Media Release Marine Parks

WA’s South Coast Marine Park plan needs stronger protections

February 16, 2024

Leading conservation groups today welcomed the release of draft plans to preserve the extraordinary marine life along Western Australia’s south coast but say more fully protected sanctuary zones are needed to safeguard this global treasure.

The Save Our Marine Life (SOML) alliance of 27 organisations has commended the Cook Government’s commitment to establishing the South Coast Marine Park but says there is not enough science-based sanctuary protection for key habitats and species within the multi-use park.

“Right now, we have the opportunity to create a world-class marine park, like at Ningaloo, where our spectacular underwater life is thriving – and along with it, tourism and fishing,” said Monique Barker, Oceans and Rivers Manager for the Pew Charitable Trusts.

“However, the South Coast Marine Park currently lacks enough sanctuary protection for habitats critical to the survival of the endangered Australian sea lion – found only in WA and South Australia – and within the unique Recherche Archipelago, which is home to hundreds of species of fish, molluscs, sponges and seaweeds.

“Nursery areas for endangered southern right whales – which rely on our south coast waters to birth and raise their young – are also not adequately protected under the zoning proposals released today.”

Pew and the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) lead Save Our Marine Life.

AMCS Protected Areas Manager Adele Pedder said: “The South Coast Marine Park includes a huge stretch of the Great Southern Reef, which has more unique species than the Great Barrier Reef but only a fraction of the protection. It’s the only place in the world where all three types of seadragons live.

“With temperate reef species at higher risk of extinction than tropical species, it’s vital the South Coast Marine Park includes a strong network of sanctuaries to allow nature to do what it does best – reproduce and recover.

“Well-designed sanctuaries can significantly increase the size, diversity, and abundance of fish and other marine life. They are the engine rooms of a healthy marine park and bring benefits well beyond the sanctuaries.”

An independent analysis of the proposed South Coast Marine Park released by the government today found that: “Experience elsewhere suggests that the recreational and potentially commercial fisheries can benefit from the establishment of sanctuary zones through greater catch per effort in the areas around these zones.”

The report, The social and economic value of the South Coast region, states: “Studies of other marine parks have found that most fisheries experience improved or no changes to catches.”Save Our Marine Life welcomes the integral role that Traditional Owners will play in managing the marine park.

Ms Barker said: “We support the joint management plans and the aspirations of the Traditional Owners groups, who can teach us so much about caring for these special places into the future.”

With the public consultation period for the South Coast Marine Park to run for the next four months, Ms Barker encourages all Western Australians to have their say.

 “It’s our responsibility to ensure future generations get to marvel at the south coast’s breath-taking marine life, and enjoy the fishing, diving and coastal lifestyle it offers,” Ms Barker said.

The South Coast Marine Park stretches more than 1,000 km from just east of Bremer Bay to the South Australian border.