Wednesday, June 13, 2012

World's largest network of marine protected areas includes massive fully protected marine reserve in Coral Sea

Australia is expected to announce an historic decision today to create the world's largest network of marine protected areas, including a massive fully protected marine reserve in the Coral Sea, a move hailed by the Pew Environment Group.

The Coral Sea no-take marine reserve, known in Australia as a national park zone, would span 500,000 square kilometers (193,000 square miles) and will be the world's second largest fully protected no-take marine reserve. This is part of a larger marine protected area in the Coral Sea, which is nearly 1 million square kilometers (386,100 square miles) in area.

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.

As nations gather in Rio de Janeiro for the U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development, Australia has made it clear that ocean conservation and management are critical to the world's economic prosperity and environmental health.

"Once again, Australia is leading the world in protecting its marine environment and the unique wildlife it contains," said Joshua Reichert, managing director of the Pew Environment Group. "The Coral Sea joins the growing number of large, fully protected marine reserves in the world, adding to the emerging recognition of the need to conserve the special places in our ocean."

Roughly equivalent to the size of Spain, the Coral Sea fully 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 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.

"Australia's announcement today is groundbreaking and builds on the country's legacy of environmental protection," said Michelle Grady of the Pew Environment Group in Australia. "The scale of protection is unparalleled and is vital to ensuring the long-term health of Australia's unique marine life."

The Pew Environment Group has led efforts to protect Australia's Coral Sea and the country's southwestern, northern, and northwestern marine regions in partnership with an alliance of Australian and international environmental organizations.

Here you can find the press release, photos, videos, and other related background information.