A compelling new study on Australia's ocean resources has found that establishing a network of marine sanctuaries would help to secure and boost the economic, environmental and social benefits enjoyed by Australians.
Released today by the Centre for Policy Development (CDP), the report, “Stocking Up: Securing Our Marine Economy,” identified that Australia's marine life, fish stocks and ecosystems are worth $69 billion per year to the national economy.
However, CPD's analysis found that official accounts currently recognise only $44 billion of this value, overlooking $25 billion per year in critical ecosystem services, such as carbon storage, seafood, recreation and tourism.
CPD's report also focused on Australia's South West waters, revealing the region's ecosystem services currently contribute at least $2.9 billion per year and would increase if measures to safeguard the region improved. Later this year, the federal government is due to make a decision on establishing new marine sanctuaries in the South West.
The Save Our Marine Life alliance of 11 conservation groups is urging the federal government to act on the report's findings and establish a network of large marine sanctuaries in Australia's South West region.
“This important report found marine protection is vital in high risk areas where corals and sea grasses exist, such as at Geographe Bay, Cape Naturaliste and the Abrolhos Islands” said Michelle Grady of the Pew Environment Group.
“The findings also identified the opportunity Australia now has to invest in the long-term future of the South West by establishing sanctuaries. Regional jobs would benefit from the growth in tourism, and oceans resources, such as fish stocks and other marine life, would also improve, benefitting all Australians”.
The CPD report reinforces the findings of a March 2010 economic assessment by the independent Allen Consulting Group on the impact of marine sanctuaries in the South West. The analysis found that the creation of marine sanctuaries would lead to a rapid growth in regional tourism, contributing to the injection of up to $55 million per year into the Western Australian economy.
Ms Grady called on Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke to redouble his efforts to protect Australia's marine life and act on the consensus of scientific evidence supporting the creation of a network of sanctuaries around the country.
“Healthy oceans support healthy regional communities and our economy. Any decline in their value could impact thousands of regional jobs and limit the benefits we all receive as a result” said Grady.