Jewel anemones by Heidi Dungey
Maria Island Marine Reserve protects a representative range of the marine habitats found on Tasmania's east coast and forms part of the beautiful Maria Island National Park. The different habitats are home to a diverse range of plant, invertebrate and fish communities.
The diversity in dive sites in this reserve reflects the diversity of Maria Island's landscape. The reef in Fossil Bay, below the Fossil Cliffs, drops quickly from the rock platform to sand. Deep gutters with overhangs and small caves form spectacular seascapes and extend out from the shore to the clean white sand. Bull kelp as well as Ecklonia and other kelps adapted to the exposed conditions are the most obvious plants.
The section of the reserve that runs along the western shore of the island is much more sheltered and supports more delicate species of kelp. This part of the reserve is also protected from fishing and has been very useful to researchers investigating the effects of fishing and the effectiveness of marine reserves in this part of the world. Rock lobsters are much more abundant and much larger than in similar areas that are not protected from fishing. Numbers of reef fish such as bastard trumpeter have also greatly increased since the reserve was proclaimed, while they have become relatively uncommon outside the reserve.
Large leatherjackets, wrasse and seahorses are also very common, and this part of the reserve is a good place to see cryptic species such as warty prowfish or red velvetfish. The jetty and sheltered bay to the north provides a sheltered dive site that you can easily reach via the ferry. The jetty pylons support an array of colourful sponges, jewel anemones and other invertebrates. Keep an eye out for weedy seadragons and squid in the area to the north of the jetty. It is important to keep clear of boats using the jetty.
Looking towards the Painted Cliffs
There are a number of shipwrecks around Maria Island. In 1924 the steamship Seymour sank near Darlington in a storm. Remains are sometimes washed ashore as ghostly reminders of Maria's maritime and industrial history.
The marine reserve is a fabulous place for snorkelling, scuba diving, birdwatching, beach walking and rockpool rambling.