Money Matters - Simplified

Australia leads the way for world's largest marine park

The world's largest network of marine parks to protect ocean life, with limits placed on fishing and oil and gas exploration off the coast are being planned by Australia.

An Australian holiday includes fantastic beaches, tropical waters and the prospect of interacting with some prolific and spectacular sea life for most travellers.

Marine reserves are set to increase from 27 to 60 under a proposed scheme, set to cover more than three million square kilometres, or one third of the island nation's waters. Thus protecting creatures such as the blue whale, green turtle, critically endangered populations of grey nurse sharks, and dugongs.

The protection plan will ban oil and gas exploration in all marine national parks, including across the Coral Sea and off Margaret River, a popular tourist and wine-growing area in the south west.

"It's time for the world to turn a corner on protection of our oceans," Burke said in the lead-up to the meeting, which marks the 20th anniversary of the Earth Summit that declared the environment a priority. "And 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."

The outcome was the resultant of the warnings from UNESCO that the heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef was at risk of being declared "in danger" due to an unprecedented resources boom which will see a massive increase in ship traffic and offshore industries.

The Australian Conservation Foundation welcomed the reserves initiative, calling it "a historic achievement", but said it was concerned that some areas remained under threat.
"Although the reserve network bans oil and gas exploration in the Coral Sea, the north west region has been left vulnerable to these threats," said chief executive Don Henry.

The Wilderness Society called the announcement a first step, and said it was "clear that further marine sanctuaries will need to be put in place." "Our oceans are under constant pressure from trawling, overfishing, oil and gas developments and seabed mining," said marine campaign manager Felicity Wishart.

But fishermen were up in arms, claiming coastal communities would be ruined, thousands of jobs lost. "This is devastating and those that will suffer most will be coastal communities," said Dean Logan, head of the alliance which represents commercial and recreational fishers.

Burke said around Aus$100 million in compensation would be available to the fishing industry.
"Over the coming months, the government will consult the fishing industry and fisheries management agencies on the design and implementation of a fisheries adjustment assistance package," he said.