National network of marine reserves announced!
Today is a landmark day for Australia's seas, and we wanted to share our media release with you. Heartfelt thanks to everyone for supporting our wonderful ocean wildlife. This one's for you!
Breaking News! 14 June 2012
National network of marine reserves announced!
The Australian Government has taken a necessary and significant step towards protecting Australia’s oceans by announcing a national network of marine reserves today.
"With an ocean territory twice the size of our land, and marine life that is the richest on the planet, Australians have a lot to be proud of. Today’s unprecedented announcement recognises that business as usual is failing to protect our oceans - that Australia needs a national system of marine reserves to safeguard our marine life for future generations".
"As a nation we’ve come a long way since coral mining was proposed for the Great Barrier Reef and commercial whaling occurred in our waters. The progress made today shows that as a country we’ve continued to act to protect what is most special about our oceans. Australia’s marine life needs real respite from overfishing and industrial development."
Some critically important areas like the Coral Sea – the ‘Serengeti of the Seas’ – will be safeguarded from damaging activities like bottom trawling, oil and gas exploration and seabed mining.
"The near-pristine wilderness of our tropical Coral Sea is one of the last remaining places on Earth where populations of large ocean fish and healthy coral reefs still thrive. We can be proud that future generations will be able look back and realise that we protected such globally important seas while we had the chance,"
A national network of marine reserves has been in the making since the 1990s. The Howard Government began the process of establishing a national network of marine parks to compliment the protection already given through the national parks system to areas on land. The Gillard Government has today taken a giant stride towards completing that process.
"While some important areas have been left vulnerable to fishing or mining, the proposed reserves network is a significant step forward for marine conservation in Australia and on the world stage. We will keep striving to protect important areas that have been missed, including critical turtle and dugong habitat in the Gulf of Carpentaria, blue whale feeding grounds off Kangaroo Island and incredible coral reefs off the Kimberley coast."
Today’s announcement has a solid foundation in science and public consultation.
"Australians love our oceans, and as a community we’ve responded with overwhelming support for greater protection for our seas and their wildlife. Over half a million people from here and overseas have called for greater protection for Australia's oceans during consultations over the marine reserves network.”
- Our oceans – worth protecting
- Our oceans cover over 70% of our planet and contain a richer diversity of life than on land.
- Our oceans connect every continent and shape every coast. They control our climate and produce half of the breathable oxygen on Earth.
- 85% of all global fish stocks are overfished, recovering from historic depletion or fished to their limit (UN FAO, 2010).
- A quarter of the world’s coral reefs are destroyed and two thirds are in serious trouble.
- Australia’s oceans – under-protected and overused
- Australia has the third largest marine jurisdiction on Earth, giving us a duty to manage our seas responsibly.
- The Global Census of Marine Life has demonstrated that Australia’s oceans hold the greatest diversity of marine life in the world.
- While Australia claims to manage our fisheries better than most, we still have a poor track record, with 13 Commonwealth-managed fish stocks either overfished or subject to overfishing.
- Southern Bluefin Tuna are critically endangered as a direct result of overfishing, with their populations reduced to less than 5% of their historic population levels.
- Other Australian stocks that are dramatically overfished include orange roughy, eastern gemfish and school shark. None of these stocks show signs of recovery to pre-fishing abundances, and these species have been so decimated by fishing activity that they are now listed as protected species under Australian environmental legislation.
- Oil and gas exploration remain a major threat to precious marine areas like Ningaloo and the Rowley Shoals off the Western Australian coast.
The science is proven
The science supporting the effectiveness and benefits of marine reserves is clear. In 2010 over 150 Australian scientists wrote an open letter to the Prime Minister outlining the vital role that marine reserves can play in restoring the health of our oceans and their wildlife . The proposed reserve network would also provide long-term benefits to tourism and recreation.