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Port Davey Marine Reserve

Introduction

Bathurst Harbour

Bathurst Narrows
(Photo copyright Matthew Newton)

The Port Davey Marine Reserve lies within the Southwest National Park and the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. Encompassing Port Davey, Bathurst Channel and Bathurst Harbour, the reserve (17 753 hectares / 178 km2) extends inland for more than 20 km to the north and east, up to the high water mark of all rivers, bays and estuaries.

Within its boundaries, the reserve protects all marine life and all habitats, including open ocean, exposed reefs, steep gorges, bays and inlets, kelp forests, seagrass meadows, and muddy and gravelly sediments. Declared in 2005, it is presently the only protected area within the Davey Bioregion – one of Tasmania’s eight continental shelf marine bioregions.

Why so special?

This region must surely be one of the most magnificent landscapes on the planet. Gold-green ranges, with bony quartzite ridges, rise sharply from the southern ocean and the broad interior waterways of Port Davey. 

Four major rivers and numerous creeks cut through gorges and snake across open plains, draining their rust-coloured waters into the marine reserve. Small islands dot the surface of the dark waters. White quartzite sands fringe the shoreline. Mt Rugby – the highest and most prominent peak bordering the reserve – rises grandly from the western shore of Bathurst Harbour. On a fine, calm day the marine reserve’s waters reflect the landscape to endless perfection. 

The underwater landscape is even more surprising. In Bathurst Harbour and Bathurst Channel a very unusual marine environment has been created by a deep layer of dark redbrown, tannin-rich freshwater, which overlies tidal saltwater. The tannins restrict sunlight penetration to the top few metres, limiting the growth of marine plants. In their place live colourful and delicate marine invertebrates. In the clearer marine waters of Port Davey – away from the influence of the freshwater tannins – a more typical Tasmanian underwater world exists. Diverse kelp forests and abundant fish thrive beneath the surging Southern Ocean waves.

The marine reserve was created to protect this extraordinary underwater world.