Australian marine reserve the world’s largest

By AAP with AG staff June 14, 2012
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The government has created the largest marine reserve in the world, which protects much of Australian waters.

AUSTRALIA’S NEW NETWORK of marine reserves shows protection of the ocean has become a mainstream issue but there’s more to be done, the Conservation Council of Western Australia (CCWA) says.

Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke today unveiled the final plan for 44 marine parks, including the Coral Sea and the southwest coast of WA.

The network will cover more than a third of Australia’s waters and will be the largest network of protected marine areas in the world.

The CCWA said the network added a much-needed layer of protection for Western Australia’s threatened marine life.

Valuable marine habitats still at risk

The job was just beginning because many of the nation’s most vulnerable marine habitats still remained at risk from overfishing and oil drilling, although Australia’s first ‘no oil’ zone outside of the Great Barrier Reef had been created off Margaret River, CCWA marine co-ordinator Tim Nicol said.

“We will continue the fight to ensure they are protected,” he said.

WA Greens Senator Rachel Siewart said the marine parks appeared to skirt around oil and gas deposits, and the plan appeared to have input from the industry. However, the minister believed the parks balanced conservation needs with the needs of fishing and oil and gas sectors.

He said Perth Canyon, west of Rottnest Island, would not be entirely closed to recreational fishing. It was the underwater equivalent of the Grand Canyon in the US, he said, and was a feeding and breeding ground for pygmy blue whales.

“If it had been on land, it would have had levels of protection years ago, but because it’s in the ocean it’s taken some time to get there,” he said.

Welcome response to marine reserve

Tim welcomed the protection of deep ocean habitats including the Diamantina Fracture zone, Australia’s largest mountain range in water depths of about seven kilometres off the southern coasts.

“Closer to shore, we also see 14 new marine sanctuaries in some important locations for marine life in Geographe Bay, the Abrolhos and along our southern coasts that teem with unique marine life.”