Improving access to information about fish communities in Commonwealth marine reserves

Under the Integrated Marine and Coastal Regionalisation of Australia (IMCRA v4.0), Australia’s marine environment was classified into bioregions that make sense ecologically and are at a scale useful for regional planning.

The bioregions under IMCRA were an important input to Australia’s marine bioregional planning program and the subsequent identification of a network of Commonwealth marine reserves. Fish distribution data were an important part of IMCRA’s classification process.

This project has improved the accessibility and utility of existing and new information about fish distributions for environmental managers, scientists and the general public. This is expected to support the understanding of biodiversity values in Commonwealth marine reserves, in Key Ecological Features (KEFs) and across broader Commonwealth waters.

Screen view of fishmap website. Screen view of fishmap website. Screen view of fishmap website.

Screen view of fishmap website.

ABOVE: Examples of tailored maps and lists generated by FishMap, in this case for the Zeehan CMR.


NERP Marine Biodiversity Hub scientists worked with the Atlas of Living Australia (ALA) to compile, centralise and streamline access to existing fish data derived from field research and museum collections. The project drew on an improved knowledge of historic and present-day processes that relate to marine fish distributions (developed in associated research).The resulting data extend the knowledge-base to more than 4500 species of marine fishes. Data are being made available through the FishMap search interface previously developed by CSIRO and the ALA.

Outputs, outcomes and opportunities

FishMap generates customised, illustrated lists of fishes by area, depth, family or ecosystem that can be used for research, planning, management, fisheries, conservation, recreation and citizen science. It is the only resource of its kind in the world that covers virtually all species of marine fish found in the marine waters of an entire continent.

The service is being revised to include further data compiled within the NERP program that are relevant to support assessment and monitoring of CMRs and KEFs. For example, information on fishes within each reserve in the CMR network and KEFs will include the number of families, genera and endemic or listed species, and species of commercial interest. The continuing development of FishMap and the underlying datasets can provide tools to generate slices of data tailored for environmental managers: for example, endemics only, species represented in only one CMR, or species with a high proportion of their range within CMRs.

Tailored lists of fishes within each of the CMR reserves will highlight each area’s unique values and contributions to conservation management. This can help to identify key species for demographic and genetic connectivity assessment (whole-of-organism approach) across CMRs, and circumstances in which off-reserve management would support conservation and sustainable-use objectives.

A wide range of information is available only to scientists or other specialists. Making data publicly and freely available through FishMap and the ALA is an example of the Hub’s provision of broader access to scientific data: through interpretation and synthesis, and more accessible methods of data delivery.


Daniel Gledhill
(03) 6232 5363