Australian Government Puts World's Largest Network of Marine Parks in Jeopardy
The Pew Charitable Trusts expressed grave concern today at the Australian Government's announcement that it has suspended implementation of the world's largest network of marine parks. This decision casts doubt over a 15-year effort that garnered broad support from scientists, fishermen, conservationists, business leaders, and many others for the protection of:
- The Coral Sea, the ‘Serengeti of the Seas,' home to near-pristine populations of threatened whales, dolphins, sharks, and tuna.
- Key breeding sites for the endangered Australian sea lion off the southern coast.
- Critical fish breeding sites, whale resting areas, and prime recreational fishing grounds of Geographe Bay, which are threatened by commercial gillnetting and trawling.
- Important offshore reefs around Lord Howe and Norfolk islands.
- The unspoiled surf beaches of Margaret River and whale migration routes, which face the risk of oil spills.
- Gulf of Carpentaria turtle habitat, which is threatened by bottom trawling.
- Waters adjacent to the newly proclaimed Camden Sound Marine Park area of the Kimberley humpback whale nursery.
Michelle Grady, who directs ocean conservation efforts for Pew in Australia, made the following statement:
"Like Australia's much-loved national parks, marine parks are fundamental to the future of our natural heritage. It is important that there is no further delay in implementing a national network of marine parks.
“The creation of this national network was the culmination of an effort that began in 1998 as a Howard Government initiative and resulted in the proclamation of 21 new marine parks.
"There is clear and overwhelming support from the public—in excess of 70 percent—for safeguarding our important marine areas. In addition, the marine park process has been one of the most consultative in Australia's history. It included almost 300 consultation meetings and hundreds of thousands of submissions. Scientific research conducted around Australia has shown the great value of marine parks to education and exploration of our marine environment.
"Australians share a common interest and understanding that setting aside some areas of the ocean to protect feeding and breeding sites and to allow fish and marine life to recover and rebuild is a logical and sensible precaution to take."