Article Index

Recreational fishing is permitted in General Use Zones, some Recreation Zones and some Special Purpose Zones of marine parks, but you may not fish in Sanctuary Zones and many Special Purpose Zones of marine parks or in the Hamelin Pool Marine Nature Reserve. Photo © Colin Ingram

Zoning provides for conservation while allowing sustainable recreational and commercial activities. While a range of activities are permitted in multiple-use marine parks and reserves, the zoning system minimises conflict by establishing some zones for undisturbed nature study and passive enjoyment of the natural environment and other zones that provide opportunities for extractive activities and use.

Before visiting a marine park, always ‘Know Your Zones' and find out what you can do in each zone. Each marine park has its own zoning scheme so it's a good idea to download the park brochures.

Sanctuary zones

Sanctuary zones are ‘look but don't take' areas managed solely for nature conservation and low impact recreation and tourism. Sanctuary zones provide the highest level of protection for vulnerable or protected species and important habitats, so extractive activities like recreational fishing, commercial fishing and collecting are excluded. The public is encouraged to visit and enjoy sanctuary zones, with the following activities very welcome:

whale breaching
You may scuba dive
throughout all marine park zones.
Photo © Ann Storrie
  • swimming
  • snorkelling
  • scuba diving
  • beach walking
  • boating
  • water sports such as surfing, kayaking, windsurfing, kite surfing, stand up paddle boarding
  • low impact tourism like whale watching and sea lion viewing.

Sanctuary zones:

  • are fantastic places to enjoy snorkelling or diving, as they have abundant marine wildlife
  • protect the full range of marine plants and animals in a particular area, not just fish
  • protect important habitats such coral reefs, seagrass meadows, mangroves, rocky shores, sandy sea floors and are often situated alongside islands where seabirds, turtles, sea lions and penguins go ashore to breed
  • provide safe places for threatened marine animals and protect nursery areas for rock lobsters and schooling areas for fish
  • provide sites for scientists to monitor relatively undisturbed marine environments, which they can compare to adjacent areas where activities like fishing are allowed.

Recreation zones

Visitors can enjoy a range of activities in recreation zones.
Visitors can enjoy a range of activities in recreation zones.
Photo © Parks and Wildlfe

Recreation zones provide for conservation and recreation, including recreational fishing where appropriate, subject to bag, size and seasonal limits and other conservation measures.

Commercial fishing, aquaculture and pearling are not permitted in recreation zones.

Special purpose zones

whale breaching
Special purpose zones of marine parks
are declared to allow for particular
activities such as wildlife protection
Photo © Dave and Fiona Harvey

Special purpose zones are managed for a particular priority use or issue. This could be protection of a habitat, a seasonal event such as wildlife breeding or a particular type of activity. Uses compatible with the priority use or seasonal event are allowed in these zones.

Special purpose zones can help protect specific habitats from a particular threat or allow for particular activities. For example:

  • at Ningaloo Marine Park, special purpose zones for shore based activities allow for shore-based recreational fishing alongside some sanctuary zones
  • at Shoalwater Islands Marine Park, a special purpose zone for wildlife conservation has an 8 knot speed limit to limit the risk of boats striking Australian sea lions, penguins, dolphins and to reduce disturbance to nesting seabirds.

General use zones

Commercial activities such as pearling
are permissible in general use zones
Photo © Parks and Wildlife

General use zones are areas within marine parks where activities such as sustainable commercial fishing, aquaculture, pearling and petroleum exploration and production are permissible provided they do not compromise conservation values.

Some parks may have additional restrictions in their general use zones, so always check the park brochure before visiting a particular park.