Press Release

Proposed South West Marine Parks Plan Falls Well Short

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Critical feeding and breeding areas for unique marine life have been left out of proposed new sanctuaries in South West Australia released by the Federal Government today.

Without a comprehensive network of large marine sanctuaries, the proposed marine plan for Australia's South West marine region will be insufficient to safeguard the future health of the region's ocean life, fish stocks and coastal lifestyles, said the Save Our Marine Life alliance.

Save Our Marine Life, a national alliance of conservation groups, reacted with concern to the Federal Government's proposed plan for new marine parks in Australia's South West marine region. “The proposed network of marine parks fails to protect some of the most important marine life of the South West. Vital areas are missing from the proposal which are critical for unique species,the Australian Sea Lion and the blue whale, the largest and one of the most endangered creatures on Earth,” said, Tim Nicol of the Conservation Council of Western Australia.

SOML welcomes inclusion of the amazing deep-water Naturaliste Plateau and Diamantina Fracture Zone in the proposals for full protection as marine sanctuaries. However, closer to shore, key iconic areas are not proposed for protection from oil spills and overfishing including the Abrolhos Islands, Perth Canyon, Geographe Bay, the Margaret River Capes area, Albany Canyons and the waters west of Kangaroo Island “Many of WA's and SA's most important hotspots for marine life remain under serious threats from oil drilling and trawling. A significant waste of taxpayer money would occur if the federal government does not base its final decision on the available scientific evidence,” said Michelle Grady of the Pew Environment Group.

“Australia's leading marine scientists agree that a network of large marine sanctuaries is needed in the South West to safeguard marine life and help fish stocks to rebuild,” said Dr Jill St John of The Wilderness Society.

“The federal government went to the 2010 election promising to secure the highest protection for important and special places in Australia's oceans and would provide adequate funding to do so. Next week's Budget must deliver on this,” said Chris Smyth of the Australian Conservation Foundation.

“Australia's South West has a greater level of unique marine life than the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, but currently less than one per cent of it is protected,” said Michelle Grady of the Pew Environment Group.

“A network of large marine sanctuaries in the region would safeguard important hotspots for marine life and fish stocks”, said Darren Kindleysides of the Australian Marine Conservation Society. “If the federal government fails to deliver on its election commitment to improve protection of our unique marine life, the end result could be less fish in our oceans,” said Tim Nicol, of the Conservation Council of WA.

“The federal government has all the evidence it needs to make an informed decision to create a network of large sanctuaries for marine life in Australia's South West,” concluded Paul Gamblin of WWF Australia.

Additional information:

Significant social and economic benefits would result from creating large marine sanctuaries and establishing the south west as a mecca for ecotourism and sustainable fishing:

  • A recent independent economic study by the Allen Consulting Group, “The Economics of Marine Protected Areas,” found that the establishment of marine sanctuaries would deliver economic benefits for Western Australia. Fisheries including the lucrative Western Rock Lobster fishery would see an overall benefit resulting from spill over of fish from sanctuaries and more stable and sustainable catches.
  • An independent economic study of the south west waters found that creating marine sanctuaries would lead to a 20 per cent increase—$55 million per year—in eco-tourism revenue for the region. Activities such as whale, dolphin and seal watching would continue to grow as the region's attraction as a marine destination increases.
  • study just released by the ARC Centre for Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (CoECRS) and James Cook University has found that big marine parks are cheaper to manage per hectare than small ones, and sanctuary zones are cheaper to manage than multiple-use zones.
  • Scientists and the Western Australia (WA) government agree that WA's valuable reef fish are in serious decline. The pink snapper and red snapper, Western Australian dhufish, baldchin groper and breakseacod, now referred to as the ‘Vulnerable 5', would benefit from marine sanctuaries.
  • Public support for marine protection is high. Research conducted by Essential Research for the Save Our Marine Life alliance found that 75 per cent of West Australians believe that there are not enough of such measures in place.

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Veronica O'Connor

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