Sydney, Australia -
09/10/2008 - An international coalition today presented a proposal to the government of Australia to create the world’s largest no-take marine park in the Coral Sea, an area that is important to the world’s marine environment and significant in its deep historical and cultural ties to the region.
“Our oceans are in trouble. What we once thought of as an inexhaustible resource is rapidly deteriorating due to human activities like overfishing, pollution and global warming,” said Joshua Reichert, managing director of the Pew Environment Group, which is helping to lead the coalition’s effort as part of its Global Ocean Legacy project. “It will take bold initiatives like this one – protecting large, contiguous regions of the sea and involving a broad and diverse group of stakeholders – to begin allowing many of the world’s fisheries and ocean ecosystems to recover.”
The campaign partners, who include Australia’s leading tropical marine scientists, former Chiefs of the Navy, members of the Battle for Australia Commemoration National Council, and Australian and international environmental organizations, are calling for one million square kilometres of the Coral Sea to be protected from extractive industries. The proposed park – which encompasses a key World War II maritime battle – lies immediately to the east of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and would be three times larger, extending to Australia’s maritime boundary with Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and New Caledonia.
“Protecting the Coral Sea would preserve one of the planet’s richest and most diverse ocean environments and would serve as an invaluable conservation model for every country, culture and community that relies on healthy oceans for subsistence, jobs and important economic revenue, tourism, recreation and protection from natural disasters,” Reichert said.
The Coral Sea has more than 25 spectacular coral reefs, remote islands, towering underwater mountains and deep-sea canyons. Its abundant wildlife includes top predators such as sharks, tuna and marlin as well as 25 species of whales, dolphins, manta rays, seabirds and a diverse range of corals and reef fish. The Coral Sea also provides crucial habitats for endangered Hawksbill and Green sea turtles, as well as small reef and large ocean sharks, such as hammerheads.
It is also of great historical importance. In 1942, U.S. and Australia allied forces joined together in the Battle of the Coral Sea to prevent the invasion of Port Moresby. In two days of intense air battles, the American aircraft carrier USS Lexington was badly damaged, 216 of her crew lost their lives and two other American ships went down. While the Japanese sank more ships than they lost, the Allies successfully prevented a Japanese occupation of Port Moresby and greatly reduced the strength of Japanese forces for future critical battles.
The Australian Coral Sea Heritage Park project is part of the Global Ocean Legacy project initiated by the Pew Environment Group in partnership with the Oak Foundation, the Robertson Foundation and the Sandler Family Supporting Foundation.
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