Australia’s Coral Sea Home to Over 300 Threatened Animal Species

Contact: Elise Hawthorne, 0413 363 232

Brisbane, Australia - 10/20/2010 - Forty-two percent of the world’s critically endangered, endangered and vulnerable coral species, as identified by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), are found in the Coral Sea Conservation Zone.  This internationally significant region is home to more than 300 animal species currently listed on the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species.

Protecting threatened marine species, such as those found in the Coral Sea, and identifying strategies to halt the loss of global biodiversity, will be major themes for countries gathering this week in Japan for the Tenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP 10).

The Coral Sea Conservation Zone (CSCZ) was given interim protection by the Australian Government in 2009 due to its significant natural and historical value. However, with less than 1% of the Coral Sea fully protected, its natural values are by no means properly protected. The Government has a unique opportunity to demonstrate global leadership and preserve biodiversity by protecting this iconic region through a permanent, fully protected marine park.

“Of the 219 Red Listed coral species found in Australia’s Coral Sea, east of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, nearly half are listed as Vulnerable,” said Nicola Temple, Coral Sea spokesperson for the Australian Marine Conservation Society.

“With 40% of the world’s coral reefs lost or degraded, a high level of protection for areas like the Coral Sea is critical,” Ms Temple said.

Other species on the IUCN Red List that are found in the CSCZ include 46 species of sharks and rays, 24 seabird species and 26 species of whale and dolphin, including endangered blue, sei and fin whales. The endangered scalloped hammerhead shark is found in the Coral Sea as well as the largest fish in the world—the whale shark—which is listed as Vulnerable.

Australia has an extensive and unique marine environment, with the largest amount of marine biodiversity of any country in the world and 33,000 marine species known to science. The recent release of the Global Marine Census suggests that this is only the tip of the iceberg, with 80 to 90% of Australian marine species still unknown.

“A very large, fully protected, world-class marine park in Australia’s Coral Sea would provide refuge to a vast number of threatened species. It is the best management tool for protecting species and their habitats, but also for protecting plants and animals which are yet to be discovered,” Ms. Temple said.

(All Fields are required)