The ACMA

Infrastructure

Submarine cabling and protection zones

WA protection zone

Australia’s submarine communications cables carry the bulk of our international voice and data traffic and are a vital component of our national infrastructure, linking Australia with other countries.

Submarine cables are vulnerable to damage and breakage, which can cause serious consequences for the flow of information to and from Australia. Cable damage can cause data loss, significant delays, and severe financial loss to businesses, cable owners and individuals who rely on communication links with other countries.

In September 2007, the ACMA declared a submarine cable protection zone off the Western Australian coast, at City Beach, Perth, which has been in effect since 1 February 2008. This protection zone has been developed around the SEA-ME-WE3 cable, which is regarded as nationally significant. The Perth Protection Zone stretches from City Beach, near Perth, to 51 nautical miles offshore (that is, to a water depth of 2000 metres). The zone extends one nautical mile either side of the SEA-ME-WE3 cable, which links Australia’s communications network with South East Asia, the Middle East and Western Europe.

  1. Map - Perth Protection Zone (PDF 1.2 mb)
  2. Information brochure - Perth Submarine Cable Protection Zone (PDF 327 kb)

For full details of the protection zone, including information about activities that are prohibited or restricted in the zone, please refer to the Submarine Cable (Perth Protection Zone) Declaration 2007 (PDF 433 kb). It is also advisable to read the accompanying Explanatory Statement (PDF 379 kb), when reading the declaration.

Geographic coordinates that describe the outer boundary of each protection zone are listed in the relevant declaration. Shapefiles of the protection zone can also be downloaded (zipped folder 20 kb).

Note: This page contains general information about the Perth Protection Zone, and the Declaration for the WAProtection Zone, and is intended by the ACMA as a guide only. The ACMA recommends that parties seek their own independent legal advice about compliance and have regard to the relevant legislation such as the Declarations and their Explanatory Statements to ascertain whether planned activity will be affected by the protection zone.

Prohibited activities within the protection zones

Marine activities that pose a serious risk of damage to submarine cables are prohibited within the WA Protection Zone. It is now an offence to undertake the following prohibited activities within the WA Protection Zone:

Marine activities that are prohibited in both protection zones

Use of or towing, operating or suspending from a ship trawl gear designed to work on or near the seabed, or a mid-water trawl

Use of or towing, operating or suspending from a ship a dredge, including for scallop dredging

Use of or towing, operating or suspending from a ship a demersal longline, including setlines or trotlines

Establishing, maintaining or using a spoil ground or other ocean disposal point (including dumping materials at sea)

Scuttling or attempting to scuttle a ship

Use of or towing, operating or suspending from a ship a structure moored to the seabed with the primary function of attracting fish for capture (such as a fish aggregating device (FAD))

Use of or towing, operating or suspending from a ship a Scottish or Danish seine

Use of or towing, operating or suspending from a ship a type of net, rope, chain or other object used in fishing operations that is capable of contacting the seabed, other than those activities listed in the restrictions

Restricted activities within the protection zones

Within the WA Protection Zone, certain activities are restricted to the extent to which they pose a risk of damage to a cable. For example, some activities cannot damage a cable if they are conducted close to shore where the cables are buried several metres below the seabed and housed in metal conduit; these activities may continue in the zones. To provide for the reduced risk to cables located close to shore, some restrictions on marine activities vary with either distance from shore, water depth or both.

Activity

0 to 500 metres from low-water mark

500 metres from low-water mark to 100 metres water depth

Waters of greater than 100 metres depth

Anchoring

Permitted

Is permitted, providing

  • the anchor is fitted with a trip release mechanism; and
  • the anchor line has a maximum breaking strain of 1,090 kg or less; and
  • the ship uses a danforth anchor, or sand and reef (SARC) anchor that weighs less than 15 kg; or
  • the ship uses a plough anchor, or reef pick anchor, that weighs less than 25 kg

Not permitted

Lowering, raising or suspending from a ship a shotline

Permitted

Is permitted, providing

  • the shot weighs 20 kg or less; and
  • the shotline has a maximum breaking strain of 2.7 tonne* or less

Not permitted

Demersal fishing using J-hooks

Permitted

Is permitted, providing the fishing line has a breaking strain of 50 kg or less

Is permitted, providing the fishing line has a breaking strain of 50 kg or less

Use of or towing, operating or suspending from a ship a demersal dropline

Permitted

Is permitted, providing

  • only circle-type hooks are used; and
  • the dropline has a breaking strain of 2.7 tonne* or less; and
  • the dropline does not use a wire snood, trace, dropper, branch line or mainline;
  • the breaking strain of each branch line is 500 kg or less; and
  • the weight used to sink the dropline is 15 kg or less

Is permitted, providing

  • only circle-type hooks are used; and
  • the dropline has a breaking strain of 2.7 tonne* or less; and
  • the dropline does not use a wire snood, trace, dropper, branch line or mainline;
  • the breaking strain of each branch line is 500 kg or less; and
  • the weight used to sink the dropline is 15 kg or less

Use of or towing, operating or suspending from a ship a single pot or trap (eg. for fish or lobster trapping)

Permitted

Is permitted, providing

  • the base of the trap is 2 metres or less in length, width or diameter; and
  • the trap rope is not composed of wire and has a breaking strain of 2.7 tonne* or less

Is permitted, providing

  • the base of the trap is 2 metres or less in length, width or diameter; and
  • the trap rope is not composed of wire and has a breaking strain of 2.7 tonne* or less

Use of or towing, operating or suspending from a ship multiple pots or traps (eg. as often used in octopus and crab fisheries)

Permitted

Is permitted, providing

  • multiple pots, or traps, are fixed to a single mainline; and
  • each individual pot, or trap, is 15 kg or less in weight when dry; and
  • the base of the trap is 2 metres or less in length, width or diameter; and
  • the branch line has a maximum breaking strain less than 500 kg; and
  • the mainline is not composed of wire and has a breaking strain of 2.7 tonne* or less

Is permitted, providing

  • multiple pots, or traps, are fixed to a single mainline; and
  • each individual pot, or trap, is 15 kg or less in weight when dry; and
  • the base of the trap is 2 metres or less in length, width or diameter; and
  • the branch line has a maximum breaking strain less than 500 kg; and
  • the mainline is not composed of wire and has a breaking strain of 2.7 tonne* or less

Harvesting the benthos

Permitted

Not permitted, unless harvesting is conducted by hand

Not permitted, unless harvesting is conducted by hand

Use of a demersal gillnet

Permitted

Permitted providing

  • anchors or external weights are not used with the gillnet; and
  • each line used in the fishing operation has a breaking strain that does not exceed 2.7 tonne* or less; and

  • fishing gear is retrieved vertically from the seabed, to the greatest extent practicable, so that the fishing gear does not drag on the seabed

Not permitted

Use of or towing, operating or suspending from a ship a grapnel

Permitted

Not permitted, except in waters more than 500 metres from the low water mark if it is used in the course of work on electricity, oil or gas pipelines and cables, installations for the use of ships, civil engineering, mining or petroleum operations or in conducting research that involves contact with the seabed

Not permitted, except in waters more than 500 metres from the low water mark if it is used in the course of work on electricity, oil or gas pipelines and cables, installations for the use of ships, civil engineering, mining or petroleum operations or in conducting research that involves contact with the seabed

Use of an explosive or explosive device

Permitted if used in the course of mineral or petroleum operations, civil engineering work or an exercise conducted by or with the Australian Defence Force

Permitted if used in the course of mineral or petroleum operations, civil engineering work or an exercise conducted by or with the Australian Defence Force

Permitted if used in the course of mineral or petroleum operations, civil engineering work or an exercise conducted by or with the Australian Defence Force

Some restrictions allow certain activities to continue, particularly those relating to marine and energy infrastructure, providing notification and consultation with cable owners occurs before engaging in the activity and the activity occurs in a manner that is unlikely to cause cable damage. Any person intending to conduct these activities within either of the WA Protection Zone must contact cable owners at least 21 days prior to the commencement of the activity and must comply with consultation requirements set out in the declarations. These activities include:

Installing, maintaining or removing an electricity cable, an oil or gas pipeline, any like cables or pipelines and using any associated equipment

  1. Constructing, maintaining or removing an installation for the use of ships
  2. Conducting civil engineering work, including constructing and removing navigation aids
  3. Exploring or exploiting resources (other than marine species)
  4. Conducting research that involves contact with the seabed

Activities not affected by protection zones

Many activities are unaffected by WA Protection Zone, such as:

  1. certain activities that do not contact the seabed
  2. certain recreational activities that occur within 500 metres of the shore
  3. some commercial fishing methods such as purse seining, beach seining, squid jigging, pelagic longlining, pelagic haul netting
  4. beach safety meshing nets around beaches may also continue in the zones up to 500 metres from the low-water mark
  5. recreational fishers that target large bottom-dwelling fish offshore are able to use any size circular hook and can continue using J-hooks, provided that their line has a breaking strain of 50 kg or less
  6. recreational fishers that target mid or upper water fish are not affected by the WA Protection Zone.

Offences and penalties in protection zones

The protection zone legislation sets out a number of criminal penalty provisions in relation to protection zones. These penalties apply to the WA Protection Zone from 1 February 2008. Within all protection zones, it is a criminal offence to:

  1. cause damage to, or to sever, a submarine cable
  2. engage in negligent conduct that results in damage to a cable
  3. engage in an activity that is prohibited or restricted in a protection zone declaration.

Penalties for engaging in these activities may result in imprisonment for a period of up to 10 years and/or a fine of $330,000.

Contact

For more information please contact Regulatory Reform and Carrier Infrastructure Section on:

  1. Email: subcablesenquiries@acma.gov.au
  2. Phone: 03 9963 6800
  3. Fax: 03 9963 6899
  4. Post: Regulatory Reform and Carrier Infrastructure Section
    Australian Communications and Media Authority
    PO Box 13112 Law Courts
    Melbourne VIC 8010

Last updated: 18 September 2013

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