Vision diagram
Divers after completing fish
and benthic community surveys on the oceanic side of
an offshore coral reef © Kate Fitzgerald

Western Australia's marine environment extends from the tropical north to the cool temperate south. These waters support a high diversity of marine habitats and organisms, including numerous unique species. The Department of Parks and Wildlife’s Marine Science Program undertakes research and monitoring to ensure that the management of Western Australia's threatened marine fauna and world-class system of marine parks and reserves is based on sound science.

What we do

  • Conduct or facilitate research to describe the distribution and diversity of WA’s marine biodiversity, and the processes that influence these patterns.
  • Implement monitoring of WA’s threatened marine fauna and marine parks and reserves to measure their condition relative to pressures and management actions.
  • Provide scientific advice on issues like marine reserve planning, environmental assessment and licensing.
  • Ensure that the outcomes of research and monitoring are communicated widely and translated into management actions that improve the conservation of WA's marine environment and are used to positively influence attitudes and behaviour towards our marine environment.

Key activities and projects

  • Developing marine science plans for newly-established marine parks in the Kimberley region.
  • Continued monitoring of key ecological assets, such as seagrasses, algae and fish, and social values across WA’s marine parks and reserves.
  • Research and monitoring of WA’s threatened marine wildlife, with a particular focus on marine turtles, dugong, pinnipeds and cetaceans.
  • Research on:
  • The importance of seaweeds to tropical fish.
  • Fish recruitment in tropical marine environments.
  • How marine ecosystems recover from disturbance.
  • What influences where organisms live on intertidal reef communities.
  • Leadership of the Kimberley Marine Research Program; a WA Government and Western Australian Marine Research Institution partnership that will increase management-related knowledge of WA’s northern waters.


Marine temperature monitoring

March 2021 update

2011 bleaching event Tom Holmes 1
Coral bleaching in 2011 - Photo © DBCA 

Early 2021 brought elevated risk of thermal stress to marine ecosystems along WA’s coastline due to warmer water associated with La Nina climatic conditions. From December to February, very high water temperatures persisted along the Pilbara, Gascoyne and Midwest coasts. In some areas, including the Montebello and Barrow islands, the Dampier Archipelago and the eastern side of Exmouth Gulf, extended periods of warm seawater temperature have caused isolated and patchy coral bleaching. Plans are currently underway to determine if impacts are apparent on seagrasses in Shark Bay Marine Park, especially as additional stress may occur in some places there due to sediment discharged in recent flooding of the Gascoyne and Wooramel rivers.

Coastal water temperatures have declined slightly since peaking in late January due to the mixing influence of tropical low-pressure systems. However, the underlying causes of warm seawater are likely to persist across the region into autumn. DBCA receives sea surface temperature modelling and coral bleaching forecasting from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and is a part of the AIMS WA Bleaching Network. DBCA reviews this information throughout the summer to determine areas of potential risk. Where stress on marine communities is identified, we seek to learn as much as possible about the impacts and causes using a variety of field-based and remote sensing survey methods. This knowledge can be used to inform future management of the area.

DBCA will provide updates as we continue to monitor the risk of these conditions to WA’s unique marine ecosystems.


Related resources

Research information sheets