More marine parks,
AUSTRALIA’S new network of marine reserves shows protection of the ocean has become a mainstream issue but there’s more to be done, the Conservation Council of Western Australia (CCWA) says.
Federal Environment Minister, Tony Burke, today (Thursday, June 14,) unveiled the final plan for 44 marine parks, including the Coral Sea and the southwest coast of WA.
The network will cover more than a third of Australia’s waters and will be the largest network of protected marine areas in the world.
The CCWA says the network adds a much-needed layer of protection for WA’s threatened marine life.
But the job is just beginning because many of the nation’s most vulnerable marine habitats still remain at risk from overfishing and oil drilling, although Australia’s first ‘no oil’ zone outside of the Great Barrier Reef has been created off Margaret River, says CCWA marine co-ordinator Tim Nicol.
“We will continue the fight to ensure they are protected,” says Mr Nicol.
WA Greens Senator Rachel Siewart says the marine parks appear to skirt around oil and gas deposits, and the plan appears to have input from the industry.
However, Mr Burke says he believes the parks balance conservation needs with the needs of fishing and oil and gas sectors.
He says Perth Canyon, west of Rottnest Island, would not be entirely closed to recreational fishing.
It is the underwater equivalent of the Grand Canyon in the United States, and is a feeding and breeding ground for pygmy blue whales.
“If it had been on land, it would have had levels of protection years ago, but because it’s in the ocean, it’s taken some time to get there,” says Mr Burke.
Mr Nicol has welcomed the protection of deep ocean habitats including the Diamantina Fracture zone, Australia’s largest mountain range in water depths of about 7km off the southern coasts.
“Closer to shore, we also see 14 new marine sanctuaries in some important locations for marine life in Geographe Bay, the Abrolhos and along our southern coasts that teem with unique marine life,”Mr Nicol says.