Lately, science has been producing a lot of doom and gloom about our oceans; they are suffering from the effects of overfishing, pollution and climate change – large fish are disappearing, jelly fish are taking over. Today, that changed, with a blueprint from the University of Queensland showing how we can turn around these problems and secure a healthy future for our marine life in the south west corner of Australia.
The Ecology centre blueprint resulted from a two year study by a team of Australia, and Western Australia’s, leading marine conservation planners. It used a system called Systematic Conservation Planning to examine 3300 data sets including information on 1500 fish species, 500 coastal habitats and the activities of 46 marine industries and recreational activities, to lay out a protection plan for WA’s unique marine life. The analysis was based on guidelines developed by 44 of Australia’s leading marine scientists. It found that a level of 50% protection was necessary, and imminently achievable with a minimal impact on other ocean users and maximising benefits to fishing of protecting breeding grounds.
South West Australia is a pretty special corner of the world, with up too 90% of marine life unique to the region, so it isn’t surprising that they came up with high levels of marine protection. There are a higher proportion of endemic species in the south west than even on the Great Barrier Reef. The region is used by one third of the worlds whale and dolphin species.
But this report is special because it goes beyond laying out the problems and calling for conservation. Instead, for the first time, scientists have laid out for all to see how high levels of marine protection can be achieved. It has made what seemed impossible seem imminently achievable. It gives us hope that we can take the necessary steps to save our marine life from the fate that sometimes seems inevitable.
There is hope that our marine life will be in better health tomorrow than it is today. That seeing and catching large fish off WA’s coast will not be something our grandfathers remember, but something our children do.
Going from less than 1% protection to 50% protection may seem like a big chance. But it would be a change significantly for the better, even for the fishermen who may oppose it.
To join the campaign for a better future for WA’s unique marine life,visit Save Our Marine Life.
To download the report and see the media coverage, visit University of Queensland.
To hear Professor Hugh Possingham interview on AM, visit ABC AM.