Australia to form world’s biggest network of marine reserves
Australia will soon have the world’s largest network of marine parks, Environment Minister Tony Burke has announced. It would expand the number of protected areas from 27 to 60 and span 3.1 million square kilometers — one-third of Australia’s waters.
The network consists of five main zones surrounding each of the country’s states and territories.
“It’s time for the world to turn a corner on protection of our oceans,” Burke affirmed. “Australia today is leading that next step.”
“This new network of marine reserves will help ensure that Australia’s diverse marine environment, and the life it supports, remain healthy, productive and resilient for future generations,” he added.
The proposed network extends reef protection in the Coral Sea and would give protection to Australia’s biggest undersea mountain range, the Diamantina fracture zone off the southwest coast, and new parts of the Coral Sea that are vital nesting grounds for green turtles and home to large predatory fish and sharks.
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Australia celebrated the news, calling the plan an “important example to the world.”
Still, the plan is not as ambitious as environmental groups had hoped, as they were pushing for banning all commercial fishing in the Coral Sea.
Fishers, of course, say the plan goes too far. Meanwhile, the Greens argue it does not go far enough.
As for commercial fishers, the government will compensate them with up to AUD 100 million (USD 99.6 million) for keeping them out of some of the new marine parks.
The marine reserves network is expected to be completed before the end of the year.