We are all connected by our oceans.

Australia is surrounded by breathtaking coastlines and oceans that are home to a magnificent array of marine wildlife. Not only that, but our seas give us life. They provide oxygen and food and allow us to explore an underwater world of natural beauty.

But all of that is increasingly under threat. Plastic is littering our coasts and polluting our oceans. Climate change is disrupting many critical oceanic processes. Unsustainable fishing practices are pushing vulnerable wildlife to the brink. And Australia’s Marine Park network doesn’t yet provide the protection our oceans need to safeguard their future.

But there is hope.

WWF is passionate about building better protections for our oceans. We all have a vital role to play, and our vision is to help Australia become a global leader in protecting oceans and species that sustain ecosystems and communities in Australia and our region.

You can help protect our oceans by reducing your use of plastics, supporting our campaigns to safeguard critical whale superhighways and rebuilding our marine protected areas.

Together, we can make a positive change for our oceans.

A variety of fish swimming= Osprey Reef= Coral Sea
© Darren Jew

Australia's Oceans

Our island continent borders three mighty oceans - the Pacific, the Indian, and the Southern - and includes the world’s third-largest marine territory.

Australia's oceans are among the most diverse in the world and many marine habitats still remain unexplored. On record, 33,000 marine species have been identified in Australia’s oceans with estimates that there could be as many as 250,000–500,000.

With around 85% of Australians living within 50 kilometres of the coast, it’s fair to say that oceans are part of who we are, but so often we take them for granted.

Why oceans matter

Life began in our oceans, and these aquatic wonderlands remain the cornerstone of life on Earth today. They are fundamental in sustaining our everyday lives, which is why, now more than ever, the protection of marine environments is imperative.
Green turtles (Chelonia mydas) swimming in the Great Barrier Reef= Queensland
© Troy Mayne


The world’s oceans are home to some of the most diverse life on Earth – from the largest animal that has ever lived, the blue whale, to the smallest bacteria. They’re home to spectacular animals like whales, turtles, dugongs, sharks and more! And that’s only those species that have been identified. Oceanographers believe we know less about our oceans than the moon.

Jacana tuna fish landing. Puerto Princesa, Palawan, Philippines
© Jürgen Freund / WWF

Food and livelihood

Nearly three billion people worldwide rely on fish as their primary source of protein. Our oceans also deliver more than half the oxygen we breathe and support countless livelihoods that depend upon their riches. Not only that, but our oceans help to regulate the world's climate by trapping heat.

Clown fish swimming in the Great Barrier Reef= Queensland= Australia
© Shutterstock / Andrey Nosik / WWF


What we're doing

Our vision is to help Australia become a global leader in protecting oceans and species that sustain ecosystems and communities.

We are rallying our region to safeguard our oceans and livelihoods, create safe passages for marine wildlife and support coastal communities.

Find out how we will aim to achieve through our Regenerative Saltwater strategy below.

What we've achieved

A dugong (Dugong dugon) swimming in the sea
A dugong (Dugong dugon) swimming in the sea © istockphoto.com / WWF

Net-Free Reef

For years, WWF-Australia has been concerned about the impact that commercial gill net fishing has on the marine wildlife of the Great Barrier Reef.

In 2016, we made global headlines by purchasing and retiring two commercial fishing licences to help create a safe haven for threatened marine wildlife. We later purchased and shelved two more commercial gill net licences, establishing a 100,000 square kilometre net-free oasis the size of Tasmania in the northern Great Barrier Reef.

In 2023, thousands of supporters helped raise their voices through our Net-Free Reef campaign, and the Australian and Queensland governments listened - announcing their commitment to permanently phase out all commercial gill net fishing from the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area by June 2027. Follow this amazing journey below.

Learn more
© Alexander Watson

Macquarie Island Marine Park

Macquarie Island is a subantarctic island located in the Southern Ocean, approximately halfway between Australia and Antarctica. It is a remote wonderland of wildlife – one of the only homes of the royal penguins and a vital breeding ground for millions of seabirds and seals.

WWF has a long history of advocating for the protection of Macquarie Island and helped create the marine park in 1999 and, in 2007, drew global attention to the pest issues devastating wildlife. In 2023, we welcomed the expanded and upgraded zoning of the Macquarie Island Marine Park that saw it almost triple in size and created an area roughly the size of Germany completely free from fishing, mining and other extractive activities.

Read more
Green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) with a plastic bag, Moore Reef, Great Barrier Reef, Australia. The bag was removed by the photographer before the turtle had a chance to eat it.
© Troy Mayne / WWF

Plastic pollution

For the past five years, WWF-Australia has been monitoring the progress of all states and territories in banning the most harmful and unnecessary single-use plastic products, that pose the greatest risk if leaked into the environment.

We launched our first ‘State of Plastics in Australia’ report in 2019, and since then, we've seen impressive progress across the country. The sea of red we saw in 2019’s scorecard has been replaced by a sea of green, meaning most states and territories have banned most products we track, and others have plans under way to do so.

Read more