Tasmania has approximately 5 400 kilometres of coastline straddling the cool temperate climate zone. Our State has more coastline per unit area than any other State in Australia.
Tasmania’s marine environment is unique because of its high biological diversity - a result of influences from ocean currents, varying climate and geographical position. Such diversity is apparent when observing the coastline, where any number of sandy beaches, rocky reefs, cliffs, estuaries, natural harbours and open coasts can be encountered. Similarly the marine environment is a rich community of kelp forests, seagrass forests and sponge gardens, each attracting a vast array of fish and invertebrate species.
Coastal environments in Tasmania include magnificent rocky reefs, scenic sandy beaches and towering sea cliffs. Tasmania is surrounded by islands and cut by a myriad of bays and estuaries which play a fundamental role in the maintenance of coastal ecosystems.
Our marine fauna include delicate basket stars and sea dragons, rarely seen endemic handfish, playful dolphins, seals, penguins, great white sharks and even majestic whales on their way to more southern realms.
Our waters comprise the core of one of the world's smallest marine provinces and also include a province with the highest known marine plant diversity in the world. Conserving and appropriately managing our marine ecosystems is vitally important to our lifestyle and economy for they support valuable fishing, aquaculture and tourist industries. The majority of Tasmanians live near the coast and the coastal environment is important to our quality of life. We have a responsibility to pass it on to future generations in good condition.
The Tasmanian Government has recognised the need to formally conserve and protect the full range of marine ecosystems, habitats and species found throughout Tasmania’s coastline and since 1991 has declared seven marine protected areas around Tasmania.
In 1991 marine reserves were declared at Governor Island (50 ha), Maria Island (1500 ha), Ninepin Point (60 ha) and Tinderbox (45 ha).
A marine reserve at Macquarie Island (75 000 ha) was proclaimed in July 2000.
In August 1999 the Marine and Marine Industries Council was established by the Minister for Primary Industries, Water and Environment. The Council consists of 18 members who represent a wide range of key stakeholders with individual expertise in areas of marine conservation, management and utilisation. The first task the Minister gave the Council was to develop a policy framework for a system of Marine Protected Areas in Tasmania. The Council met seven times during 1999 and 2000 to develop the policy framework.
The Council has now completed the development of a Marine Protected Areas Strategy.
As an outcome of the Strategy, marine reserves at Port Davey - Bathurst Harbour (17 000 ha) and the Kent Group of Islands (29 000 ha) were approved by Cabinet on 3 February 2004.
What is a marine protected area (MPA)?
An area of land or sea especially dedicated to the protection and maintenance of biological diversity, and of natural and cultural resources, and managed through legal or other effective means (International Union for the Conservation of Nature, 1994).
MPA is a generic term referring to all types of marine reserves, regardless of how they are protected.
The Tasmanian Government’s marine conservation strategy of the early 1990s has expanded to more fully protect the marine environment of Tasmania, in the development of the Tasmanian Marine Protected Areas Strategy 2001. The Strategy provides a systematic and formal approach to protecting Tasmania’s marine environment.
Under the National Parks and Reserves Management Act 2002 and the Nature Conservation Act 2002, MPAs can be provided for within a conservation area, nature reserve, State reserve or national park, however the water column and marine content is not protected until the Fisheries Act is proclaimed. The MPAs of Port Davey - Bathurst Harbour and the Kent Group of Islands– involve extensions of the Southwest National Park and Kent Group National Park boundaries, respectively, to include the marine environment.
An MPA is primarily established for the conservation of biodiversity. However, the site can also be managed for a variety of purposes while still protecting the environment: ie. for conservation, fisheries management, research, education, tourism or a combination of these purposes.