Jervis Bay Marine Park: a model of success

Sue Newsome, Professional diver and marine conservationist
John Turnbull, Social ecologist

The Jervis Bay Marine Park spans over 100 km of coastline from Kinghorn Point to Sussex Inlet and is home to a great diversity of marine life. Many rare, threatened and vulnerable species can be found here, including Grey Nurse Sharks, Weedy Seadragons, Blue Devil Fish and Black Cod. The rocky reefs, sand and seagrass habitats are home to a huge variety of temperate marine life, and seasonal changes see different species enter the marine park waters during their annual migrations. Sea slugs, sea stars, sharks, rays, turtles and an abundance of fish can all be found within Jervis Bay.

Snorkelling and scuba diving are the best ways to experience the marine life in the park. The sheltered beaches provide easy access from the shore and multiple boat ramps allow those with boats access to sites that are otherwise inaccessible. No matter what the weather is doing, there is usually somewhere to go. When asked what my favourite site is or when the best time of year is, my reply is “Jervis Bay, all year round”.

I’ve been diving in Jervis Bay for 20 years and running Crest Diving for 12 years. I enjoy nothing more than taking people on a snorkelling or diving tour to show them the amazing underwater world and the fascinating marine life; introducing divers to the changing patterns and colours of the Giant Cuttlefish or the mating behaviours of the Port Jackson Sharks.

Wobbegongs that camouflage into the reef, rays that bury beneath the sand and rocks that come alive are revealed to the wide-eyed wonder of those watching. I am also a founding member of the Jervis Bay Marine Discovery and Research Centre, a community group whose mission is to develop a Marine Discovery Centre to showcase the beauty and diversity of the Jervis Bay Marine Park.

Jervis Bay Marine Park is a great example of what can be achieved when an area is managed as a multi-use marine park. The combination of zones allows for a variety of recreational activities, including line and spear fishing, while still providing sanctuary for the marine life in some areas. Although more sanctuary zones would provide even better protection, the current arrangement has been widely supported by the local community and visitors to the area for the past 20 years. Each year, the marine environment of Jervis Bay and the abundance and diversity of species found within its waters continues to improve.

Despite the immense social and ecological values of the region, the Marine Park should not be taken for granted. Recent back-downs at both Federal and State levels mean that even well-established, effective marine sanctuaries can be challenged and even reversed. This is something we can’t afford to let happen when what we need is more marine protection around Australia, not less.

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