Pew Environment Group: Join the U.S. in Setting Aside Australia’s Treasured Coral Sea

Contact: Blair Palese, 0414 659 511

01/07/2009 - In the wake of today’s announcement by U.S. President George W. Bush to set aside more than 505,000 sq. kilometres (km) of U.S. waters in the Pacific as marine national monuments, the Pew Environment Group called on the Rudd Government to follow the U.S.’s lead and protect the Coral Sea as the world’s largest no-take marine park.

On 6 January 2009, President Bush established the Rose Atoll Marine National Monument (MNM) in American Samoa, seven uninhabited Islands as the Pacific Remote Islands MNM and the largest new site, the Mariana Trench MNM in the Northern Mariana Islands. Taken together with the Papahanaumokuakea MNM that President Bush designated in 2006, it totals a staggering 869,000 sq. km of new conservation areas in U.S. waters, the largest area of the world’s marine environment protected by any other person in history.

“U.S. President George W. Bush has established a new standard of national responsibility in ocean conservation by designating these very large marine protected areas,” said Jay Nelson, Director of Pew’s Global Ocean Legacy program. “We urge Prime Minister Rudd to take similar action in Australia to protect the Coral Sea.”

“An Australian Coral Sea Heritage Park would make an unparalleled contribution to Australian and international marine conservation,” Nelson said. “Given the area’s immense environmental value and its historic significance, we believe the Coral Sea is a treasure worth protecting for future generations.”

In September 2007 the Pew Environment Group and its campaign partners called on the Federal Government to protect one million square kilometres of the Coral Sea from extractive industries. The proposed park 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. The Coral Sea is one of the few places on earth where it is possible to designate a very large, no-take ocean park -- in a nation with the capacity to properly manage and protect it and with a history of support for conservation.

“Given the rapid decline of large ocean fish, the onset of climate change and many other threats to our oceans, we believe that greater stewardship of the Coral Sea is urgently needed,” said Imogen Zethoven, Director of the Pew’s Coral Sea initiative. “A large no-take Coral Sea reserve would be a clear demonstration of Australia’s global leadership in protecting our shared maritime heritage.”

Global Ocean Legacy is a project initiated by the Pew Environment Group in partnership with the Oak Foundation, the Robertson Foundation and the Sandler Family Supporting Foundation.  Its goal is to work with local citizens and governments to secure the designation of a handful of world-class, no-take marine reserves that will provide ecosystem scale benefits and help conserve our global marine heritage.

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