Image for Worried about Australia’s Marine Reserves? ... You should be!

*Pic: Coral Reef in Queensland - pic Ted Mead.


First published August 4

In 2012, after 14 years of extensive planning and research the Federal Labor Government finalised a national network of marine networks.  Unfortunately the following year the Abbott government took the extraordinary step of suspending all new federal marine parks. Now it comes down to the Turnbull government’s views on how these marine areas should be managed.

The Liberals’ draft plan has just been released, and rest assured it doesn’t look good for conservation.

Not surprisingly the Liberals have completely ignored their own science recommendations, the voice of the Australian public and the pleas of local communities.

Now they are proposing reductions in marine areas and retrograded measures for our oceanic gems all around the country. This undoubtedly will open the door to destructive commercial fishing and pave the way for the oil and gas magnates.

Unique global treasures such as these are now vulnerable to exploitation – The Great Barrier Reef, the Great Australian Bight, Lord Howe Island, the Gulf of Carpentaria, the Kimberley, The Coral Sea, Geographe Bay and the Perth Canyon.

These dedicated sanctuaries were declared through federal bi-partisan politics. Now it seems most of the problems the reserve currently face have arisen from the Tony Abbott era when he ordered a ‘review’ saying that not enough research science and consultation had taken place.

Here’s what took place before Abbott’s neglect and intervention:

• 10 years of scientific assessment.
• 606 days of consultation.
• 221 leading scientists backed sanctuaries.
• 750,000 public and stakeholder submissions, with 95% support.
• $100 million allocated to compensate for less than 2% of commercial fish catch affected.

How much more research is needed?

Australia lays claim to the third largest area of ocean on Earth and we have an international responsibility to conserve our oceans. The Federal Government is a signatory to the United Nation’s Convention on the Law of the Sea, which requires us to manage the oceans surrounding our continent for both economic benefit and conservation.

Globally, we are witnessing an unprecedented collapse of ocean resources. Two-thirds of the world’s coral reefs are dead or dying and 90% of the world’s large fish are gone.

Marine sanctuaries are proven to work alongside sensible fisheries management to provide safe havens for fish and marine life to recover and rebuild. Sanctuaries have been shown to prevent local extinctions and help make coral reefs more resilient to the impacts of climate change.

There is no reason for Turnbull to review the present reserve system other than to make concessions for extractive industries.

Let’s hope enough pressure is forced upon the government to abandon any review.

*Ted Mead first experienced the Great Barrier Reef in the mid 1980s, and has since dived in many sections from the north Coral Sea to southern extent of Lady Elliot Island. Ted recommends that everyone should get out to our magnificent marine sanctuaries as a must see before it all unfortunately disappears from its once incredible glory. Other national havens such as Lord Howe Island and Ningaloo Reef are a must for the lovers of the underwater world. Ted hasn’t dived on the reefs for over 10 years and admits he will probably be in for a overwhelming shock when he witnesses the damage and loss to our magnificent reefs caused through global warming.


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