June 15th 2012
A great green gain from Gillard government
The Gillard government deserves major congratulations after yesterday’s announcement to create the world’s largest network of marine reserves including a huge area in the Coral Sea which, in itself, covers an area more than half the size of Queensland.
With 85% of the world’s fish stocks overfished, recovering from historic depletion or fished to their limit, according to the United Nations, and species such as the Southern Bluefin Tuna down to just 5% of their historic levels, the action to protect our waters is very timely.
The announcement follows a smaller but admirable achievement from the Howard government with its Representative Areas Program which closed important parts of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park off to fishing, including a number of bays on Magnetic Island. Magnetic Times has able, just months after that plan’s introduction, to report on the success these measures had in rebuilding local fish stocks and enhancing eco-tourism. (Click Here)
Federal Environment Minister, Tony Burke, said, "For generations Australians have understood the need to preserve precious areas on land as national parks. Our oceans contain unique marine life which needs protection too,"
"We have an incredible opportunity to turn the tide on protection of the oceans and Australia can lead the world in marine protection.
"The maps I have released are most comprehensive network of marine protected areas in the world and represent the largest addition to the conservation estate in Australia's history."
Darren Kindleysides, Director of Australian Marine Conservation Society said,
“Today the tide turned in favour of our oceans. This is a landmark announcement for our seas and one of the most significant advances for environmental protection in Australia’s history.”
North Queensland Conservation Council Co-ordinator, Wendy Tubman, told Magnetic Times, “The move to protect Australian waters is welcome. It is a further, large, step in the process of protecting our waters, fish stocks and marine biodiversity that began in the 1990s during the Howard years. The plan – especially the protection of the Coral Sea, east of Townsville – was supported by hundreds of thousands of community members, including many, many scientists.
“All governments and all Australians claim to want a healthy environment – but we carry on as if can have this at the same time as 'business as usual'. With the huge and growing pressures on our environment, we have to realise that we can't go back to the old days of fish where you like, burn what you want, destroy as you will.
“For a country that has the 6th highest GDP per capita in the world and is second in the world in terms of health, education and income, we have the 10th worst environmental impact and rank 48 in terms of environmental performance. We are acting like grubby rich folk.
“Many fishing organisations are supporting the plan – recognising the need to protect stocks and habitat for the future. Some fishers will lose out, but they are being offered compensation. Other industries – such as the tourism and diving industries – will gain.
“This process has been well handled and we now need to get on with protecting other vulnerable parts of Australia's environment. And we need to dismiss comments such as 'the Coral Sea is pristine, so there's no need to protect it' – that's the same argument as waiting for someone to die before installing traffic lights.
Together the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and the Coral Sea Commonwealth marine reserve will become the largest adjoining marine protected area in the world, covering 1.3 million square kilometres.
The national marine network features:
The Coral Sea Region is the jewel in the Crown and covers an area of more than half the size of Queensland. It supports critical nesting sites for the green turtle and is renowned for its diversity of big predatory fish and sharks. The network includes protection for all reefs in the Coral Sea with the final proposal adding iconic reefs such as Osprey Reef, Marion Reef, Bougainville Reef, Vema Reef, and Shark Reef included as marine national parks.
The South-West Marine Region extends from the eastern end of Kangaroo Island in South Australia to Shark Bay in Western Australia. It is of global significance as a breeding and feeding ground for a number of protected marine species such as southern right whales, blue whales and the Australian Sea Lion. Features in the South-West region include the Perth Canyon – an underwater area bigger than the Grand Canyon and the Diamantina Fracture Zone – a large underwater mountain chain which includes Australia's deepest water.
The Temperate East Marine Region runs from the southern boundary of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park to Bermagui in southern New South Wales, and includes the waters surrounding Lord Howe and Norfolk Islands. It is home to the critically endangered east coast population of grey nurse shark, the vulnerable white shark and has important offshore reef habitat at Elizabeth and Middleton Reefs and Lord Howe Island that support the threatened black cod.
The North Marine Region includes only the Commonwealth waters of the Gulf of Carpentaria, Arafura Sea and the Timor Sea extending as far west as the Northern Territory-Western Australian border. Globally important nesting and resting areas for threatened marine turtle species including flatback, hawksbill, green and olive ridley turtles will be protected. As will important foraging areas for breeding colonies of migratory seabirds and large aggregations of dugongs.
The North-west Marine Region which stretches from the Western Australian - Northern Territory border through to Kalbarri, south of Shark Bay in Western Australia is home to the whale shark which is the world's largest fish and provides protection to the world's largest population of humpback whales that migrate annually from Antarctica to give birth in the water off the Kimberley.
Mr Burke said over the past 12 months, the Government has consulted with marine and tourism business representatives, environmental groups and members of the public through 250 meetings across the country.
"I have met with stakeholders across the country and more than 1950 people have been involved in the full consultation process," he said.
"Our aim is to protect our unique marine environment, while supporting coastal communities and marine industries around the country.
"Over the coming months, the Government will consult the fishing industry and fisheries management agencies on the design and implementation of a fisheries adjustment assistance package.
"We now go through one final 60 day consultation period. It's too late for people to say I want this line shifted or I want this zone painted a different colour. The question now is very straight forward. Do we go ahead with the most comprehensive marine park network in the world or do we not?"
It is expected that the final marine reserves will be declared before the end of the 2012.
Story: George Hirst
Images courtesy Commonwealth Government
To add your comment,
or read those of others, see below