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Zone to protect Sydney submarine cables

Submarine cables connect Australia to other countries. We must protect the cables from damage so we can keep talking with the rest of the world.

Anyone using the sea or seabed must take care around the submarine cables near Sydney.

Sydney protection zones

The Northern Sydney Protection Zone

The Northern Sydney Protection Zone extends 40 nautical miles (74km) offshore from Narrabeen beach and to the depth of 2000 metres. It includes the northern branches of the Australia Japan Cable and the Southern Cross cable, extends 1 nautical mile either side of each cable, and the area between the 2 cables.

See the Northern Sydney protection zone map.

The Southern Sydney Protection Zone

The Southern Sydney Protection Zone extends 30 nautical miles (55km) offshore from Tamarama and Clovelly beaches, and to the depth of 2000 metres. It includes the southern branches of the Australia Japan Cable and the Southern Cross Cable, extends 1 nautical mile either side of each cable and includes the area between the 2 cables.

See the Southern Sydney protection zone map.

The declarations

Read the legal declarations for each protection zone to check if an activity is approved.

Download the zone coordinates as a shape file.

Activities we ban in the Sydney protection zones

It is illegal to:

  • use, tow, operate or suspend from a ship any trawl gear designed to work on or near the seabed, or a mid-water trawl
  • use, tow, operate or suspend from a ship a dredge, including for scallop dredging
  • use, tow, operate or suspend from a ship a demersal longline, including setlines and trotlines
  • establish, maintain or use a spoil ground or other ocean disposal point (including dumping materials at sea)
  • scuttle or attempt to scuttle a ship
  • use, tow, operate or suspend 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, tow, operate or suspend from a ship a Scottish or Danish seine
  • use, tow, operate or suspend from a ship any type of net, rope, chain or other object used in fishing operations that can touch the seabed

It is a criminal offence to:

  • damage or sever a submarine cable
  • engage in negligent conduct that results in damage to a cable
  • engage in an activity that is prohibited or restricted in a protection zone

You face a 10-year prison term and/or a fine up to $126,000.

Defence practice in the Northern Sydney Protection Zones

There are defence practise and training areas that overlap with the Northern and Southern Sydney Protection Zones. Contact the Australian Hydrographic Service for location information on these zones.

The ACMA and the Department of Defence have a memorandum of understanding (MoU). This outlines how the Department of Defence can operate in these areas including:

  • the use of explosives
  • the direction for firing ammunition
  • the use of inert practice rounds
  • the use of targets

Submarine cable operators must contact the Department of Defence before they go into the practice and training areas.

Activities we restrict in the Sydney protection zones

The following activities are restricted in the Sydney protection zones:

 

Activity

0-500 metres from
low-water mark

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

Waters of greater than 100 metres depth

Anchoring in the Northern Sydney Protection zone

Permitted

Is permitted, providing all of the following apply:

  • the anchor weighs 20kg or less; and
  • the anchor is fitted with a trip release mechanism; and
  • the anchor line has a breaking strain of 850kg
  • or less; or
  • the anchor weighs no more than 30kg and is anchored within 200 metres of an ACMA-specified shipwreck site

Not permitted

Anchoring in the Southern Sydney Protection Zone

Permitted

Is permitted, providing all of the following apply:

  • the anchor weighs 20kg or less; and
  • the anchor is fitted with a trip release mechanism; and
  • the anchor line has a breaking strain of 850kg or less; or
  • the anchor weighs no more than 30kg and is anchored around the Peak (as specified by ACMA’s coordinates)

Not permitted

Lowering, raising or suspending from a ship a shotline

Permitted

Is permitted, providing all of the following apply:

  • the shot weighs 20kg or less
  • the shotline has a maximum breaking strain of 850kg or less

Not permitted

Demersal fishing using J-hooks

Permitted

Is permitted, providing all of the following apply:

  • the fishing line has a breaking strain of 50kg or less

Is permitted, providing all of the following apply:

  • the fishing line has a breaking strain of 50kg or less

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

Permitted

Is permitted, providing all of the following apply:

  • only circle-type hooks are used; and
  • the dropline has a breaking strain of 850kg or less; and
  • the dropline does not use a wire snood, trace or mainline

Is permitted, providing all of the following apply:

  • only circle-type hooks are used; and
  • the dropline has a breaking strain of 850kg or less; and
  • the dropline does not use a wire snood, trace or mainline

Use of, or towing, operating or suspending from a ship a pot or trap

Permitted

Is permitted providing all of the following apply:

  • the base of the trap does not exceed 2 metres in length, width or diameter; and
  • the trap rope breaking strain is 850kg or less

Is permitted, providing all of the following apply:

  • the base of the trap does not exceed 2 metres in length, width or diameter; and
  • the trap rope breaking strain is 850 kg or less

Harvesting the benthos

Permitted

Is permitted, providing all of the following apply:

  • harvesting is conducted by hand

Is permitted, providing

  • harvesting is conducted by hand

Use of, or towing, operating or suspending from a ship a net anchored to the seabed

Permitted

Not permitted

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,
  • and only 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,
  • and only 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

 

 

Activities we allow

Some activities are allowed in the Sydney protection zones.

The activities include:

  • install, maintain or remove an electricity cable, an oil or gas pipeline, any like cables or pipelines and using any associated equipment
  • construct, maintain or remove an installation for the use of ships
  • conduct civil engineering work, including constructing and removing navigation aids
  • explore or exploit resources (other than marine species)
  • do research that doesn't impact on cables located in Sydney Protection Zones

To get permission to do this work, you must:

  • contact the cable owners at least 21 days before your planned activity
  • follow the consultation process set out in the declarations for each zone

Recreation activities we allow

These activities are permitted in the Sydney protection zones:

  • recreational activities not listed above within 500 metres of the shore
  • some commercial fishing methods such as purse seining, beach seining, squid jigging, pelagic longlining, pelagic haul netting
  • beach safety meshing nets around beaches in the zones up to 500 metres from the low-water mark
  • use of any size circular hook and J-hooks providing that recreation fishers targeting large bottom-dwelling fish offshore have lines with a breaking strain of 50kg or less
  • recreational fishing that targets mid or upper-water fish (NSW protection rules apply outside the Sydney protection zones)

We allow you to anchor at certain fishing and diving sites. The anchor must weigh no more than 30kg within 200 metres of ACMA specified shipwreck sites. We also allow anchoring with an anchor that weighs no more than 30kg in a rectangular area around The Peak.

Who to contact

You can contact us to discuss your questions.

Email: subcablesenquiries@acma.gov.au 

Tel: 1300 850 115

Post: The Manager, Networks and National Interest Section
Australian Communications and Media Authority
PO Box 13112 Law Courts
Melbourne VIC 8010

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