Environmental and wildlife regulations

There are laws in place to help protect Victoria's spectacular marine environment and wildlife.

General advice:

  • Launch and retrieve your boat at designated boat ramps.
  • Reduce your vessel speed to five knots near the edge of lakes and rivers.
  • Dispose of all rubbish including fishing line, bait bags and food scraps appropriately.
  • Use sewage disposal facilities and prevent fuel and oil from entering the water.

Shipwreck protected zones

Protected zones have been declared around nine shipwreck sites, six of which are in Port Phillip Bay. It is an offence to enter a protected zone without a permit. This includes fishing, trawling or any underwater activity such as diving within a protected zone.

Remember: Protected zone = No entry (without a permit) 

It's also an offence to damage, disturb or interfere with any historic shipwreck. This includes anchoring on it or removing objects from the wreck.

Visit the Victorian Fisheries Authority website for more information about shipwreck protected zones.

Marine mammals

It's important not to get too close to marine mammals such as whales, dolphins and seals when on the water. To reduce the risk of disturbance to natural behaviours:

  • Boats are not permitted to approach within:
    • 100 metres of a dolphin
    • 200 metres of a whale
  • Jet skis are not permitted within 300 metres of either a whale or dolphin

Caution zones

Caution zones apply within:

  • 300 metres of a whale
  • 150 metres of a dolphin
  • 50 metres of a seal.

When in the caution zone, all vessels (motorised or not) must:

  • Avoid sudden changes in direction
  • Maintain a constant speed not exceeding 5 knots (8 kilometres per hour)
  • Leave the caution zone if a marine mammal shows any sign of disturbance
  • Not approach whales, dolphins or seals from directly in front of the animal
  • Not approach whales, dolphins or seals from directly behind the animal
  • Not be in the known path of a whale, dolphin or seal
  • Not form a barrier between a marine mammal and its group
  • Not come between a mother and her young.

If a marine mammal approaches you – if a dolphin decides to ride the bow wave of your boat or if it takes an interest in your vessel, for example – you are not committing an offence. However, if you deliberately approach closer than the minimum prescribed distances you may be liable for prosecution.

In a narrow waterway (that is, waterways less than 300 metres wide), you cannot approach closer than 30 metres to a whale or dolphin, unless navigating for safe passage. There are no restrictions on how close you can get to a seal in the water but a vessel must be kept at least 30 metres from a seal on land.

Licensed tour operators are permitted to approach closer than distances detailed above, subject to a range of operating conditions.

Visit the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) website for more advice about whales, dolphins and seals – including water safety around marine mammals, protected areas and encountering seals on land.

Marine aquaculture

Offshore marine aquaculture fisheries reserves have been established in and around Port Phillip, marked by navigation aids with 'Aquaculture' written on the yellow 'X' crossbar. They are lit at night. Recreational users in surrounding waters should proceed with caution if near or entering the reserves.

Visit the Victorian Fisheries Authority website for more information about aquaculture fisheries reserves.

Marine parks and sanctuaries

The Victorian Government has created a system of 13 marine national parks and 11 smaller marine sanctuaries to ensure that representative samples of Victoria's marine environment are conserved for future generations.


All forms of commercial and recreational fishing from sea or shore are prohibited, including collecting bait, line fishing, setting traps, netting and the use of spears. Heavy penalties apply.

Boundary markers

Yellow on-shore triangles

These are located at the park boundaries and point in towards the marine national park or marine sanctuary. In some cases there are two yellow on-shore triangles located one above the other. These two triangles can be used to get a lead to the boundary by aligning the two triangles, one directly above the other.

Yellow in-water special mark 

These markers are found on buoys and piles and are used in waters to mark the boundaries of zones and other special areas.

Diagram of marine national park or sanctuary boundary markers - a yellow triangle and a yellow cross

Visit the Victorian Fisheries Authority website for more information about marine national parks and sanctuaries.

Bird monitoring

BirdLife Australia is providing boaters with resources to take note of bird types they see to aid conservation.

Cliffs and water at Port Campbell

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