Wildlife Queensland is part of an alliance of regional, national and international conservation organisations calling on the Federal Government to establish a very large, world-class, highly protected marine park in Australia’s Coral Sea.
2011 is an extremely important year for Australia’s marine life. This year the Federal Government has indicated that they will be developing a number of Marine Bioregional Plans throughout Commonwealth waters under their Bioregional Marine Planning Process. The Coral Sea is a part of the East Marine Bioregion.
In September 2008, a number of groups launched a call for the iconic Coral Sea to be declared a highly protected marine park. Wildlife Queensland values the need for a highly protected marine park in the Coral Sea and has become a supporter of this vital campaign.
In May 2010 the Hon Peter Garrett, Federal Environment Minister recognised the value of the Coral Sea by declaring a Conservation Zone over the proposed marine park area. This allowed for a full assessment of the conservation values of the area. However, this is a temporary measure which does not change existing uses. While a step in the right direction, the Government must go further and deliver the world’s largest highly protected marine park.
The Coral Sea Campaign
White tipped reef shark
Photo © Undersea Explorer
The Coral Sea extends east from the Great Barrier Reef and is bounded to the north by Papua New Guinea, and to the east by the Solomon Islands and New Caledonia. Our goal is to establish a very large, world-class, highly protected marine reserve that provides a safe haven for marine life and recognises the historic significance of this area. A highly protected marine reserve on the doorstep to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, would deliver an unparalleled contribution to marine science and conservation.
Why Protect the Coral Sea
The Coral Sea is one of the last remaining places on Earth where populations of large ocean fish - sharks, tuna and billfish - have not been drastically reduced. With 90% of large ocean fish gone from the world’s oceans over the last 50 years due to overfishing, this makes the Coral Sea worth protecting.
The Coral Sea contains habitats as diverse as coral reefs, remote islands, sandy cays, underwater mountains, abyssal plains and deep-sea canyons. Its abundant wildlife includes whales, dolphins, sea turtles, sharks and rays, seabirds, top predators such as tuna, marlin, barracuda and swordfish and a diverse range of corals and reef fish.
The Coral Sea holds great historical significance for Australia and the United States. In May 1942, it was the scene of the Battle of the Coral Sea, a naval battle that reversed the tide of World War II in the Pacific.
The Coral Sea forms part of the greater cultural heritage of northeast Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, who have inhabited the land and sea country of this region for many tens of thousands of years.
Current Commercial Uses
Maori humphead wrasse
Photo © Tyrone Canning
The Coral Sea dive industry is comprised of six tourism operations. The primary destination is Osprey Reef, which the industry considers the ‘jewel in the crown’. There is a very limited recreational charter fishing industry in the Coral Sea. There are two main Commonwealth-managed commercial fisheries operating in the coral sea:
- Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery (ETBF) is a longline fishery which operates from the tip of Cape York Peninsula, down the east coast of Australia, to the Victoria-South Australian border. This fishery has 159 concessions, however most fishing effort takes place south of the proposed conservation zone. A large area within the Coral Sea is restricted to 11 concessions, all of which are also allowed to fish throughout the ETBF zone.
- Coral Sea Fishery is a small mixed fishery which extends from the tip of Cape York to the tip of Fraser Island. The fishery targets mainly sea cucumber (beche-de-mer) and aquarium species.
Overfishing particularly of yellowfin and bigeye tuna is a major concern throughout the Central and Western Pacific. Both these species are in decline even in the Coral Sea. Over 100 tonnes of shark are taken each year from Coral Sea as longline bycatch. The carcasses are landed and finned, and the fins exported to Asia. Seabirds and sea turtles are also incidentally caught by longline hooks set for tuna and billfish fishery. A fully protected park in the Coral Sea would offer a safe haven for large ocean fish, seabirds and turtles.
A small structural adjustment package would be required to buy out all effort in the Coral Sea Fishery. A limited licence buyout package may be needed in the ETBF for operators who have historically depended on fishing in the Coral Sea for the majority of their income. It is unclear at this stage whether charter operators in the Coral Sea would fall into this category. Current Government policy does not allow oil and gas exploration in the Coral Sea.
What you can do
Take Action Now by emailing your federal MP.
For more information
For more information on WPSQ's campaigns, email or phone +61 (7) 3221 0194.
Last Updated February 2011