An important step toward securing the future of the globally significant but unprotected south west waters of Australia was taken today as the Commonwealth Government overnight revealed areas that will be further assessed for possible inclusion in a network of new marine protected areas.
The Save Our Marine Life alliance welcomed the move by the Commonwealth and the opportunity to work with stakeholders to better protect the unique marine life and resources of Australia's south west region.
Today signals the commencement of stakeholder consultation on potential new marine protected areas network as part of the Government's Regional Marine Planning process.
The 1.3 million square kilometre region, stretching from Kalbarri in WA to Kangaroo Island in SA, is the first region in Australia to be considered for protection by the Rudd government.
“This is a significant step by the Government in recognising the scale and urgency of the need to protect large areas of the region's valuable and unique marine species,” said Paul Gamblin for WWF for the Save Our Marine Life alliance.
“The test of the Government's commitment to the region's marine life will be in how much of the region is designated as sanctuaries in the Commonwealth waters off Western Australia, currently the least protected off any state in Australia.
“Less than one per cent of the region is protected, despite there being a far greater level of unique marine life than the Great Barrier Reef,” said Piers Verstegen of the Conservation Council of WA for the Save our Marine Life alliance.
Australia boasts the third largest area of ocean in the world under its care and as a signatory to the UN's Convention on the Law of the Sea has a global responsibility to manage its marine resources for both economic benefit and conservation.
“It is recognised world-wide and here in Australia that valuable fish stocks are in decline. If our unique marine life and industries are to be sustainable they need a network of large marine sanctuaries to allow species to recover and avoid extinction,” Mr Verstegen said.
World-first Australian research published in March by the Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and James Cook University* found that a network of marine sanctuaries can protect marine life from local extinction.
Public support for marine protection is high. Public polling conducted by Essential Research late last year found that 75 percent of West Australians believed there is not enough marine protection in place.
*The research was published in March, 2009, and details can be found through James Cook University's website at: http://www.jcu.edu.au/.