The Great Australian Bight Marine Park
The Great Australian Bight Marine Park (GABMP) was established to protect the biological diversity of the Bight while providing for ecologically sustainable use of the parks natural resources. The park is divided into zones which allows the management of specific threatening processes and provides the ability to implement different levels of protection for the parks assets. This consequently results in some activities being controlled, while others are prohibited.
The GABMP has been established in both Commonwealth and State waters. The park is managed as cohesively as Commonwealth and State Government legislation will allow as a single park.
The park is also managed in cooperation with industry and the community to ensure that the use of marine resources is ecologically sustainable and consistent with the objectives of the management plans. There are four management zones in the park and these are identified and described in the map of the park linked to this site.
The Head of Bight is a significant breeding and calving area for the endangered Southern Right Whale. The vulnerable Australian sea lion also breed in colonies at the base of the Bunda Cliffs, and are the only mainland breeding colonies in Australia. Unique marine plants, animals, and sediments found nowhere else in the world are present in the Marine Park.
It is of oceanographic importance because its waters are transitional between warm and cold linking the Indian and Pacific oceans. It has the longest ice-free east-west extent of coastline in the Southern Hemisphere and it is adjacent to the only circumpolar ocean.
The GAB is also an area of potentially high economic value. The park management plans provide for levels of commercial activities, such as fisheries and tourism. Commercial activities are restricted to certain areas, at certain times of the year. It is important that these activities are conducted in an ecologically sustainable way and on a sound scientific basis.
Detailed information relating to the GABMP assets and values can be sourced form the Description of Values and Uses document (which replaces the States Management Plans volume B and removes asset information from the Commonwealths new Management Plan). This document is considered a living document (permanently in draft) which will be updated as new information is received. It is a document managed by both the State and Commonwealth governments to provide the latest information relevant to the GABMP.
Management and Legislation:
The Great Australian Bight Marine park comprises two adjoining marine parks, established by the South Australian and Commonwealth Governments.
State waters extend from the coast to three nautical miles offshore. The State waters of the park comprise the Sanctuary Zone and the Conservation Zone. The Sanctuary Zone is in two portions, the Whale Sanctuary at the Head of Bight extends to the limit of State waters, and the western portion extends from the base of the Bunda Cliffs to one nautical mile offshore. Relevant South Australian legislation are the Fisheries Act 1982 and the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972.
The Commonwealth waters of the Marine Park are managed under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and include the Marine Mammal Protection Zone and the Benthic Protection Zone which extends south to the limit of the Australian Exclusive Economic Zone, approximately 200 nautical miles offshore.
The relevant Acts contain penalties for offences such as entering prohibited areas or conducting prohibited activities within the park.
Recreational fishing can take place in the park. Boating activity must conform to the zoning conditions, and line fishing can take place from the shore at any time. State regulations apply in relation to legal lengths, catch limits, permitted gear, and any other conditions.
Boundary and zoning information is provided on the park map linked to this page, the table on the map outlines activities permitted and prohibited within the zones. If you visit the park you should be aware of the boundaries, including the zones, and of prohibited activities and seasonal closures. State and Commonwealth legislation protects mammals, birds, and reptiles within and outside the park.
Observing Cetaceans (whales and dolphins):
Cetaceans are further protected in State and Commonwealth waters. Observing them by aircraft, boat or swimming, is regulated by legislation. Slow down to a no wake speed (about 5 knots) if you are approaching to 300 metres from whales and 150 metres from dolphins. Do not approach cetaceans head-on or from behind but approach from the side in their direction of travel no closer than 100 metres from any whale and 50 metres from any dolphin. Aircraft must not fly closer than 300 metres (1,000 feet) in State or Commonwealth waters. Helicopters must remain above 600 metres in State waters and must not hover above cetaceans.
This information is presented as a brief guide only, make sure that you are aware of the regulations and penalties for both State and Commonwealth waters if you intend to approach cetaceans.