the case prevailed!
2015AMCS turns 50! Fight for the Reef campaign is bigger than ever and making real gains, with investors pulling out of port developments, Caley Valley wetlands saved from dredge spoil dumping, a ban on dumping in World Heritage waters and more. Good Fish Chefs’ Charter launched. The battle to protect our world-first network of marine sanctuaries heats up.
2016We secure three new marine parks for the Kimberley with our alliance Kimberley – Like Nowhere Else – with funding from the WA Government for new Yawuru Nagulagun/Roebuck Bay Marine Park in October, Lalang-Garram Horizontal Falls Marine Park in November, and a new North Kimberley Marine Park. In the face of massive outrage from ocean lovers, BP pulls out of oil exploration in the Great Australian Bight. We oppose the Geelong Star Supertrawler and get it to pull out of Australian waters for good. We send a delegation to the IWC and secure stronger restrictions on whaling. We run a massive campaign on plastics and get NSW, QLD and WA to implement Container Deposit Schemes to fight plastic pollution.
2017We fight back against new plans to brutally cut our national network of marine sanctuaries, with 97.5% of submissions opposing cutbacks – and then secured $1 million for the Buccaneer Archipelago Marine Park in the Kimberley, saving crucial humpback whale nurseries. After years of campaigning, we get commitments from the Queensland Government to fix fisheries, saving dolphins and turtles. Outrage about plastic grows, and WA, QLD and VIC all announce bans on plastic bags! In the Fight For Our Reef we go to the World Heritage Committee and get a strong statement on climate change for our Reef, and we stop a $1 billion taxpayer loan to Adani’s reef-wrecking coal mine.
2018Our momentum grows. We launch our campaign for a Sydney Marine Park. We’ve secured an extension on NT’s moratorium on seabed mining. The plastics momentum is incredible – with new commitments from supermarkets to cut back plastic packaging. And Reef tourism operators make a historic Climate Change declaration – calling for action to save our Reef!
2019Plastic bags banned in more states around the country. New farm pollution laws secured for the Reef coast. Reef Safe Carbon Budget Report to help Australia do our bit to keep warming below 1.5 degrees. Better rules in SA to reduce dolphin deaths in gillnet fisheries. Marine park in NT’s Limmen Bight. Japan withdraws from Southern Oceans whaling!
2020We defeat the Subsea 7 oil & gas pipeline fabrication project near Exmouth Gulf-Ningaloo, and stop plans for oil & gas exploration near Ningaloo! Won a ban on single-use plastic straws, cutlery and drink stirrers in SA, the first of its kind in Australia. Illegal live finning in the Great Barrier Reef is stamped out with introduction of fins-naturally-attached policy. Seabed mining banned in NT’s new Limmen Bight marine park. Equinor drops plans to drill for oil & gas in the Great Australian Bight following years of community opposition. Secured billions in renewable energy investments across Australia’s states and territories.
2021This year saw more than half of Australia’s states put a single-use plastics ban in place. Additionally, Australia committed its support to a global plastic treaty. Seabed mining was officially banned everywhere in the NT! We challenged the MSC’s attempt to certify an orange roughy fishery – and won! We saved 20k sharks saved from being fished in the QLD waters each year. With the powerful backing of our community, the QLD government listened and rejected Clive Palmer’s Central QLD Coal Mine. We achieved new marine protection commitments in the Christmas and Cocos (Keeling) Islands.

Since 1965, ocean lovers have been coming together to protect our vibrant marine wildlife, and our precious, unique oceans. We have achieved amazing things.

With your help, anything is possible.