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  • One of the most biologically diverse ocean environments in the world

    One of the most biologically diverse ocean environment in the world


Tasmania has one of the most biologically diverse marine environments in the world. Due to its varying climatic conditions, geographical location and cool ocean currents, Tasmania's oceans are brimming with sealife unique to Tassie, such as Spotted handfish, red handfish, Live bearing seastar, Maugean skate. 

Tasmania's ocean flora is second to none. This island state is reknowned for its its giant kelp forests and seagrass meadows. Parts of Tasmania's waters also boast the highest known marine plant diversity anywhere in the world. 

Tasmania's marine wildlife is spectacular. In the mouth the mighty Derwent estuary lives the endangered spotted handfish which 'walks' on the sea floor. Once common throughout the lower Derwent estuary, this remarkable bottom-dwelling fish is threatened by land clearing, pollution and egg predation by the introduced northern Pacific Seastar. Tasmania also boasts seadragons camouflaged in the kelp, little penguins, fur seals and great white sharks. Mighty migratory whales, such as southern right whales, humpbacks and killer whales are common in Tasmania's waters. 

Seven marine reserves of Tasmania: 

Tinderbox Marine Reserve was created in 1991 to provide a sheltered place to study Tasmania's unique marine life. It covers 144.1 hectares and including all water up to 200m from the shoreline. The reserve extends about 700m southwest of Tinderbox Beach and east from Tinderbox Beach around Pierson’s point to 2.5km north of Passage Point and out to approximately 300m below the high water mark.

Its treasures include seadragons, pipe fish, senator fish, small caves, over 30 species of seaweed and many invertebrates such as bryozoans, sponges, and anemones. This is a sandstone reef extending out into the soft bottom habitat of the D’Entrecasteaux Channel. The reserve was expanded in 2009 to substantially increase its effectiveness in protecting biodiversity and ecosystem processes.

Ninepin Point Marine Reserve is a rocky reef with over 100 species of seaweed, 80 species of red algae, sponges, sea tulips, lacework bryozoans, and many fish including the elusive Red Velvet fish. Ninepin Point was created in 1991 to protect the unique feature of tannin-rich freshwater that overlays cold, nutrient-rich seawater. Ninepin Point is a light-deprived environment fostering species usually only found in very deep water. It was extended in 2009 and covers 731.8 hectares. It extends 500m south into the Dentrecasteaux Channel. 

Maria Island Marine Reserve is a great example of the benefits of Marine National Parks. Adjacent to the Maria Island National Park, this reserve of 1500 hectares was created in 1991 to protect a representative range of marine habitats found on the east coast. Half of this area is fully protected and the rest allows recreational fishing. Research at Maria Island has successfully shown that fully protected areas are critical to restoring species diversity and abundance in the marine environment particularly for heavily-fished species. Such rehabilitation can help control invasive species (such as urchins) and restore natural balance and resilience in an ecosystem. Full protection for the whole reserve would maximise the benefits of this marine protected area.

Governor Island Marine Reserve was created in 1991, covers 49ha, and is located close to the popular fishing town of Bicheno in the Freycinet Bioregion. Considered one of the best diving spots in Tasmania, the reserve includes shallow kelp-covered reef, deep spectacularly coloured sponge gardens, and rock ledges inhabited by plentiful fish and colorful invertebrates. The island is also home to one of Tasmania’s largest nesting sites for the crested tern.

Despite its small size, Governor Island Marine Reserve offers much needed protection to heavily fished species including rock lobsters, allowing some room to breathe for these sort after species. This has enabled the local population to bounce back with the number and size of animals increasing dramatically since its declaration.

Kent Group Marine Reserve was created in 2004 and covers the entire 29,000ha of the Twofold Bioregion. The reserve is split in half with one area fully protected in a sanctuary zone on the western side of the Kent Group (13,837ha), and the eastern area a habitat protection zone (15,048ha) which allows some fishing.

The Kent Group Marine Reserve is the meeting point of the East Australian Current and the westerly influence of Bass Strait, and features more fish species than any other region in Tasmania. The Kent Group is the southern strong-hold for several species including the violet roughy, mosaic leatherjacket, Wilsons weedfish, maori wrasse and one spot puller. It is also the most southerly location to see the eastern shovelnose ray and the snakeskin wrasse.

Port Davey Marine Reserve lies within the Southwest National Park and the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. Encompassing Port Davey, Bathurst Channel and Bathurst Harbour. This reserve features open ocean, drowned river valleys, exposed reefs, kelp forests, seagrass meadows, tannin-rich freshwater layered with seawater, nutrient deficient waters, over 500 species of invertebrates such as zoanthids and anemones, blue throated wrasse, rock lobster, abalone, red and brown algae, bull kelp, sea pens, lace bryozoan, sponges, biscuit stars and skates.

This area provides much-needed protection for an ultrasensitive marine environment. This is the only reserve in the Davey Bioregion, despite the Tasmanian MPA Strategy aim to protect a comprehensive, adequate and representative network of MPAs. The benefits of having linked protected areas are not maximised, catastrophic events could destroy the only representative area we have, and it is likely that other marine habitats and wildlife in the Davey Bioregion are not represented.

Macquarie Island Marine Reserve is the largest fully protected marine reserve in Tasmania, made up of 75,000 hectares protecting all of the state waters out to three nautical miles and the entire Macquarie Bioregion. This spectacular reserve includes highly unique sub-Antarctic processes, geological characteristics, and numerous globally threatened albatross, penguin and seal populations. One of the most comprehensively protected areas and together with the island’s World Heritage Area status, Macquarie Island is an excellent focus for climate and ocean research.

Bruny Bioregion Marine Conservation Areas – Opossum Bay, Monk Bay, Cloudy Bay Lagoon, Central Channel, Simpson Point, Roberts Point, Huon Estuary, Hippolyte Rocks, Sloping Island, Waterfall-Fortescue, Blackman Rivulet, South Arm, Port Cygnet and River Derwent provide protection and maintenance of the natural and cultural values of the area and the sustainable use of natural resources. Despite this progressive step foward, these areas are not fully protected from some of the most harmful extractive activities, such as commercial and recreational fishing.

Tasmania has both state and federal marine parks. Find out more about the difference between state and federal marine parks here.

Federal waters

South-east Marine Region

Little penguin image credit Mike Guy/Marine Photobank 

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