A meeting of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature in Adelaide today was told Australia must adopt a new approach to managing its marine resources if it is to buck a global trend of species extinction and declining fish stocks.
Addressing delegates from the IUCN's World Commission On Protected Areas, Michelle Grady from the international Pew Environment Group highlighted the vulnerable state of globally significant marine life and ecosystems in the south west of Australia.
“The 1.3 million square kilometre south west region of Australia has a far greater level of unique marine life than the Great Barrier Reef, but less than one per cent of the region currently has any protection from threats in place.
“World-first Australia research recently conducted by the Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and James Cook University* has proven the need for a new approach to marine conservation in Australia. It has now been established that a network of marine sanctuaries protects species from local extinction.”
The Commonwealth Government is currently considering areas for protection as part of its South West Regional Marine Planning process.
Ms. Grady told the IUCN delegates that a network of large sanctuaries in the south west would address declines in marine life as they would protect critical habitat, nursery and feeding grounds.
“Australia has the third largest area of ocean in the world under its care and as a signatory to the United Nation's Convention on the Law of the Sea has a responsibility to manage its marine resources for both economic benefit and conservation.
“Creating large ‘no take' marine sanctuaries is strongly supported by the scientific community and necessary if we are to turn around the trend of declining fish numbers.”
Dr. Jill St John, the West Australian Marine Co-ordinator for The Wilderness Society, WA also attended the IUCN meeting and said that at present there are no marine sanctuaries in the south west of Australia large enough to protect the species that make up our iconic fisheries, such as western rock lobster, WA dhufish and baldchin groper.
“Marine sanctuaries allow our fishes and lobsters to grow large and breed, helping these stocks to recover, and securing the future of commercial and recreational fishing in Western Australia.”
* The research was published in March, 2009, and details can be found through James Cook University's website.