The Australian Federal Government released its proposal for new marine parks around Australia’s Southwest region kicking off a three month public consultation period. This is the first of a series of marine park proposals that will encompass all of Australia’s waters within a year.
So, to the maps, a mixed result.
Unfortunately the proposal is not good news for near shore areas on the West Coast. The iconic hotspots we know and love on the West Coast – the Abrolhos Islands, Rottnest Shelf, Perth Canyon and Geographe Bay – remain completely unprotected. These are critical feeding and breeding areas for many species of unique marine life in Western Australia. All of these areas have substantial ‘multiple use ‘ marine parks’ that allow fishing and mining – but no marine sanctuaries.
It is marine sanctuaries that have been shown to bring about the dramatic recovery in our declining marine life and are recommended by a consensus of our Australian Marine Science community as the way to protect and restore our marine life.
As expected the Government has done a better job in the deep waters off the South West Corner. Here they are proposing what the Government claims will be the world’s third largest marine sanctuary (I haven’t checked yet). It protects deep ocean environments like the Diamantina Fracture Zone and parts of the Naturaliste Plateau, with a couple of sanctuaries nearer to shore off from Margaret River and the South Coast.
All the icons mentioned here can be seen in www.saveourmarinelife.org.au/AtlantisFound – an online flip book about the unique marine life and amazing undersea features of Australia’s South West.
Further East, there are sanctuaries at the Abrohlos and further into South Australia that I’ll need to do more study to properly interpret for you.
The other disappointing aspect is that the oil and gas industry has had a win. The Margaret River oil lease (Mentelle Basin) and Perth Canyon are still open for business, leaving important marine life habitat and our beautiful beaches at risk of oil spills.
You can see for yourself on the departments website here http://www.environment.gov.au/coasts/mbp/south-west/publications/pubs/sw-mbp-brochure.pdf
The good news is that this is day one of a three month public consultation period where we can raise the bar on this proposal by getting the message to the Minister that a mosaic of sanctuaries are required in these unprotected West Coast marine parks. This is a sensible and balanced way forward, just look at the success of Ningaloo Marine Park for conservation, tourism and fishing with one third of the park in sanctuaries – and compare with these unprotected parks.
Make a submission via the Save Our Marine Life website, it’ll be up within a day or so.
It has been a three year campaign to get to this point. Now there are three months to make a difference and ensure this becomes a world leading marine sanctuary network. The basics are there and more than ever this is an urgent once in a generation opportunity to put in place the framework that will allow our ailing oceans to heal – starting in the SW of WA.
You can also join Save Our Marine Life’s Big Blue Army to help us secure this once in a generation opportunity. http://www.saveourmarinelife.org.au