Down Under is blessed with some of the world’s richest marine ecosystems. After years of input from the public and the scientific community in 2012 the Australian government created a ring of marine protected areas that encircled the continent. The ambitious plan covered 44 marine reserves that encompass fully 36% of the nation’s offshore, exclusive economic zone.
New Government, New Marine Reserve Policies
However, within several months national elections put a conservative government in office with new policies that may threaten the newly created MPAs. Last week the government announced a new “draft” plan that keeps the boundaries of the original MPAs but scales back the protections. (photo – Burt Jones, Maureen Shimlock)
“No-take” becomes “Habitat Protection”??
After a 60 day public review period, the proposal heads to Parliament where it is expected to be passed into law. Under the new proposal, some “no-take” green zones, where no fishing and mining was allowed have been reclassified as yellow “habitat protection zones”.
Although some very destructive fishing practices like trawling would continue to be prohibited, other fishing would be allowed. Only 20% of the reserves would remain green zones while the more permissive yellow zones would be increased from 24% to 43%.
Many marine scientists were disappointed. “They nearly halved the level of protection,” said Jessica Meeuwig, director of the University of Western Australia’s Centre for Marine Futures in Perth. “It’s very demoralizing to the scientists who’ve done so much hard work,” said David Booth a marine ecologist. Read entire article in Sciencemag.org.
Coral Sea Marine Reserve Most in Jeopardy!
Most in jeopardy is the Coral Sea marine reserve along Australia’s northeast coast, which helps protect the Great Barrier Reef. About 76% of its 98-million-hectare coverage would be opened to fishing, increased from 46% presently.
“They’ve saved the tuna fishery $4 million a year,” said Meeuwig. “So in order to save .03% of fishing revenue, we’ve scuppered what could be the single most important marine protected area in the Pacific.” (photo – Deaken.edu.au)
Will the Conservative Government protect marine ecosystems??
This follows on other actions by Australia’s conservative government that calls into question their desire to protect the country’s threatened marine ecosystems. With the Great Barrier Reef in crisis following several years of record ocean temperatures and major coral bleaching, the reef is extremely vulnerable to additional stress like that caused by water pollution. (photo – Ed Roberts ARC)
Our recent post: Extensive Coral Bleaching Found Throughout the Pacific, updates you on the failing health of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and the criticism heaped on the government for not living up to its financial commitments to meet water quality targets, see: Great Barrier Reef: plan to improve water quality ignores scientific advice. Plus: Great Barrier Reef: Australia must act urgently on water quality, says Unesco.
By Bob Frerck, Blue Ocean Network
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