Our Coral Sea: a case for real protection.

14 Apr 2011 0 Share

Flashes of colour and intriguing species dart through coral reefs, our marine environment is part of our Australian identity.

Flashes of colour and intriguing species dart through coral reefs, our marine environment is part of our Australian identity.

Environmental News...
March 15, 2011
Words by Daisy Barham, Australian Marine Conservation Society

Our big blue backyard hosts the largest variety of marine life in the world. Whether we consider the big majestic creatures that leave us in awe, the brilliant sandy beaches, or the little flashes of colour that dart through coral reefs, there can be no doubting that our marine environment is part of our Australian identity.

Staggeringly less than 5% of our precious marine environment is protected from exploitation that has changed the nature of too much of our ocean.

We now have a very real chance to protect a large area of the Coral Sea that begins at the outer edge of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (over 110km from land) and extends to our watery border. It's a long way to go for a surf though for the big fish like tuna, marlin and barracuda that call it home it's an increasingly rare refuge.

The crystal clear depths of the Coral Sea are a tropical heaven for these large fish that have been overfished in many parts of the globe – including our very own waters. These tuna and marlin, alongside sharks dominate the ecosystems in the Coral Sea; unfortunately this is a rarity on the global stage.

In addition to the large fish, a staggering 42% of the world's coral species that are threatened with extinction are found in the Coral Sea where oceanic reefs rise from depths of over 1000m. Recent research has revealed some incredibly deep reefs in the area of which we have only a fraction of an understanding. Throw in 28 species of threatened whales and dolphins and we've got a real marine treasure in our depths.

Less than 1% of the Coral Sea is currently protected. And with our oceans and their wildlife in a fight for their very survival there can be no better outcome than the creation of a large, highly protected marine park in the Coral Sea.

Large, highly protected marine parks are a best practice, scientifically proven way, to protect the best that our oceans have to offer. Hundreds of marine scientists from all over the world, including Australia, have endorsed their establishment, including in the Coral Sea. Even large fish which travel huge distances have been shown to benefit from spending even part of their life cycle in highly protected marine parks free from fishing.

In the 1970s and 80s Australia lead the world with the protection of our precious marine areas including the Great Barrier Reef and Ningaloo Reef. Now many other countries are taking up their responsibility to protect the marine wildlife and habitats within their waters. But more must be done to reverse the decline in our oceans. Australia must continue to rise to the challenges facing our marine life and protect special and iconic areas like the Coral Sea.

The next twelve months the Commonwealth Government will decide the fate of the Coral Sea and other important marine environments around the country. Their choice is stark; the Coral Sea can be granted real protection, or it can remain with the 95% of our ocean that is open to exploitation. In the coming months the Government is due to release a draft plan for the future protection of the area and then conduct a three-month public consultation period. A final decision will then be made in the months that follow. This is a rare opportunity, and one that our ocean wildlife cannot afford to miss.

A large, world-class, highly protected marine park in the Coral Sea will help ensure that there are places in the ocean that we can experience wildlife in its natural form. And with its comparatively small amount of commercial and recreational fishing the Coral Sea presents an ideal area to protect marine life with minimal impacts upon local communities. Significantly, many of the commercial fishers operating in the Coral Sea support the creation of a marine park free from fishing provided they receive financial assistance.

The protection of the Coral Sea also presents an opportunity for the economy of north Queensland. Establishing the world's largest marine park in the Coral Sea right next to the Great Barrier Reef can help revitalise tourism in North Queensland when the region needs it most.

At a time in history when overfishing is changing the face of the ocean there can be no better ocean legacy than to protect our Coral Sea.

Please visit www.protectourcoralsea.org.au to add your voice to the call, sign the petition and help secure a great outcome for this iconic wilderness.


Tags: marine , protection , conservation , wildlife (create Alert from these tags)

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