Rare Marine Life Abandoned By Federal Government Marine Park Plan

23 August 2011

Rare Marine Life Abandoned By Federal Government Marine Park Plan

Some of the most vulnerable marine life in Australia, including dugongs and the newly recognised Australian snubfin dolphin, are at risk of being killed by fishing nets, oil and gas drilling and mining operations, following the Federal Government’s failure to propose large sanctuaries for marine life across Australia’s north.

Conservation groups from the recently formed Save Our Tropical Sealife alliance said today that the Federal Government also risked letting its biggest ever conservation victory slip through its fingers if it failed to create large sanctuary areas for marine life.

The Federal Government today released draft marine reserves for the north and north-west waters of Australia, which covers a vast area of Commonwealth waters between Kalbarri on Western Australia’s mid-north coast to the tip of Cape York Peninsula.

The Wilderness Society’s Felicity Wishart said the Government’s proposal failed to fully protect iconic sites including the shallow waters of the Ningaloo-Pilbara, the humpback whale breeding grounds of the Kimberley, the coral reefs and canyons of the Top End and the sea grass meadows of the Gulf from oil and gas drilling, sea-bed mining and overfishing.

“This means that less than 12 per cent of the Commonwealth’s north-west and 3 per cent of northern waters will be fully protected – still far less than what we have protected on land.”

The Save our Tropical Sealife alliance (including The Wilderness Society, Australian Marine Conservation Society, Environment Centre NT, Environs Kimberley, WWF Australia and Pew Environment Group) is calling for critical feeding and breeding areas to be protected in a network of large marine sanctuaries.

“With increasing human pressure on the world’s tropical marine environments, the science is clear about what is needed to save our marine life and fish stocks – a scientifically based network of large marine sanctuaries,” said Jess Abrahams from the Australian Marine Conservation Society.

“Australia’s tropical seas are among the most biologically significant on the planet and are some of the last remaining healthy, large tropical marine ecosystems left on Earth.”

Stuart Blanch from the Environment Centre NT said, “Effectively protected in sanctuaries, the region could become an important refuge for six of the world’s seven species of threatened sea turtles, globally vulnerable dugongs, the Australian Snubfin dolphin as well as migratory humpback whales.”

“During the 90 day consultation period we will be urging Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke to reconsider the strong scientific case for marine protection and significantly increase the number and size of sanctuaries for our tropical sea life.”

Emma Belfield from Environs Kimberley said, “The reef systems off the Kimberley coast are akin to the Great Barrier Reef and are in better condition.”

“This proposal does a better job of protecting the oil and gas industry in the Kimberley than it does our vulnerable marine life. On top of that, the tropical sea life of vast swathes of ocean including Ningaloo, the Pilbara, the Kimberley, Top End and Gulf of Carpentaria remain exposed to destructive fishing practices

Paul Gamblin from WWF-Australia said, “We are calling on supporters from across the country to take a stand for our tropical marine environment. The oil and gas industry has already claimed huge parts of the region’s wildlife habitat in exploration and production leases, pushing into deeper water and riskier operations, like off Ningaloo Reef. This is the last chance we have of stopping Australia’s tropical marine environment becoming almost entirely an industrial park.”

Comment – Felicity Wishart: 0408 222 746, Jess Abrahams: 0407 043 457, Paul Gamblin: 0410 221 508


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