The Rowley Shoals Marine Park and Mermaid Reef Marine Park protect a chain of three coral atolls at the edge of Australia’s continental shelf. The atolls have shallow lagoons inhabited by diverse corals and abundant marine life. Each cover around 80km-90km, rising with near-vertical sides from very deep water. At low tide the water becomes ponded within the reef walls, and gushes over the edge like waterfalls. At high tide, the reefs disappear beneath the sea, with only the sandy islands of Clerke and Imperieuse visible. Corals form a spectacular chain of reef systems, each covering about 80km2. Shallow lagoons within the reefs provide sheltered waters that are inhabited by diverse and abundant tropical marine life. Further offshore, the seafloor slopes away to the abyssal plain, some 6000m below. Undersea canyons slice the slope: these features are commonly associated with diverse communities of deep-water corals and sponges and create localised upwellings that aggregate pelagic species like tunas and billfish.
Take the plunge
The shoals offer suberb diving. The outside walls are alive with soft corals in every imaginable colour. Snorkelling in the shallow, coral filled lagoons, brimming with tropical fish species, is also very special.
Catch a feed
Marine parks are there to be enjoyed. The Rowley Shoals is a popular place to fish recreationally but it is your responsibility to know your zones, know the rules and make sure you’re catching a feed in the right spot!
- Fishing is not permitted in the Sanctuary and National Park Zones at the Rowley Shoals.
- Line fishing is permitted in General Use and Recreation Zones.
- Spearfishing on breath hold is permitted in General Use Zones and Recreation Zones only, with the exception of Clerke Lagoon Recreation Zone, where it is not permitted. Spearfishing on compressed air is permitted only in General Use Zones.
- Throw nets may be used only in the General Use Zone. Recreational set and haul netting are not permitted in Rowley Shoals Marine Park.
Please note that all cod, groper and wrasse species, including potato cod, rock cod and related species, hump-head Maori wrasse, Queensland groper, coral trout, some molluscs (cuttlefish, aquid and octopus are permitted) and corals are fully protected in all zones of Rowley Shoals Marine Park.
Top tip! The Recfishwest application makes it easy to avoid fishing in the wrong spot when you’re out on the water: Download it today!
The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Developmentlegally enforce gear, bag, size and possession limits to ensure there will always be fish for the future in at the Rowley Shoals Marine Park Fishers should familiarise themselves with the recreational fishing rules and licenses required by visiting fish.wa.gov.au
If you bring your own boat
To protect the reef habitats in the marine parks, it is important that visitors use the public moorings. Moorings are located on the outer edge of Imperieuse and Clerke reefs and inside Clerke and Mermaid reef lagoons, and are accessible via navigable channels. There is no channel at Imperieuse Reef and the central lagoon can only be accessed using small tender vessels under the right tidal conditions.
Reserve your spot now! All moorings must be booked. This should be done well in advance of visiting the marine parks. For information on availability, locations and usage guidelines, please call the Parks and Wildlife Service’s Broome office on (08) 9195 5500 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anchoring is not permitted anywhere in the Rowley Shoals unless in an emergency.
Most visitors to the Rowley Shoals arrive by charter boat between September and December. Operators typically depart from Broome at sunset and arrive here in the morning, after spending a night steaming, and most spend at least 4 days enjoying the marine parks. A call to Broome Visitors Centre on (08) 9195 2200 is a great way to find out more about what trips are available.
For information on Mermaid Reef Marine Park and the Argo-Rowley Marine Park please visit Australian Marine Parks website.
Discover Western Australia's Marine Parks. Download the Marine Parks App on Google Play and the App Store.