Australian Science Supports a National Marine Reserve Network

Anyone wondering about all the dodgy claims made recently by fishing groups and some opposition MP’s about there being no science behind marine parks, please read this blog post and then decide who is most credible on science – all these scientists or the fishing industry lobby groups…

The establishment of the National Marine Reserve Network, and in particular the Marine National Park zones, is firmly embedded in decades of cutting edge Australian marine science research. For this reason, leading scientific organizations have been strongly supportive of the network.

In fact, levels of protection recommended by these scientific organizations were higher than those delivered in the final marine reserve network.

The CSIRO provided extensive submission supportive of the establishment of a national marine reserve network.   In their submission to the South West marine region, CSIRO stated


“One specific issue of note is that all proposed reserves should contain highly protected areas (sanctuary zones) in order to conform with best practice in reserve design; to meet the primary goal of the NRSMPA in terms of being comprehensive, adequate and representative; and to meet the intent of the Zoning principles established under the Commonwealth’s Goals and principles for the establishment of the National Representative System of Marine Protected Areas in Commonwealth waters. CSIRO supports the logical and methodical application of these goals and principles and sees merit in the establishment of highly protected areas (IUCN I or II) that cover each Province and bathome in the SW. These areas will provide us with the baseline for the future as we learn more about the region, to allow the process of biodiversity protection started in this current Plan, to fully meet the stated objectives of the Plan”.

Australia’s peak marine science body, the Australian Marine Science Association represents over 1000 Australian marine scientists.  According to AMSA’s Position Statement on Marine Protected Areas:

“AMSA endorses MPAs as vital for the conservation of Australia’s biodiversity”

“AMSA considers that a figure of 10% under ‘no-take’ protection would slow but not prevent loss of biodiversity. The current ‘no-take ’level in the GBRMP of 33% is more likely to achieve substantial and sustained biodiversity conservation benefits.”

“The key scientific results from studies of MPAs are listed below and are strongly supported by numerous peer-reviewed scientific papers, both from Australia and internationally.

6.3.1. Well-planned, managed and enforced ‘no take’ MPAs (IUCN category I and II) generally harbour denser populations, larger individuals, and higher biomass of previously exploited species.

6.3.2. Following establishment of ‘no-take’ MPAs, recovery of exploited predatory and/or herbivorous species often results, over time, in striking differences in the community ecology of MPAs compared to surrounding areas.

6.3.3. Recent research now provides strong evidence for the fisheries benefits from MPAs.”

AMSA made submission to all of the bioregional marine plans that make up the National Marine Reserve Network that can be viewed on their ‘position statements and submissions’ page.  Their submissions called for increased protection, particularly in areas closer to shore on the continental shelf.  This was to some extent delivered in the final plan, although more work is required in this area in the future.

Professor Hugh Possingham of the University of Queensland is the inventor of the software used by the Government to design the National Marine Reserve Network to take into account both science and social and economic factors.  He wrote a Statement of Concern to the Federal Government in August 2011 calling for greater protection than offered in the draft plan that DSEWPaC had released at that time.  His statement was endorsed by AMSA, the Australian Coral Reef Society and nearly 100 Australian and international marine scientists. The statement included:

“Important industries, such as tourism and fisheries, depend on healthy marine ecosystems and the services they provide. Networks of protected areas, with large fully protected core zones, are essential to maintain healthy ecosystems over the long-term – complemented by responsible fisheries management.”

The support of the Australian Marine Science community for the national marine reserve network comes about because decades of research have proven the value of marine sanctuaries and marine parks to protecting biodiversity, enhancing scientific research and enhancing fisheries.

This research is from existing marine sanctuaries in Australia and around the world, including the Great Barrier Reef, Ningaloo, NSW, and Tasmania.

Additional public domain scientific comment on marine reserves in Australia can be found on the website, The Conversation, including:

Nic Bax and Ian Cresswell of CSIRO

David Booth of University of Technology Sydney

Timothy Langlois, Euan Harvey and Carlos Duante of University of Western Australia

Colin Hunt, an honorary Fellow in Economics

Geoffrey Westcott of Deakin University

Timothy Langlois of University of Western Australia


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