Coastal & Marine

The coastal and marine environs of the Region are one of the States greatest assets in terms of its community, cultural, economic and environmental value. The coast offers a lifestyle and tourist experience that appeals and is accessible to the majority of West Australians and its visitors.

They underpin present and future employment opportunities and provide habitat to a diverse range of flora and fauna. Stretching from Binningup to Walpole, the South West coastline includes long sandy beaches, rocky headlands, picturesque sheltered bays, high-energy surfing beaches, dense bushland areas and internationally significant estuaries and wetlands. Many of these environs are conserved within major reserves, such as D’Entrecasteaux, Leeuwin–Naturaliste and Meelup Regional Park and Leschenault Conservation Park. Our coastline has already see rapid urbanisation in coastal LGAs, and should the rates of growth from the last 15 years be sustained, it will lead to very large increases in coastal urban populations1 and, projected population growth will add further pressure on our fragile coastal and marine environment.

The coast is also a valuable resource for residential development and industry such as tourism developments, harbours, farming and professional fishing. The coastal hinterland of the Swan Coastal Plain is dominated by residential and semi-rural development and recreational purposes; while smaller communities, low-key tourism developments, agriculture and areas of undisturbed forest and heath, characterise the capes and southern coast. Tourists and other visitors are attracted to the coast by internationally acclaimed surfing breaks, sandy beaches and sheltered bays that are popular for swimming and fishing, and dramatic landscapes and shady forests that host walking trails and provide areas to enjoy the natural environment.

Banner photo: Meelup Beach, South Western Australia. Photo: Christian Fletcher


High population growth is occurring in the southwest which will lead to increased pressure on the coastal and marine environment from coastal development. Other pressures include but not limited to:

  • Increased tourism and recreational,
  • Sewage disposal,
  • Nutrient enriched run-off,
  • Fishing,
  • 4WD access,
  • Climate and weather,
  • Sea level change,
  • Erosion and inundation regime,
  • Sediment transport,
  • Coastal river and estuary pollution,
  • Marine debris, and
  • Invasive species (aquatic).

Interesting fact

Continuation of long-term sea level trends, combined with the 18.6year tidal cycle is expected to cause flooding and erosion to increase towards 20252 These effects compound with natural variability due to extreme events and mean sea level, which control the timing of flood events3.

Calls for action

  • Fishers and divers can log and share their observations of any unusual or uncommon marine species at their favorite fishing and diving locations to help reveal if some marine species are shifting their range. to find out more go to Redmap Australia
  • Join your local coastcare group and/or catchment group to help look after your local beach.
  • Participate in one of your local beach clean-ups and contact Tangaroa Blue by visiting
  • Volunteer to monitor coastal and estuarine birds in your local patch with Birdlife Australia. Visit Birdlife Australia for more information.
  • Become a citizen scientist to record information on whale, algae scum identification and natureblitz or find out how your observation can be integrated into national database.
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Roundface Batfish, near Dunsborough, Credit: Reef Vision

Interesting observations and frequently seen species

More than 70 sightings of unusual marine plants and animals (mostly fish) have been in recorded in the south-west by recreational fishers and divers since 2012 and logged on Redmap.

Roundfaced batfish and the striking looking Giant oarfish have regularly been sighted in recent years in the south west while recreational fishers have been catching plenty of redthroat emperor further south than was usual before the 2011 marine heatwave.

Calls for action:

Find something unusual while fishing or diving, Spot. Log. Map on Redmap to log a sighting.


Roundface Batfish, near Dunsborough, Credit: Reef Vision


Data Source:

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Caspian Tern.  Photo: Nick Dunlop

Sentinel Shorebirds

As global temperatures rise there would be a general expectation that the ranges of tropical seabird species would extend further in the higher latitudes whilst cold water species would retreat towards the poles. There is already clear evidence that this process is underway in a number of marine regions around the world.

The Bridled Tern has established 40-50 new colonies on islands and stacks all around the south-west coast to the Recherche Archipelago, arguably the longest-range shift observed in any seabird to date*.

Caspian Tern.  Photo: Nick Dunlop


  • Dunlop, J.N (2017) Sentinel Seabirds: A Guide to Using Marine Birds to monitor Marine Ecosystems. Northern Agricultural Catchment Council Geraldton
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Sharks and Rays

More than 60 species of shark, most of which are found offshore in waters of 200-1000+ m depth, and around 20 species of rays, can be found in waters off the south-west coast*.

Note: There is still limited knowledge on Sharks in the South West NRM region

Disclaimer: West Coast region is larger than the South West Zone


* Last P and Stevens J. D. (2009) Sharks and rays of Australia (2nd edition), CSIRO Publishing

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Sea lion. Photo: Chandra Salgado Kent

Dolphins and sea lions

The southwest region is also home to several communities of resident bottlenose dolphins that use the habitats as their core home grounds.

While little is known of larger toothed whales in the region, it is clear that they occur in the region from the mass strandings of pilot whales, false killer whales, and other related species. Long-nosed fur seals use various islands and coastal rocky outcrops throughout the year for recovery after foraging offshore, and occasionally to pup. Endangered sea lions have been recorded in the area, presumably foraging and hauling-out to rest. Endangered sea lions are showing no signs of recovery, and many colonies appear to be in decline.

Sea lion. Photo: Chandra Salgado Kent


  • Goldsworthy, S. D 2015. Neophoca cinerera. The IUCN Red list of Threatened Species, Version 2015.2. Available
  • Groomm C. Jand Coughran, D. K.2012. Three decades of cetacean strandings in Western Australia:1981 to 2010. Journal of the Royal Society of Western Australia. 95:63-77
  • Salgado Kent, pers. comm. 2015
  • Wiese, pers. comm. 2015

Case Studies


  1. Ecotones & Associates. 2018. Environmental snapshot data GIS & data analysis. Report prepared for South West Catchments Council.
  2. Haigh, I. D., Eliot, M and Pattiaratchi, C. 2011. Global influences of the 18.61 year nodal cycle and 8.85 year cycle of lunar perigee on high tidal levels. Journal of Geophysical Research. 116:1-16.
  3. Eliot, M. 2012. Sea level variability influencing coastal flooding in the Swan River region, Western Australia. Continental Shelf Research. 33:14-28