Victoria’s network of marine national parks and sanctuaries dots the coastline from Portland in the far southwest to picturesque Mallacoota near the border with NSW.

The network is made up of 13 marine national parks and 11 smaller sanctuaries, covering 5.3% of Victoria’s marine waters.

All marine plants and animals in the network are protected from extractive industries such as fishing and oil and gas exploration, creating an ‘insurance policy’ against environmental impacts.

Victoria’s network of marine national parks protects some our most iconic and charismatic species: weedy sea dragons, eastern blue devilfish, southern fiddler rays and the eastern blue groper.

Marine national parks are great for people too as special places to connect with, explore, and learn about our marine environment. But they also need our help to help protect them.

Leading scientists from around the world agree that establishing marine national parks is the best way for marine ecosystems to survive and thrive. But Victoria’s current network falls short of the long-term marine protection needed.

Victoria has the lowest percentage – a mere 5.3% – of its waters in protected ‘no-take’ areas of any Australian state­.

But the small size of the area protected is not the only problem. Marine national parks need to be in the right places to protect the wildlife and habitats that are under threat.

A team of marine experts has identified where our marine environment desperately needs greater protection. Their analysis considered critical habitats, values and threats in our marine waters.  They identified gaps in our current network and recommended the expansion of some of these existing parks as well as the addition of new parks. (See Marine and Coastal Issues Paper under More Information below.)         

They identified 20 marine conservation priority areas that should be protected as part of the marine national parks network. The areas included Bridgewater Bay, Deen Maar (Lady Julia Percy Island), Cape Otway, Point Lillias to Kirk Point, Crawfish Rock, Anderson Inlet, the Gippsland Lakes and Gabo Island. (See more in VNPA’s Nature Conservation Review)

Marine national parks and sanctuaries can:

  • help marine life withstand climate change impacts by reducing stressors
  • protect and improve habitat and species diversity
  • protect rare species and populations
  • protect habits from damaging industries such as oil exploration and extraction, aquaculture and fishing
  • create opportunities for education, research and tourism
  • provide scientific reference areas as benchmarks
  • help achieve sustainable fisheries
  • store large amounts of carbon, especially in saltmarshes, seagrass meadows and mangroves.

Where are we at now?

International bodies such as the IUCN say that that at least 30% of the marine environment should be in highly protected marine parks (i.e. no removal of marine life or marine resources) by 2030 to give our oceans the fighting chance to adapt to climate change and buffer the growing list of threats facing them.

In Victoria, just 5.3% of our waters are given that protection (in Port Phillip Bay it’s less than 1%). Establishing the marine national parks network in 2002 was a remarkable achievement, but there are significant gaps and areas in need of better protection. Under state, national and international agreements, Victoria must maintain, enhance and monitor a Comprehensive, Adequate and Representative network of marine national parks – this means they need to be big enough, be in the right places, and be protecting the right species.

Through a number of independent government assessments in Victoria, such as the Statewide Assessment of public Land 2017, it has been identified Victoria’s network falls short.

Disappointingly, the Andrews Government response to that assessment explicitly ruled out consideration of new marine national parks “It is current government policy that no new marine national parks will be created”.

VNPA in 2019, commissioned a new marine report, Marine Protected Area Review – with the most up to date science around marine national parks, which includes key recommendations for the state government to enhance our highly valued marine national parks.

VNPA will continue to work with the Victorian community and advocate to the state government to give our marine and coastal wonders the protection they deserve.

More information