Effective management of marine environments requires a sound understanding of the relevant physical sedimentary sciences. Environmental impact assessment (EIA) is a key management and decision-making tool employed in Australia for coastal and marine developments. This article examines the veracity of the application of the marine physical sciences within the EIA process, using turbidity measurement and sediment transport pathways as examples. A review of EIA guidance reveals deficiencies in regulation. Turbidity measurement is poorly understood and performed in current practice, while a focus on protecting marine habitats largely ignores those physical sedimentary processes, such as long-term bed-sediment transport pathways, that create and maintain these habitats. Thus evaluations of impacts of offshore activities such as channel dredging and spoil emplacement at sea are fundamentally flawed. An extensive body of scientific knowledge is already available on marine physical processes, and equivalent information for assessments of terrestrial development is routinely taken into consideration. Perhaps practice for the marine environment lags behind that for terrestrial settings or is it a case of ‘out of sight – out of mind’? We call on environmental management professionals to increase engagement with the physical processes that determine the quality of marine environments.