Australia has revealed plans to extend its national marine parks to make them the largest marine park network in the world.
Already famed for the quality of its beaches and the diversity of its sea life, the country intends to increase its marine reserves from the current 27 to 60, with the inclusion of 3 million square kilometres, or around a third of its waters. The new reserves will mainly be created between the Perth Canyon in the southwest, and the southern coast’s Kangaroo Island, but the Coral Sea off the Great Barrier Reef in the northeast is a key area to benefit from the protection that its new status will afford.
Commenting on the Coral Sea’s inclusion, Australian environment minister, Tony Burke, said, The Coral Sea marine national park, combined with the Great Barrier Reef area, becomes the largest marine protected area in the world.’
Marine Park status will include a ban on oil and gas exploration and the protection of sea creatures, including the blue whale, green turtle, grey nurse sharks, and dugongs, but it will undoubtedly affect the fishing industry. A 60-day consultation period will include talks with the industry regarding compensation.
But the fishing industry is not the only body to see negatives in the new proposals, on the other side of the coin, environmentalists feel that the provisions fall short of their expectations.
Rachel Siewert, a marine spokeswoman for the Green party, said ‘The boundaries the minister has determined have been very strongly determined on oil and gas prospectivity, and clearly determined by lobbying from the oil and gas sector.’