Australia Creates Biggest Marine Park
Australia has just made its greatest conservation decision ever. Covering a whopping 3.1 million square kilometers (1.2 million square miles)—an area larger than India—a new network of marine parks has just been announced by the Australian government. It will be the biggest marine reserve in the world.
Made up of 5 zones and 44 new parks, the total network of 60 parks will surround every state and territory in the country. The largest section is the Coral Sea Reserve, which will lie next to the Great Barrier Reef, and cover 1.3 million square kilometers (.5 square miles). That’s 3 times the size of Italy. Off shore mining and gas exploration will be banned in these areas, and commercial fishing will be limited.
Save the fishies
There are quite a few reasons for this network. Most creatures in these ocean areas are migratory, so it would be no use for a single park in one section. But if a network surrounds the whole country, marine animals will be protected in every part of their habitat.
Further, these areas are full of threatened species, like grey nurse sharks, green turtles, and Dugongs, many rare due to fishing. Coral reefs would also be protected, as well as species of whale, shark and tuna. That’s a lot of relieved critters!
While environmental leaders are applauding the Government’s decision, those who commercially fish in the suggested parks protest the plans. Critics such as Guy Leyland, of the Western Australian Fishing Industry Council, argue businesses will be severely affected, even destroyed. The limits on local fishing will encourage buying imported fish from less sustainable waters, and will bring up the price of domestic fish.
The Australian government has offered to pay the fishing industry up to $100 million in compensation for lost income. But leaders of Australia’s commercial fishing industry argue that the plan misses the point. On top of the damage to local industry, they say the parks won’t protect marine life from pollution, which is the main threat species face. Critics also suggest that if the waters aren’t policed enough, or regularly used by fishing boats, poachers will slip in and fish in the protected area.
Conservationists disagree. Steve Ryan, Cairns and Far North Environment Centre marine campaigner, says by using aerial surveillance they can easily protect the water. Debate over this and other issues is heating up around the country.
The decision over the marine parks will be made before the end of 2012. If the network is approved, it will be an historic first step for the world. The Australian government hopes this will set an example for other countries to follow in the future.