Australia to create world's largest marine reserve
16, June, BBC
Australia says it will create the world's largest network of marine
parks ahead of the Rio+20 summit.The reserves will cover 3.1 million sq
km of ocean, including the Coral Sea.Restrictions will be placed on
fishing and oil and gas exploration in the protected zone covering more
than a third of Australia's waters.
Environment Minister Tony Burke, who made the announcement, will
attend the earth summit in Brazil next week with Prime Minister Julia
Gillard."It's time for the world to turn a corner on protection of our
oceans," Mr Burke said. "And Australia today is leading that next step."
Australia has timed its announcement to coincide with the run-up to
the Rio+20 Earth Summit - a global gathering of leaders from more than
130 nations to discuss protecting key parts of the environment,
including the ocean, says the BBC's Duncan Kennedy.The plans, which have
been years in the making, will proceed after a final consultation
Last year, the Australian government announced plans to protect the
marine life in the Coral Sea - an area of nearly 1 million sq km.The sea
- off the Queensland coast in northeastern Australia - is home to sharks
and tuna, isolated tropical reefs and deep sea canyons. It is also the
resting place of three US navy ships sunk in the Battle of the Coral Sea
The network of marine reserve will also include the Great Barrier
Reef, a Unesco World Heritage site.The plan will see the numbers of
marine reserves off the Australian coast increased from 27 to 60."What
we've done is effectively create a national parks estate in the ocean,''
Mr Burke told Australian media.
However, activists and environmental protection groups are likely to
be less than satisfied with the plans, having called for a complete ban
on commercial fishing in the Coral Sea.The fishing industry is set to
receive hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation, reports
say.Some have also noted that oil and gas exploration continue to be
allowed near some protected areas, particularly off western
Australia.The Australian Conservation Foundation said that although the
plan didn't go as far as they would like, it was a major achievement in
terms of ocean conservation.
Currently the world's largest marine reserve is a 545,000-sq-km area
established by the UK around the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean.