Changes in seagrass coverage in Cockburn Sound from 1967 to 1999 were assessed from aerial photographs using modern mapping methods with the aim of accurately determining the magnitude of change in hectares of seagrasses between 1967 and 1999 and to set up a baseline for future monitoring of seagrass loss in Cockburn Sound. Firstly, coverage and assemblages of seagrasses in Cockburn Sound were mapped using the best available aerial photographs from 1999. rectified to a common geodesic base with comprehensive groundtruth information, and with a semi-automated mapping algorithm. Then the same technique was used to map historical seagrass coverage in Cockbum Sound from aerial photographs taken in 1967, 1972, 1981 and 1994.The seagrass coverage in Cockburn Sound has declined by 77% since 1967. Between 1967 and 1972, 1587 ha of seagrass, were lost from Cockburn Sound, mostly from shallow subtidal banks on the eastern and southern shores, By 198 1, a further 602 ha had been lost. Since 198 1, further seagrass losses (79 ha) have been restricted to a shallowing of the depth limit of seagrasses, localised losses associated with port maintenance and a sea urchin outbreak on inshore northern Garden Island. There has been no recovery of seagrasses on the eastern shelf of Cockbum Sound after nutrient loads were reduced in the 1980s, suggesting that this shallow shelf environment has been altered to an environment not suited for large-scale recolonisation by Posidonia species. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science B.V All rights reserved.