Western Australia has an extensive coastline, covering some 12,500 kilometres. This large area contains some of Australia’s most significant marine environments, including the Shark Bay and Ningaloo Reef World Heritage Areas, the Abrolhos Islands and Recherche Archipelago, plus important breeding areas for a range of threatened migratory species, such as the Southern Right Whale.

Pressure on the marine environment is growing, through increased resource exploration and exploitation, tourism and development, pollution, and over exploitation of fish species.

Marine reserves are areas that have been specially classified under law to protect some environmental value within them, and usually restrict some activities in the area. Reserves can be made under Commonwealth or State laws (and in some cases, both). The level of protection in any particular marine area depends upon the law the reserve is created under, the category of reserve, and the zoning within the reserve.

This fact sheet will examine the main types of marine reserve in WA, how they are protected, and what activities can be carried out in them. It deals with Commonwealth marine reserves and conservation reserves, State marine nature reserves, marine parks and marine management areas, and State fish habitat protection areas.