Australia to create world’s largest marine parks
Australia has announced plans to create the world’s largest network of marine parks to protect ocean life, with limits placed on fishing and oil and gas exploration off the coast.
The new reserves would cover 3.1 million square kilometres (1.9 million square miles), or more than one-third of Australian waters, taking in significant breeding and feeding grounds.
Thursday’s announcement, after years of planning and consultation, came ahead of the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development next week in Brazil, which Environment Minister Tony Burke and Prime Minister Julia Gillard will attend.
“It’s time for the world to turn a corner on protection of our oceans,” Burke said in the lead-up to the conference, which marks the 20th anniversary of the Earth Summit that declared the environment a priority.
“And Australia today is leading that next step.” he added.
“This new network of marine reserves will help ensure that Australia’s diverse marine environment, and the life it supports, remain healthy, productive and resilient for future generations.”
The network will boost the number of reserves from 27 to 60, expanding protection of creatures such as the blue whale, green turtle, critically endangered populations of grey nurse sharks, and dugongs.
While some limits will be placed on energy companies, tracts of coast off Western Australia, where Shell and Woodside Petroleum recently won exploration permits, will still be open to oil and gas exploration.
Commercial fishing businesses will be hit hard, and are likely to receive millions of dollars in compensation.
“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,” said Burke.
While the Australian Conservation Foundation welcomed the initiative, calling it “a historic achievement”, it was concerned that some areas remained under threat from the resources boom.
“Although the reserve network bans oil and gas exploration in the Coral Sea, the north west region has been left vulnerable to these threats,” said chief executive Don Henry.
“We will continue to work with governments, the community and other stakeholders to improve protection for areas that have not got the protection they need.”
A final consultation period of 60 days is not scheduled with the new reserves expected to be officially declared before the end of the year.
Australia’s proposed network of marine sanctuaries would cover more than one-third of its waters.
The commercial fishing industry says it’s devastated by plans to create the world’s largest marine park network.
The Australian Conservation Foundation has welcomed the announcement by Environment Minister Tony Burke, to expand the size of Commonwealth marine reserves to just over three million square kilometres.
But Brian Jeffriess, of the Commonwealth Fisheries Association, says it threatens the livelihoods of hundreds of fishermen and their communities.
“They’ll be sitting there waiting for the adjustment assistance progress to be negotiated, not knowing anything about their future,” he said.
“The real issue here today is that that package should have been announced with the boundaries themselves.
“We can carp and go on about the boundaries, [but] if they’re fixed, as the minister indicates, then the adjustment assistance package should have been announced at the same time.”
The Australian Conservation Foundation’s Chris Smyth says the Federal Government has committed to fund assistance packages to help fishers affected by the new marine reserves.
He says the reserves will even have long-term benefits for the fishing industry.
“There’s plenty of science around that shows that protecting areas of oceans works,” he said.
“So if you look at the Great Barrier Reef, there’s plenty of research done there that shows that when you establish highly protected areas like green zones up there, you actually increase fish stocks and they actually spill over and can improve or provide insurance to commercial fishing and recreational fishing operations.”
we have biggest carbon tax and now the biggest “saved” marine parks..oceans being given to the UN..thats what it is..australias fishing industry fish within our means..if we cant fish in these areas we import fish from areas that dont fish correctly which in turn will produce a worst result in a different part of the world..