Perth: Marmion Marine Park & Coral Reef fragments on the Beaches

I went for a drive up to North Beach. To my surprise as I walked along short little beaches, I came across what I thought were rocks to find they were solidifying coral reefs. I was so surprised, I’ve never seen anything like it. Peppered along many little beach enclaves where these jaggered and clustered dried coral reefs. I was surprised to learn it was a marine park in the area I am in. Perth never ceases to amaze me.

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Marmion Marine Park has great natural beauty and is one of Perth’s most important areas for aquatic recreation. The clear shallow lagoons, reefs and small islands of Marmion Marine Park provide habitats for seabirds, marine mammals and other remarkably diverse marine life. The reefs are a diver’s paradise, forming ledges, caves and swimthroughs. They are inhabited by a wonderful array of fish species and colourful invertebrates.

One the park’s jewels is Boyinaboat Reef, which lies in a sanctuary (no take) zone in about six metres of water at the southern end of a chain of inshore reefs. It is just 75 metres from the sea wall of Hillarys Boat Harbour, and its accessibility and beauty has made it one of the most popular dive sites in Perth.

Sheltered Mettams Pool is a good family spot in which you can see a range of marine plant and animal species close to shore. It is less than two metres deep inside this naturally formed lagoon. There is also access for the disabled.

You need a boat and scuba gear to explore North Lump, an entirely submerged reef that offers a rewarding dive within a small area. North Lump is protected by a sanctuary zone so no fishing is permitted in the area. Wreck Rock, Cow Rocks, Wanneroo Reef and many other submerged reefs within the marine park also entice divers.

You are welcome to fish in most areas within the marine park (those outside sanctuary zones – see map) but make sure you first check the latest size, season and bag limits with the Department of Fisheries. Breath hold spearfishing can be undertaken outside sanctuary zones and in areas at least 1800 metres of the shore. Spearfishing using compressed air is not permitted in the park. Recreational boating, swimming, whale watching and windsurfing are other popular activities.

Looking after the park

. Know marine park zone boundaries and permitted activities (see map).

. Fish for the future. Observe size, bag and possession limits. Quickly return undersize and unwanted fish to the water. Use wet hands or a wet cloth when handling fish and avoid placing on hot, dry surfaces.

. Dispose of litter thoughtfully, especially plastics and fishing line.

. Anchor in sand to protect fragile reef and seagrass communities.

. Stay at least 100 metres from whales. Approach whales parallel to their direction of travel or move greater than 300 metres ahead and allow them to come to you.

. The islands within Marmion Marine Park provide important habitat for several species of seabirds and haul out areas for Australian sea lions. Visitors should stay clear of these islands and rocks to avoid disturbing wildlife.

Natural environment

Various marine mammal species are common in Marmion Marine Park. The bottlenose dolphin can be seen in all areas and Australian sea lions use Little Island and Burns Rocks as a resting place. While sea lions may look friendly, they are wild animals and should be viewed from a distance. Swimming with Australian sea lions is prohibited.

At certain times of the year, humpback whales migrate between breeding areas in the north and feeding areas in Antarctic waters and are frequently seen near Marmion Marine Park waters during these times. In winter and early spring, southern right whales sometimes migrate north to the park and may be accompanied by calves. They will approach the shore and create a sensation for shore-based onlookers.

Seabirds abound through the park, but the best areas to view them are at Little Island, Burns Rocks, the Trigg Island area and Hillarys Boat Harbour. The beaches are also frequented by birds, including crested and Caspian terns and, of course, the silver gull. Little pied cormorants are often seen in the water or perched, holding their wings out to dry.

Culture and history

Whalers used the area now protected in the Marmion Marine Park during the 1800s. The suburb of Marmion, after which the park takes its name, was named after early settler Patrick Marmion (1815-1856) of the schooner Pelsart, who operated a whaling station in the area in 1849. A plaque was placed in Padbury Circle, Sorrento, to commemorate this in 1970.

A historic shipwreck lies in the waters of the park, testimony to days when sailing vessels provided an important lifeline. The Centaur was wrecked on the southernmost section of Marmion Reef in 1874, while en route to Fremantle. It is immediately west of Hamersley Street in North Beach, about 3.7 kilometres offshore. The 30 metre long iron brig Centaur was carrying 200 tonnes of galena when it struck the reef at six and a half knots and became impaled on it, but much of this was subsequently salvaged. The nine crew and four passengers on board were able to scramble to safety, but five minutes after the lifeboats pulled away the ship crashed over and largely disappeared from view. Small amounts of galena can still be seen around the wreck, which is now difficult to distinguish from the surrounding reef.

Marmion became the State’s first marine park, declared on 13 March 1987.

 
Mohandas Gandhi

“Nobody can hurt me without my permission.”

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