Marine Life of the North West


Fish and Reef Systems

The Northwest coast is dotted with many reef systems and small island groups that provide habitats for hundreds of tropical and pelagic fish species.

The reef systems of the Montebello and Mackerel Islands, the Dampier Archipelago and Rowley Shoals Marine Park in particular support a rich variety of corals, molluscs and other invertebrates. They’re also home to big game fish and larger animals such as dolphins, dugongs, sea turtles, manta rays and sharks.

You can snorkel, dive or fish the North West coast with one of many local charter companies. See the Coastal adventures section of this site for more details. 

Australian Humpback Whale Migration

The humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) is the fifth largest of the great whales. Females grow to 19 metres, slightly longer than adult males, and a mature humpback can weigh 40 tonnes. It has been protected from whaling in the southern hemisphere since 1963 and the population in Western Australia now totals between 8,000 and 13,000.

Each winter the Australian humpback whale migration begins. Early June is the first opportunity to see the Australian humpback whale migration along the Kimberley and Pilbara coast. See the whale watching section of this site for more information about organised tours.

Turtle Nesting in Australia’s North West

Of the six species of marine turtle that are found in Australian waters, five are found along the Pilbara coast, including the green, loggerhead and hawksbill turtles. There are only a few large nesting areas for these species in the world and the Dampier Archipelago is home to one of the largest.

Turtle nesting in Australia’s North West begins in September and ends in November. For more information about where to you can view this spectacle, see the turtle nesting section in Things to see and do.

Dangers in the Sea

Sea snakes, stonefish, cone shells, box jelly fish, irikunji, saltwater crocodiles and a variety of large sharks inhabit the waters along the Kimberley and Pilbara coast. See the health and safety section for advice and tips to ensure you have a safe and enjoyable trip.


Discarded fishing nets and other debris are a significant threat to marine life, including turtles, dolphins, whales and sea birds. Please take care when using our beaches and waterways and remember to take your rubbish with you.

Visit the Conservation page for more information about caring for Australia's North West.

See Coastal adventures in Things to see and do to find out more about marine life encounters, attractions and tours.

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