Former Australians of the Year recognized for their knowledge and passion for the environment have written to the Prime Minister to call for urgent action to protect marine life from the threats of over fishing and potential oil spills.
Clean Up Australia Chairman Ian Kiernan AO, Professor Tim Flannery, businessman and environmentalist Dick Smith AO and Western Australian Dr Fiona Wood AM are concerned the federal government's plans for new marine parks in the South West of the country do not safeguard unique marine life.
The four former Australians of the Year took the unusual step of writing to the Prime Minister when they became aware eight out of 10 critical feeding and breeding areas for marine life in the South West oceans were left out of proposed new sanctuary areas.
“Protection of our oceans is the new frontier for conservation. Rarely in a nation's history has there been such an opportunity to make a contribution to the conservation of our natural resources,” the Australians of the Year wrote to the Prime Minister.
“The task starts in the South West Marine Region where there is a dangerous imbalance between what we take and what we conserve.”
The Federal Government last year made an election promise to create a comprehensive and representative network of marine parks by 2012.
The South West is the first test of the government's promise and the former Australians of the Year are concerned critical areas such as the Perth Canyon, Geographe Bay near Bunbury, Abrolhos Islands near Geraldton and nearby Kangaroo Island remain vulnerable.
Mr Kiernan said he is alarmed scientific evidence supporting protection of key feeding areas for the rare blue whale has been ignored.
“This is a one in a lifetime opportunity to safeguard our incredible marine life for the future.
“No one wins if our unique marine life disappears forever, but everyone benefits if we protect our ocean resources, including fish stocks,” Mr Kiernan said.
The four former Australians of the Year urged the Prime Minister and Environment Minister Tony Burke to increase the size and number of sanctuary areas in the proposed plan.
“The scientific case for sanctuary areas has now been well and truly made. Research from Australia and around the world provides compelling evidence of both the benefits and the urgency for action,” the four signatories wrote.