Australia to create world's biggest marine park network
Australia has finalized its plan to created the world’s biggest network of marine protected areas, setting an important precedent for ocean protection as countries prepare to meet for the Rio+20 meeting on sustainable development.
The extended network of marine protected areas was announced by the Australian Environment Minister Tony Burke today and incorporates places like the reefs of the Coral Sea and the deep-sea areas off Western Australia.
Once proclaimed under national environmental law, Australia will increase the number of marine reserves from 27 to 60, expanding the national network to cover more than a third of its territorial waters. In total covering 1.3 million square kilometres will be protected.
"For generations Australians have understood the need to preserve precious areas on land as national parks. Our oceans contain unique marine life which needs protection too," said Burke. "We have an incredible opportunity to turn the tide on protection of the oceans and Australia can lead the world in marine protection.
"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 jewel in the crown of the new network is the Coral Sea marine park that, together with the adjacent Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, will make up the world’s largest marine park.
WWF-Australian CEO Dermot O’Gorman said Australia has the third largest ocean territory in the world that stretches from the tropics to the sub-Antarctic and is home to incredible creatures such as whales, dolphins, turtles and sharks as well as spectacular corals and other ecosystems.
“By declaring more than one third of its waters as marine parks, Australia has made a major advance in marine conservation that is both nationally and globally significant. Coming on the eve of the Rio+20 summit on sustainable development, this is an inspiring outcome for other countries to follow,” said O’Gorman.
“In recent times the Australian Government has made it clear that it aspires to be a global leader in marine conservation. Today’s decision helps meet this aspiration and WWF looks forward to hearing how Australia will assist other countries in our region to better manage their marine resources at the Rio +20 summit.”