Photo © Meg Green
The Australian Government has released the details of its proposed marine reserve network. In doing so Australia has created the largest network of marine parks in the world made up of five major zones around the coast of Australia. These reserves are yet to be proclaimed and if it happens will increase the number of marine reserves from 27 to 60 expanding the network to cover more than a third of Commonwealth waters. The overall size of the Commonwealth reserves network will be 3.1 million square kilometres. The network is designed to represent the many different marine ecosystems occurring in Australian waters.
Large parts of the new marine reserves will be zoned to allow a range of uses to continue as long as they are consistent with the primary objective of protecting the conservation values of the reserves. Highly protected zones will be included in the network of new marine reserves. These zones will be managed to preserve the area in an undisturbed and unmodified condition, so extractive activities will not be permitted in these zones.
The Australian Government claims that the new network will ensure that Australia’s diverse marine environment and the species it supports will remain productive and resilient for future generations. This action is commended although the full ramifications are yet to be appreciated.
Photo © Meg Green
Wildlife Queensland has been active in this campaign. This national and international campaign has been massive. For the Coral Sea alone there were 487435 submissions with over 99.9% seeking higher levels of protection. These figures included all the petitions etc. There were 129 submissions from organisations and 778 submissions from individuals with over 77.7% calling for greater protection.
There have been significant gains for conservation. Areas such as the Coral Sea will be protected from oil drilling, seabed mining and bottom trawling. Additional reefs in the Coral Sea have been protected as a result of that campaign. As significant as this is, more could have been done. From Wildlife Queensland’s perspective, better protection in the Gulf of Carpentaria is required and a much higher level of protection in the Coral Sea was desired. However environmental and socio-economic needs had to be balanced. As it stands the compensation package required is about $100 million and this is not opposed by Wildlife Queensland.
As indicated these reserves are yet to be proclaimed. Although there has been extensive consultation, stakeholders will have a further opportunity to provide comment. In the coming weeks an invitation calling for public comment will be made. Once that notice is published there will be 60 days to provide comment. Wildlife Queensland will be seizing that opportunity and encourages those inclined to do so.
For more information on Wildlife Queensland's activities, call us on +61 7 3221 0194 or send us an email.