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Indian Ocean Territories Marine Parks declared

The Minister for the Environment, Sussan Ley announced that the declaration of marine parks in Australia’s Indian Ocean Territories by the Governor-General.

The new Christmas Island Marine Park and Cocos (Keeling) Islands Marine Park protect 744,000 square kilometres of unique marine environment around these remote islands. The marine parks were co-designed with the local communities of Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Islands to ensure that they also support important local marine activities, such as recreational and subsistence fishing, boating, diving, snorkelling and marine tourism.

Diver explores a coral wall. credit Justin Gilligan

The Australian Government has allocated an initial $5.4 million for management of IOT marine parks. This includes $2.2 million for a grants program to support projects that:

  • Enhance the protection, promotion and understanding of the marine environment and marine parks.
  • Support local engagement, employment and economic opportunities associated with the new marine parks.

The Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Islands Marine Parks are the newest addition to Australia’s extensive network of 60 Australian Marine Parks managed by Parks Australia. Together with other Commonwealth and state and Territory managed parks, Australia’s marine park network now spans more than 4 million square kilometres, covering 45 per cent of Australia’s waters.

Covering 744,000 square kilometres of remote tropical ocean, reef and lagoon habitat, Christmas Island Marine Park and Cocos (Keeling) Islands Marine Park are the two newest additions to the national network of Australian Marine Parks.

Established in March 2022, these new marine parks will help protect the unique marine environments of Australia’s Indian Ocean Territories (IOT) and support positive social and economic outcomes for local communities and other marine users. These new marine park protections will build on the work of Christmas Island National Park and Pulu Keeling National Park, which have helped to protect the unique island environments of the IOT for decades.

The marine environment of the IOT is known for iconic species such as whale sharks, turtles, manta rays, spinner dolphins and a vast array of seabirds. There are also lesser known but equally fascinating species, including locally evolved hybrid fish which result from the mixing of waters from the Indian and Pacific Oceans in the IOT.

Locals and visitors can experience the magnificent marine world of the IOT under their own steam or by connecting with a local tour operator to head out scuba diving, snorkelling, kite surfing, kayaking, free diving or fishing.

Indian Ocean Territory marine park grants program

To coincide with the establishment of the new Indian Ocean Territories (IOT) marine parks, the Australian Government will launch an IOT Marine Parks Grants Program opening on 28 March 2022.

$2.2 million is being allocated towards innovative projects to protect and manage IOT marine parks, as well as support the local economy.

Projects must be undertaken predominately in the Christmas and Cocos (Keeling) Islands Marine Parks and should also provide opportunities to engage and benefit the local community.

There are small ($10,000 – $50,000) and large grant ($50,001 – $500,000) categories to support local community projects and projects from larger organisations.

Projects may include, engaging local communities to help manage the marine parks, research and monitoring pressures such as marine debris, monitoring the health of the marine environment and projects that help locals and tourists to experience and appreciate the marine parks.

How to apply

After the grants program opens at 2.00pm AEDT on 28 March, applicants should visit the Community Grants Hub website and read the Grant Opportunity Guidelines which will provide examples of eligible grant activities and who’s eligible to apply.

Parks Australia cannot be involved in the development of grant applications, to ensure there is equity across all potential applicants. However, information that may help people apply for the grants will be provided through the Parks Australia Indian Ocean Territory marine parks website.

Applications for the Indian Ocean Territories Marine Parks Grants program will close on 2 June 2022.


Transitional management arrangements are in place for IOT marine parks until management plans for these new marine parks are prepared. If you would like to be kept up to date on developments and opportunities to input, please send us an email at .

Establishing IOT marine parks

To find out about how the Indian Ocean Territories marine parks were established, visit Science and Consultation.