State and federal government officials are being urged to increase marine protection off Western Australia's (WA) coast to meet a new global benchmark in ocean conservation that was set this week when U.S. President George W. Bush set aside more than 505,000 sq. kms of Pacific waters as marine reserves.
This is the largest area of the world's marine environment ever protected by any individual.
The Pew Environment Group - which successfully campaigned for these new marine reserves – called on the state and federal governments to conserve stunning marine life off Western Australia's North West and South West coasts. Currently less than 2.5 percent of Western Australia state waters are afforded high-level protection and even less than that in Commonwealth-managed waters off WA.
“U.S. President George W. Bush has established a new standard of government responsibility in ocean conservation by designating these very large marine protected areas,” said Michelle Grady, manager of Pew's Wild Australia Marine program.
“Australia prides itself on being a global leader in marine conservation, but risks being left behind on the international stage. We strongly urge both the state and federal governments to take similar decisive action for crucial Western Australian marine environments.
“Every year off the Kimberley coast, endangered humpback whales make their way to the calving grounds just north of Broome, a critical nursery area for their calves.
“Despite this, there are no marine parks which protect this important area.
“Unfortunately, it is the same story in the South West. There is little to no marine protection – despite this region's global significance for its unique and endangered marine life.”
Ms. Grady said the government has the opportunity to leave an important legacy for future generations of Western Australians.
“The question is, what sort of legacy will we leave?” said Ms. Grady. “Will we be remembered for conserving iconic marine habitats?”