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World-scale Protection Of The Seas Off Australia …

  • June 15th, 2012
  • Posted by EUEditor

barrier-reef-org.jpgThe Australian government this week announced radical plans for marine protection around the continent, less than a fortnight after a UNESCO report criticised the management of the Great Barrier Reef.

marine-reserves.jpgThe Environment Minister, Tony Burke, 14.6.12, foreshadowed the signing  into law, this year,  of protection  plans for vast off-shore areas adjacent to all the Australian states, increasing declared reserves from  24 to 60, and multiplying the area covered several times, to 1.3-million square kilometres.

More than a third of Australian maritime territory will be covered, bringing in restriction of access, and regulation of human activity to certain parts — affecting tourism, shipping  and fishing operations in particular.

The intention is to preserve stocks of sealife; endangered marine species including corals, turtles, whales and some breeds of sharks; habitats, and quality of the water.

The  Minister said it would become the largest adjoining marine protected area in the world.

“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”, he said.

The move occurred in the context of renewed division in society over environmental care.

It was being vocally opposed well within 24 hours by a strong industrial lobby, initially of fisheries interests, and conservative political groups adverse to “green tape” affecting resource development – especially the construction  of mines and ports adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef. They said it would set back economic growth.

Against that, the Environment Minister said he had overseen a long and extensive consultative process, taking in responses of many stakeholders including industry and environmental groups.

“We now go through one final 60 day consultation period. It’s too late for people to say I want this line shifted or I want this zone painted a different colour. The question now is very straight forward. Do we go ahead with the most comprehensive marine park network in the world or do we not?”, he said in Canberra.

Among scientific and other authoritative opinion supporting the extended zones, a former consultant on Barrier Reef management, and Visiting Research Fellow in Economics at Queensland University, Dr Colin Hunt, declared today the protection scheme should be  economically viable.

On the universities’ site, The Conversation, he said effective  compensation might be provided for affected parties; the more pressing question was whether the standard of management would be up to the task of protecting the scale of territories involved.

Early this month UNESCO (United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation) declared that the husbanding of heritage values in the area of the Barrier Reef – a key part of the protection  plan now just announced – was inadequate.

Following up an extensive field study it put particular focus on expansion of the coal and minerals port of Gladstone. See EUAustralia Online, “UN takes Australia to tsask over Barrier Reef”, 3.6.12.


Colin Hunt, Analysis: Marine parks plan economically ‘feasible’, “The Conversation”/ SBS Television, Sydney, 15.6.12., (15.6.12).

Tony Burke, Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, Canberra, “Gillard government creates the world’s biggest marine reserves network”, media release, 14.6.12., (15.6.12).