It does not happen quite often for the greenies to celebrate. But today, there is reason for euphoria and optimism as the Federal Government breaks the news of making Australia’s vast stretch of seas and oceans as a national reserve.
Environment Minister Tony Burke said more than 2.3 million square kilometres of ocean environment will be declared as a national marine reserve networks– a historic win since the plan was incubated a decade ago. This plan will position Australian waters to be the world’s largest marine sanctuary.
Minister Burke will soon forward his recommendations to the Governor General. He said “Australia is a world leader when it comes to protecting our oceans, and so we should be, we’ve got responsibility for more of the ocean than almost any other country on Earth.”
The World Wildlife Foundation (WWF), a leading environmental advocacy group, likewise, said people’s power made this development possible with 450,000 made submissions to Minister Burke.
“We look forward to the Government bedding down final management arrangements for the new marine parks as soon as possible, so that all Australians can begin to enjoy the benefits that marine protection will deliver now and into the future,” WFF Marine Campaigner Jenita Enevoldsen said.
A June poll showed that 70 per cent of Australians supported the government’s marine reserves plan ‑ the most decision the government has made. This project started in early 2000’s under a series of comprehensive community consultations, deliberations and science-based region planning.
“These final lines on maps around our sea country cover and protect a wide range of important habitats including coral reefs, seagrass beds, sponge gardens and hundreds of threatened species of whales, sharks, dolphins, turtles, sea lions and sea dragons,” Enevoldsen said.
Australia’s oceans is the home to many of the world’s endangered marine animals including the Green Turtle, the Blue Whale, the Southern Right Whale, the Australian Sea Lion and the whale shark.
While it is a big win for conservationists, the marine sanctuary means commerical and industrial activities around the area will be limited, including recreation, commercial fishing, and gas exploration ventures.
However, the Government recognises that there will be impacts on some fishers and it will support those who are affected
New marine reserves have been proclaimed in five of Australia’s six large marine regions. The reserves in the South-east region were proclaimed in 2007.