Frequently asked questions

What is a marine park?

Marine parks are ocean-based parks similar to the land-based parks we all know and love. Like national parks, marine parks protect habitats, animals, plants, cultural heritage and geological formations.

Nineteen marine parks were declared in South Australian waters in 2009, covering more than 26,000km2 of sea. Just like our land parks, they are greatly varied, stretching from the Great Australian Bight to the waters of the South East. They protect thousands of species, including iconic animals and birds such as Australian sea lions, leafy sea dragons, dolphins, great white sharks, little penguins and pelicans. They conserve mangrove forests, spectacular cliffs and places with strong cultural heritage associations, including those with special significance to Aboriginal people.

Why do we need marine parks?

Southern Australia's waters are home to an amazing diversity of marine life, with about 85% of marine species found nowhere else in the world. Our seas provide employment through fisheries and tourism, and enjoyment to locals and visitors alike. 

Unfortunately, our waters are not immune to global challenges such as pollution, resource use, development, pest organisms and climate change. Evidence from around the world shows that marine parks with sanctuary zones will help us protect our marine environment from increasing pressure. Marine parks are just one of the ways the South Australian Government is working to keep our seas healthy so future generations can continue to benefit from and enjoy them.

What is a sanctuary zone?

Sanctuary zones are the core conservation areas in marine parks, protecting the feeding, breeding, nursery and resting areas for some of our favourite marine species. Removing or harming any plant, animal or marine product in a sanctuary zone is prohibited, ensuring a high level of conservation.  Sanctuary zones take in fragile areas such as seagrass meadows, reefs and mangroves. They are diverse places, ranging from the Head of the Bight, where southern right whales go to calve, to Upper Spencer Gulf, where giant Australian cuttlefish gather to breed. 

Why do we need sanctuary zones?

Sanctuary zones are needed primarily for conservation. They are important areas where marine life will be able to live, breed and grow. They are also places that people can visit and enjoy, much like national parks on the land.

Where are the sanctuary zones?

Management plans for each park contain detailed maps of sanctuary zone locations. You can find management plans on each individual marine park web page. About 6 per cent of South Australian waters have been designated as sanctuary zones, leaving 94 per cent of the sea still available for fishing.

Don’t we already have fisheries management for this?

Marine parks work alongside fisheries management to ensure we have healthy, productive seas for years to come. We need both to ensure the long-term protection and sustainable use of our seas. 

Marine parks are about conservation of entire areas and everything in them, not just the species of fish we like to eat. Part of this conservation is limiting the removal of fish, plants and other animals or habitat in certain areas to protect the natural balance in the ecosystem. 

What happens on 1 October 2014?

From 1 October, fishing will be prohibited in sanctuary zones, ensuring the full protection of these important environments and their plants and animals. Mining, dredging and other extractive activities have been prohibited in sanctuary zones since March 2013.

Can I still fish in marine parks after 1 October?

Yes. Sanctuary zones are the only places you won’t be able to fish. Every marine park has great fishing spots that you can continue to use. NB. Normal fishing restrictions continue to apply.

Visitors are very welcome in sanctuary zones and you can continue to enjoy your usual water-based recreational activities, such as sailing, diving, kayaking, surfing and swimming.

Is shore fishing allowed in sanctuary zones?

In some yes but in others no. Please check the map for the marine park you plan to visit.

Can I motor through a sanctuary zone in my boat?


Can I have fishing gear and fish in my boat while passing through a sanctuary zone?

Yes. You just can’t use the gear in the sanctuary and you must have caught any fish you have outside the zone.

Can I anchor my boat in a sanctuary zone?

Yes. Vessels less than 80m in length can anchor in sanctuary zones. The only exceptions are where there are protected shipwrecks within the sanctuary zone.

Can I fish from jetties?

Marine parks do not change existing fishing access to jetties and breakwaters. 

How will I know I’m in a sanctuary zone?

Most people are already familiar with using GPS coordinates or landmarks to find their fishing spots. Maps are freely available as are lists of GPS coordinates showing the location of all sanctuary zones. Major boat ramps and beach access points near sanctuary zones will have signs to inform visitors of the zones’ locations. The free MyParx smart phone app also shows the sanctuary zones and can give you an audible alert when you enter one.

Where can I get maps and coordinates?

You can download maps and GPS coordinates and find your nearest marine park

What if I get caught fishing in a sanctuary zone?

The first time you are found fishing in a sanctuary zone, you will be given a formal warning and will be given information on where the sanctuary zones are and how they work. Subsequent offences may attract an expiation fee of $315. Serious or repeat offenders may face a maximum penalty of $100,000 or imprisonment for two years.

What public consultation was there on marine parks?

Creating South Australia’s marine parks involved one of the biggest public consultation programs in the state’s history. The management plans were shaped and refined over several years with the help of local advisory groups and key stakeholders, and the draft management plans were tested through full public consultation in 2012. About 80 per cent of the sanctuary zoning now in place was originally suggested by local advisory groups.

Why is shark cage diving allowed in the Neptune Islands Group Marine Park?

Marine park sanctuary zones are important for conservation, but they are also great places to visit and enjoy for tourism, education and research. Shark cage diving is strictly regulated within this park to minimise impact on the sharks and the broader environment. This is just one example of how marine parks are good for ecotourism.

Why is recreational fishing prohibited in sanctuaries?

With more than 220,000 recreational fishers in SA, recreational fishing has both an individual and collective impact on the environment. Every time you take something out of the ecosystem, you change its natural balance. Sanctuary zones are about ensuring that natural balance is maintained. Sanctuary zones represent a small part of South Australian waters (6%), leaving plenty of great fishing spots to enjoy after 1 October 2014.

What are the laws around marine parks?

The Marine Parks Act 2007 and supporting regulations and proclamations can be found on the South Australian Legislation website.

Are South Australia’s marine parks lawful under the Constitution of Australia?

Yes. South Australia is empowered under the Constitution to create laws to manage its waters out to 3 nautical miles from the coast (or territorial baseline). South Australia’s Parliament passed the Marine Parks Act in 2007 and South Australia’s marine parks have been created under that Act.