To comply with and meet the obligations in national and international agreements and conventions, a National Representative System of Marine Protected Areas is being developed by the Commonwealth and all of the Australian States and the Northern Territory. Central to this work—and similar to that underpinning the terrestrial reserve system—is the idea of a Comprehensive, Adequate and Representative (CAR) reserve system.

A Comprehensive marine conservation reserve system is one in which all major bioregions have marine reserves within them. In WA, 19 major bioregions have been identified and the CAR system will eventually consist of a network of marine reserves throughout the State (see map).

Adequate refers to the number, size, configuration and level of protection of the reserves within a bioregion—a few very small reserves are not truly sustainable in the long term, especially in the ocean where currents and other conditions create a high degree of connectivity between different areas.

The reserves also need to be Representative of the ecosystems within the bioregions. This means that all species of plants and animals found in Western Australian waters will be represented somewhere in our marine reserve system.