In 2002, Cabbage Tree Bay was declared an aquatic reserve (CTBAR), the protected area covering approximately 20 hectares stretches from coastal waters from approx. 100m out from the northern end of the car park at Shelly Beach across the bay to the southern end of Manly Beach at South Steyne.

Since then the fish populations have been growing continuously year by year, to the extent that throughout the year now an abundance of fish species is quite staggering for anyone prepared to put on a mask and snorkel, or scuba dive the reserve. Shelly Beach itself has been popular with divers for years, due to the unique aspect of the beach that faces almost due West. In strong southerly, even easterly swell conditions, the beach can often be the only diveable option outside of the harbour. The protection from adverse weather conditions also makes the site favourable to many species of fish.

In summer months fish larvae are brought down the coast in the Eastern Australian Current, settle in CTBAR and will flourish for months whilst the water temperature remains above 19 degrees Celsius. Each year is never the same and new surprises are always waiting to be found by the keen-sighted swimmer.

Well over 300 different species of fish have been photographed within CTBAR, and can be found on this site


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