Post(s) of the month: Kimberley and Economics of Marine Protected Areas

This month’s post of the month as decided by number of readers was a tie between:

The Economics of Marine Sanctuaries – Allen’s Consulting report shows long term economic benefits from a network of marine sanctuaries in Western Australia’s Southwest:

And last months post of the month – Battle Lines Drawn as Companies Decide on Kimberley for Browse Basin Gas

Thanks to all readers, commenters and subscribers! And thanks to Best Green Blogs for listing The Happy Squid Blog this month.

Note you can subscribe to the blog by email via the box at the top of the right hand column of this page or follow me on Twitter for latest updates on the blog and other environmental issues.

You can also email a question you’d like me to blog on at

Wishing you a Happy April.


WA Scientists Call for Whale Sanctuary

Published in The West Australian, Monday 22 March 2010

Camden Sound – the perfect candidate for a large marine sanctuary

When it comes to protecting WA’s coasts and oceans, size matters. Our marine environment bridges the tropical and the temperate, making it truly unique in scale and diversity, but also equally challenging to protect. The Kimberley epitomises this difficulty—the region is large, biodiverse, under increasing development pressure, and—currently—without a marine park.

Continued at Numbat News here

Article signed by:
Curt Jenner, Managing Director, Centre for Whale Research Western Australia
Prof. Jessica Meeuwig, Director, Centre for Marine Futures, University of Western Australia
Micheline Jenner, Principal Biologist, Centre for Whale Research Western Australia
Dr. Hugh Finn, Research Fellow, Murdoch University Cetacean Research Unit
Associate Professor Robert McCauley, Centre for Marine Science and Technology, Curtin University
Simon Allen, Research Fellow, Murdoch University, Cetacean Research Unit
Dr. Chandra P. Salgado Kent, Centre for Marine Science and Technology, Curtin University
Dr. Lars Bejder, Research Fellow, Murdoch University, Cetacean Research Unit
Associate Prof. Euan Harvey, School of Plant Biology, University of Western Australia
Dr. Kris Waddington, Research Fellow, Centre for Marine Futures, UWA

Squids speech from Sandcastle for Sanctuaries

Thanks everyone for coming. Looking forward to seeing the sandcastles! I want you to join me for a moment in looking out at the ocean. Sometimes it is hard to see from here what is happening beneath the waves. In WA, we are very lucky, we have some spectacular and unique marine life. In fact, due to isolation and the unique Leeuwin current that flows along our shores, up to 90% of the marine life found in the southwest is unique to the region. But sadly, those of us who dive, snorkel or fish, know that things aren’t what they used to be. Our ocean should be full of fish. The reefs between here and Rottnest should be packed to the rafters with blue grouper and dhufish and crayfish. But they are not. Luckily though, there is a solution. Science and experience from elsewhere shows us that the establishment of large marine sanctuaries, areas of the ocean where fishing is not allowed, will dramatically reverse the declines in our marine life. In fact, a recent study from the Great Barrier Reef shows that only five years since the establishment of large marine sanctuaries there have been dramatic increases in marine life. The study, completed by a who’s who of Australian marine scientists and published by the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences, showed that fish densities have doubled in marine sanctuaries. In addition, populations of migratory species were also benefiting, for example sharks, suffering globally from the shark finning trade, were much more abundant on protected reefs. Dugong and turtles were also found to be benefiting from the increased protection. Significantly, the crown of thorns starfish, an introduced species that has destroyed large amounts of reef, was much less abundant in the healthier environment created by marine sanctuaries. Marine sanctuaries make sense economically too. Just two weeks ago the Allen Consulting Group, a major provider of independent advice to Government, released a report showing that a network of marine sanctuaries would provide long term benefits to the Western Australian economy. Benefits included a 20% increase to the tourism industry, taking the whale watching industry to $55million per year, and benefits for commercial and recreational fishing though more sustainable fish stocks. Spill over to the rock lobster industry could be worth almost $3million. The economic report is backed up by experience elsewhere. The number of visitors and people fishing at Ningaloo and the Great Barrier Reef have continued to grow since sanctuary protection was increased from less than 5% to over 30%. Despite these proven benefits of marine sanctuaries, currently less than 1% of WA’s marine environment is protected. Sanctuaries are the only way we will once again see the abundance we once did in our oceans. All across the world, when large marine sanctuaries have been established the benefits have been extraordinary. There is a Federal election this year, and together, we can make sure the Government gives us a network of marine sanctuaries so we can once again have our seas full marine life. This is something we deserve to have in Western Australia. You can help out today by writing a letter to Kevin Rudd at our stall, and when you get home by going to our website, , and sending our petition to your local MP. Enjoy the sandcastles and stay in touch, with your help we can make this a great year for our unique marine life.

Bluefin trade ban defeated by Japanese despite overfishing

Link: ABC Coverage

The Japanese have found the numbers at the Convention on Trade of Endangered Species conference to beat the motion from Monaco to list the endangered Northern Bluefin Tuna at CITES 1, which would have listed the species as endangered and banned international trade.

Australia played a role in the defeat by proposing a CITES II protection that lists the species as at risk of becoming endangered. Australia had two of 9 delegates from the Australian southern bluefin tuna industry. Southern bluefin is also an endangered species, listed under another UN convention – IUCN – as critically endangered.

Less than 10% percent of the Southern Bluefin pre-fishing population remains. Australian fleets have been involved in the contiued fishing of this species above the sustainable limits. Before cuts announced this year, Australia hauled in 5635 tonnes of southern bluefin tuna a year, from a reported (and likely understated) global catch of 11,850 tonnes. There are mixed views about whether the 20% cut for 2010 will work. Australian fishers are facing a 25% cut.

Major Parties in South Australia commit to Marine Protection

Both major parties in South Australia have committed to take strong marine protection policies to the election upcoming state election.

It is encouraging news to come home to after a week in Canberra promoting new report The Economics of Marine sanctuaries amongst Liberal, Labor and Greens MP’s in the Australian Parliament.

Thanks to Conservation Council of SA, the policies are summarized below. Full policy commitment letters can be downloaded at the CCSA website. There is indications that these policies may improve further, so watch CCSA’s website closely in the lead up to the election for the latest.


The Rann Government commits, that if re-elected, it will have a network of marine parks in place by 2012, which will provide comprehensive, adequate and representative protection for the marine environment that meets Australian and international standards. The parks will include sanctuary zones that provide meaningful protection. While every effort will be made to minimise displacement, where necessary, effort will be displaced and compensated to enable the creation of sanctuary zones large enough to protect marine biodiversity and ecosystem processes.


The Liberals are committed to completing marine park management plans within the next Parliamentary term. Marine parks will contain a range of zones, including sanctuary zones, the sizes and locations of which will be based on nationally and internationally accepted scientific benchmarks for the high level protection of marine biodiversity and ecosystem processes. The amount of funding for marine parks will depend on an amount allocated for management and an amount available for displaced effort. While the process for the zoning and management plans is in process, it is difficult to commit to a specific quantum for these purposes.

With evidence and analysis, such as the Allen Consulting Group economic report and recent McCook et al paper from the Great Barrier Reef (GBR Marine Reserves Media Release), showing strong ecological benefits and long term economic benefits from marine sanctuaries – there is much hope that this Federal election could also lead to strong bi-partisan support for marine protection.

After the disappointing results with the Australian Governments lack of support for stopping international trade of bluefin tuna at Doha, there is a real chance with marine sanctuaries for Australia to once again take a world leading role in marine protection.

However, there is still much work to be done – you can help by joining the Save Our Marine Life campaign for marine sanctuaries in Commonwealth waters here.

You can also join the rapidly growing facebook group.

Two Tuna Fishing Representatives in the Australian Delegation to Critical Conservation Conference

Rumors are afoot that Australia’s delegation to the critical CITES meetings currently underway in Europe, that could decide the future of the endangered Northern Bluefin Tuna, includes two representatives from the Australian tuna industry.

The delegation is made up of 5 representatives from the Environment Department, two other bureaucrats including from the fisheries department, and then a representative of Tony’s Tuna International PTY LTD and a representative from the Australian Southern Bluefin Tuna Industry Association (ASBTIA).

The CITES conference is a United Nations conference on endangered species. Listing can help to increase protection and ban trade in endangered species. There is a push from European countries and the US to list the endangered northern bluefin tuna as CITES level I, which classifies the species as endangered and bans international trade. The Australian delegation is opposing this listing, seeking a lesser level of protection, CITES II, that suggest the species is at risk of becoming endangered and allows international trade under a permit system.

Australia is a major player in the southern bluefin tuna fishery, taking close to half of the legal catch of the species. Southern bluefin tuna is also an endangered species, with breeding stocks estimated to be at less than 10% of pre fishing levels.

The Australian Government has a lot of explaining to do if the tuna industry has representatives on their delegation at this critical international conference. Especially given tuna is only one species being considered for listing, the conference is also considering a range of other species such as corals and a number of terrestrial species.