Marine sanctuaries are like National Parks in the sea. They are large areas of ocean that we can visit and enjoy, where we can dive, swim, snorkel, surf, sail and kayak, and where the plants and animals are protected from exploitation and industrial activity.
Marine scientists overwhelmingly support marine sanctuaries as the best tool to protect sealife. Marine sanctuaries reduce pressures on sensitive marine environments by excluding activities like oil and gas extraction and mining as well as commercial and recreational fishing. Free from these pressures, sealife has a chance to flourish, improving the resilience of marine systems to pests and climate change.
Marine sanctuaries protect critical feeding and breeding areas, increasing the abundance of fish, which then spill over into surrounding areas.
Marine sanctuaries also encourage visitors and research, creating meaningful jobs in regional areas in tourism and resource management.
With increasing pressure on the world’s tropical marine environments, Australia has a global responsibility to protect the tropical sealife that lives in our Ningaloo-Pilbara, Kimberley, Top End and Gulf waters.
Effectively protected, the region will become a refuge for iconic wildlife such as sea turtles and dugong that are otherwise disappearing from oceans around the world.
In November 2012, Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke announced the world’s largest network of marine reserves in Australia’s commonwealth waters. This historic network includes 21 reserves providing vital protection across the Ningaloo-Pilbara, Kimberley, Top End and Gulf. Whilst this is a very welcome outcome for our sealife, less than 7% of our north and north-west waters will be highly protected in marine sanctuaries. Many outstanding areas were offered little or no protection in sanctuaries including Limmen Bight, areas around the Rowley Shoals, and the Coburg Pinnacles.