The Australian government announced an historic decision today to create the world’s second largest system of marine protection in its waters, including a massive, fully protected marine reserve in the Coral Sea.
The protected marine reserve will be safeguarded from all extractive activity, including mining, oil and gas development, and fishing. In addition, its creation will ensure the protection of more than a third of its fragile coral reefs.
The new reserve will span 500,000 square kilometers (roughly the size of Spain or 25% larger than California) and will be the world’s second largest fully protected no-take reserve after the Chagos marine reserve in the Indian Ocean which, like the Coral Sea, is also a Global Ocean Legacy site.
Australia’s Coral Sea, located east of the world-famous Great Barrier Reef, is recognized as the country’s marine jewel and one of the world’s last intact tropical ocean ecosystems. It is home to more than 80 species of sharks, rays, dolphins, and whales, as well as spectacular coral reef systems. As a key spawning and migratory home for countless species, it is an essential hub for ocean life in the Pacific. In addition to the Coral Sea, Australia’s Environment Department announced that in the country’s southwest, north, and northwest marine regions, more than 282,130 square kilometers will be fully protected. These regions contain some of the world’s most diverse and unique sea life, including the habitat of thousands of fish and other marine species found nowhere else, and will safeguard the feeding and breeding habitat of threatened species, such as blue whales and Australian sea lions.
“The Coral Sea is one of Australia’s natural icons and one of the last remaining places on Earth with healthy populations of large ocean-voyaging species, such as deepwater sharks, tuna, and marlin,” said Imogen Zethoven of the Pew Environment Group in Australia. “By creating the Coral Sea marine national park, the Australian government has demonstrated global leadership in ocean protection.”
Through efforts led by the Pew Environment Group, more than 486,900 people from across Australia and around the world publicly declared their support for strong protection of the Coral Sea. This is the highest level of public support ever received by the Australian government on an environmental issue. In addition, more than 300 marine scientists from 35 countries, including Australia, endorsed the need for protecting the Coral Sea.
Source: Pew Environmental Group