More Protection Needed in Government's Landmark Proposal for the Coral Sea
25 November 2011—The Protect Our Coral Sea coalition has called the federal government’s draft Coral Sea plan a good start, but said it falls short of fully protecting the area’s fragile coral reefs and spectacular marine life.
“We welcome the exclusion of oil and gas extraction and the ban on fishing gear that destroys seafloor habitats,” said Imogen Zethoven of the Pew Environment Group. “However, protection levels need to be stronger—particularly in vulnerable areas—to ensure the Coral Sea’s long-term protection.”
“Only the eastern half of this ocean treasure has been set aside as a safe haven for marine life. The western half contains most of the species-rich coral reefs and critical spawning sites for black marlin and threatened tuna,” said Darren Kindleysides of the Australian Marine Conservation Society.
“Many of the jewels in the crown of the Coral Sea remain unprotected—only two of about 25 unprotected reefs are given a high level of protection,” said Steve Ryan of the Cairns and Far North Environment Centre.
“Full protection of the western half is consistent with the government’s 2010 election commitment to secure the highest level of protection for important and special places in Australia’s oceans,” said Don Henry of the Australian Conservation Foundation.
A recent poll found that almost seven in ten Queenslanders said they supported the government making the entire Coral Sea a marine national park. More than 55,000 letters have been received by federal MPs in support of this goal.
The release of the draft plan kicks off a 90-day public comment period. Protect Our Coral Sea will be encouraging all Australians to send a submission to the government calling for stronger protection levels.
“The Coral Sea is our marine Serengeti. Large and spectacular ocean wildlife such as tuna, marlin, and sharks are still found in healthy numbers, making it a special place on a global scale,” said David Roe of Project AWARE.
“Minister Burke has a rare opportunity to create a lasting ocean legacy and demonstrate global leadership in ocean conservation. Protecting special places in our oceans, like the Coral Sea, delivers long-term benefits for us all,” said Isabel McCrea of the International Fund for Animal Welfare.