Press Release

Report Finds Marine Life Hot Spots in South West Rival Great Barrier Reef

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Revealed: Australia's biggest mountain range is underwater; deep-sea “restaurants” exist where the world's largest animal feeds; and our own “Grand Canyon” is buried beneath the waves near Perth.

A report released today, Atlantis Found: Underwater Icons of Australia's Unique South West, uncovers 10 hot spots for unique marine life off Australia's largely unknown South West coast, stretching from Geraldton to Kangaroo Island.

Atlantis Found, issued by the Save Our Marine Life alliance of 11 Australian and international conservation groups, reveals an underwater world featuring Australian sea lions, green turtles, deep-diving sperm whales and unique and vulnerable reef fish such as the dhufish and breaksea cod.

The full-colour, interactive “flip book” also identifies the South West as a rival to the Great Barrier Reef in importance for unique marine life.

“Up to 90 per cent of marine life in the South West is found nowhere else in the world. There are more unique species in the South West than in the Great Barrier Reef,” said Michelle Grady of the Pew Environment Group.

The 10 hot spots revealed in the report include:

  • The Abrolhos Islands—Situated 70 kilometres off the coast of Geraldton and home to the major breeding grounds of the iconic Western rock lobster. 
  • Perth's Grand Canyon—Located offshore from Perth, it is as large as the Grand Canyon in the United States and is a feeding ground for the world largest animal, the blue whale.  
  • Geographe Bay—Hugs Bunbury and Busselton and is a well-known pit stop for humpback whales.
  • Diamantina Fracture Zone—Australia's biggest mountain range sitting in 7000 metres of water; the Zone runs parallel to the coast from Augusta almost to Esperance. 
  • The Albany Canyons—Sperm whales, southern right whales and endangered orange roughy are found here.
  • Recherche Archipelago—Composed of 105 islands extending south from Esperance and home to 1200 species, including the leafy sea dragon.
  • Kangaroo Island Canyons and Pool—Located 50 kilometres from Kangaroo Island, a “restaurant” hot spot for rare whales.

Atlantis Found also highlights the need for large marine sanctuaries in Australian waters.

“Less than 1 per cent of this South West region, spanning 1.3 million square kilometres, is protected against threats like ocean pollution from oil drilling and overfishing,” said Tim Nicol of the Conservation Council of Western Australia.

Save Our Marine Life is calling on the federal government to create a large network of marine sanctuaries in the South West.

“There is a now a consensus of marine scientists that sanctuaries are the best way to protect our marine life and provide safe havens for fish stocks to recover from overfishing,” said Mr. Nicol.

Atlantis Found also reports that marine sanctuaries make economic sense. Independent economic research by the Allen Consulting Group predicts that marine sanctuaries in the South West would lead to rapid tourism growth for the region, injecting up to $55 million per year into the Western Australian economy.

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Veronica O'Connor

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