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South Coast Marine Park – Submission Guide

28 May 2024

Proposed South Coast Marine Park – Submission guide


On February 16 2024, the WA government released the public draft zoning plans for a proposed network of marine parks along the WA south coast region. The proposal is for the creation, zoning, and management of four new marine parks that together form the South Coast Marine Park – the proposed Mamang Maambakoort (Bremer Bay/Hopetoun area), Wudjari (30km east of Hopetoun to Point Malcolm in the Nuytsland Nature Reserve), Western Bight (Point Malcolm to Point Dover) and Mirning (Point Dover to the South Australian border) marine parks.

This proposed marine park network covers four Traditional Owner Sea Country areas, over 1000 km of WA coastline, two bioregions, and a diverse range of unique and critical habitats for multiple species, with conservation importance and values throughout all four proposed marine parks.

A consultation period has now commenced on this proposal, with submissions on the four indicative management plans welcomed by the WA Government until Sunday, 16th June 2024.

For further information on draft plans visit:


Save Our Marine Life and The Wilderness Society have both put together simple webforms to help streamline the process of making a submission/


  1. It’s really important to say why this marine park matters to you.
  2. Say what you support in the draft marine park plans.
  3. Say what you think is missing and what changes you would like to see in the final plans.

You can submit your feedback in two ways:

  1. Via email to
  2. Via the DBCA ‘Have your say’ portal: 


1. Share your personal perspective and connection to the south coast

  • State why the south coast is important to you and why you want the marine environment to remain healthy into the future.
  • How long you’ve lived or visited the south coast.
  • Your affinity to the region including: What coastal activities you enjoy doing (diving, snorkelling, beach walking, bird watching, swimming, fishing, surfing, nature photography etc)
  • Your valuable local insights (i.e.: changes overtime to what you see on dives, coastal pollution and erosion etc).

2. What you support in the draft marine park plans

  • Welcome the creation of the South Coast Marine Park as an opportunity to protect a critical stretch of Australia’s globally significant Great Southern Reef – from east of Bremer Bay to the South Australian border.
  • Express support and urge to retain the fully protected sanctuary zones within the draft plans.
  • Creating a world-class network of sanctuary zones within the South Coast Marine Park – like at Ningaloo and the Great Barrier Reef – is an opportunity to achieve a truly world-class conservation outcome for this unique and special part of Western Australia, to help keep our marine life healthy and support sustainable fishing and our treasured coastal lifestyle into the future.
  • Support the joint management plans and the aspirations of the Traditional Owners of the south coast and recognise their enduring cultural connection and management of Sea Country. Recognising the Traditional Owners as co-managers of the marine parks will lead to better conservation outcomes and management.
  • The region has been recognized for its conservation values calling for high-level protection for over 30 years and the proposed marine park is a good step to recognizing the values of the region.
  • The draft zoning plan includes some good protection for some key conservation values across the region, particularly in the 14 large (>100km2) sanctuary zones across the marine park network. These large zones show a commitment to achieving a world-class marine park and are well placed to enhance connectivity with the Commonwealth marine parks and reserves, and terrestrial reserves and parks.

3. What changes you would like to see in the final marine park plans

The draft zoning plans need to be amended to increase sanctuary protection as it currently falls short in best practice conservation management and scientific design principles. To ensure the marine park achieves the world-class conservation outcomes the environment warrants, it is important that the zoning design follows the established scientific principles of representation, comprehensiveness, and adequacy to create a network of well-connected sanctuary areas.

Urge to increase protection in areas where crucial sanctuaries are missing for key habitats or species, including for endangered Australian sea lions, calving hotspots for endangered southern right whales, nearshore coastal protection, and for the rich diversity of marine life in the Recherche Archipelago.

Protection for critical habitat for endangered Australian sea lion:

  • WA’s south coast is home to about 80% of the sea lion habitat in Western Australia, and to 14 of WA’s 20 critical breeding sites – mostly in the Recherche Archipelago and Bremer Bay regions. The south coast region has some of the highest numbers of pups and areas that are critical to the survival of the species, and all breeding sites should be afforded sanctuary protection.
  • The draft plans do not offer enough sanctuary protection for endangered Australian sea lion habitats, including breeding, haul out, and foraging grounds.
  • Sanctuary protection is needed for key gaps including breeding sites that are considering critical habitat to the survival of the species include George Island (off Cape Arid), Glennie Island (Yokinup Cape Arid region), Investigator Island (also known as Rocky Island, proposed sanctuary over Investigator Island only covers easter half of island), Round Island, Six Mile Island (southern edge, off Israelite Bay), Stanley Island (also known as Wickham Island, off Cape Arid).
  • Australian sea lions were hunted to near extinction by the early 1900s for their fur. Since then, Australia’s only native pinniped has been slow to recover, with recent assessments finding population growth has declined even further in recent years. As Australian sea lions mature slowly with long breeding cycles of about 18 months, the loss of a few sea lions could lead to the extinction of small colonies – impacting genetic diversity in the wider population.

Protection for endangered southern right whale:

  • WA’s south coast is a critical calving area for southern right whales, containing two of Australia’s only three nursery hotspots at the Doubtful Island Bay area (including Point Ann) near Bremer Bay, and Israelite Bay, east of Esperance. Calves learn these sites and routes from their mother and are thought to be followed faithfully for life.
  • Sanctuary protection covering these two nursery hotspots would help provide vital protection to the iconic species which were hunted to near extinction in the 1800s. The current Australian population is recovering slowly, estimated at approximately 3500, with the mothers giving birth every three years.
  • Increasing sanctuary protection, especially around Point Ann and Israelite Bay, is urgently required to ensure the continual growth of southern right whale numbers.
  • The proposed special purpose zone dedicated to whale conservation offers nothing unique to conservation outcomes for the species – these areas warrant highest protection through fully-protected sanctuary zones.
  • Whales are at risk of boat strikes, entanglement, habitat modification and disturbance.
  • Increasing protection for southern right whales calving and nursery hotspots offers to enhance land-based whale watching tourism opportunities, particularly at Point Ann headland which is located within Fitzgerald River National Park (recognised globally by UNESCO and on Australia’s National Heritage List).

Need for increases in sanctuary protection in the Recherche Archipelago:

  • There is currently not enough sanctuary protection afforded to the diversity of habitats and values found within the Recherche Archipelago. The Recherche Archipelago – encompassing 105 islands and more than 1500 islets – is known to have outstanding conservation values, including seagrass meadows, kelp-seaweed beds, rhodolith beds, bare reefs, gravel/rubble, mobile sand, and pelagic habitats.
  • These diverse habitats are home to over 263 known species of fish, 347 species of molluscs, 300 species of sponges and 242 species of macroalgae. The high levels of diversity mean the waters are highly productive, include aggregation sites, and is a known biodiversity and endemism hotspot, playing a key role in ecological connectivity for demersal fish.
  • The region is one of Australia’s most important seabird breeding areas. Key gaps in the draft plans for seabirds and shorebirds include around Membinup, Cape Arid, Six Mile Island, Israelite Bay, and Cape Le Grand., which contain some of the highest densities for seabird nesting sites for short-tailed shearwaters, little penguins, pacific gull, and little shearwater species.
  • Contains the most extensive kelp forests mapped along the south coast of WA, with the largest single area (2500 ha) of mapped kelp forest at Alexander Bay – this entire habitat warrants full protection.
  • Contains the most extensive seagrass beds mapped along the south coast of WA.
  • The Recherche Archipelago has large and widely distributed rhodolith beds, which are loose-lying, non-jointed coralline red algae species that have built up over millennia to create vast beds covering thousands of hectares. Radiocarbon dating of a rhodolith bed in Esperance Bay returned dates ranging back to 1050. They are important for carbon sequestration and support an abundance of algae and invertebrates.

Protection of nearshore coastal habitats

  • There is currently not enough sanctuary protection provided to nearshore habitats in the draft plans.
  • The nearshore habitat (0-30m) forms the bulk of the Great Southern Reef – a rocky, temperate reef area that has more biodiversity than the Great Barrier Reef.
  • The complexity, wave energy, and habitat diversity in the nearshore areas is important feeding, breeding, juvenile, and safe habitat for many of the marine species in the region.
  • Nearshore sanctuaries have shown to recover 75% faster post-heatwave disturbance than non-sanctuary sites – this means sanctuaries in the coastal areas can improve the long-term resilience of nearshore fish communities.
  • Coastal features vary markedly throughout the >1000km coastline along the SCMP, and all require high levels of sanctuary protection. This includes long wide beaches and bays with a shallow shelving shore; high granite or gneiss headlands exposed to ocean swells; east-facing, semi-exposed shores with granite or gneiss boulders and tide pools; plus the typical coastal types of the Great Australian Bight – steep limestone cliffs and long exposed beaches.

Protection from oil and gas development

  • Urge for the entire marine park to exclude oil and gas exploration and extraction as these industrial activities are incompatible with marine biodiversity conservation.

These are some of the specific areas you could request sanctuary protection:

I urge you to increase sanctuary protection in the following areas and their surrounds:

Point Anne area

  • One of only three endangered southern right whale calving hotspots in Australia.
  • Important migratory habitat for humpback whales.
  • Could expand to Include the Saint Mary estuary.

Mason Bay

  • Important migratory habitat for humpback whales.
  • Highest concentration of mapped shallow reefs outside the Recherche Archipelago.


  • To provide connectivity with land nature reserve and a unique estuary with reefs.
  • Important migratory habitat for humpback whales.
  • Subtidal rocky reef habitats.
  • Biologically important areas for whales, seals, sharks and seabirds.

Investigator Island (western side)

  • Australian sea lion breeding habitat, also some of the area’s most unique reefs, pinnacles and banks.
  • Complex seafloor habitat hosting a high level of diversity and biomass of marine species.

Cape Le Grand

  • One of the key conservation areas in the proposed marine park, containing extensive rhodolith, seagrass, rocky reefs, kelp and island habitats that are under-represented in the Recherche Archipelago.
  • Important foraging habitat for Australian sea lions.
  • One of the largest mapped rhodolith habitats along the south coast
  • Bare reef intertidal offshore habitats and multiple Islets representative of the Recherche Archipelago.
  • Part of the mapped kelp forest habitats that form the hugely important Great Southern Reef.
  • Highest number of shorebirds recorded along the south coast (about two-thirds of the total in 2013 were recorded in coastal and near-coastal habitats in the Esperance region)


  • Offshore area contains extensive seagrass meadows, kelp, reefs and island habitats.
  • Important foraging habitat for Australian sea lions
  • Important habitat for foraging and provisioning of young for little penguins
  • Area listed as an important marine mammal area
  • Critically important nesting site for multiple birds
  • High amounts of kelp and seagrass
  • Mapped rhodolith habitat

Cape Arid

  • High diversity of endemic fish species and diverse habitats – reef pavement, rhodolith beds, intertidal and subtidal rocky reef habitats
  • Some of the most dense seagrass mapped in the Recherche Archipelago
  • Important foraging habitat for Australian sea lions
  • Important habitat for Little Penguin foraging and provisioning of young
  • Important feeding grounds for black-faced cormorant

Round Island

  • Critical for the survival of the endangered Australian sea lion
  • Important nesting site for little penguins

Israelite Bay

  • One of only three endangered southern right whale calving hotspots.
  • Rocky reef, bare reef and rocky shoreline habitat – rocky reef habitat is key for a huge range of marine life, including juvenile fish and invertebrates.
  • Dense seagrass habitats

Six-mile Island

  • High levels of endemism
  • Important habitat for foraging and provisioning of young for little penguins
  • Area listed as an important marine mammal area
  • The second largest pup count breeding area for Australian Sea Lions in the region


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