World's largest marine network proclaimed
The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) has welcomed today’s proclamation of the new Commonwealth marine reserves network. Today’s announcement by the Australian Government means the marine reserves are now legally binding protected areas, ensuring that much of Australia’s oceans and marine life remain protected for years to come.
“IFAW congratulates the government on this huge stride forward for ocean protection. This is an important day for marine life, including the vast array of whales and dolphins that call Australia home, and a great win for the many Australians who have called for greater ocean protection throughout this process,” IFAW Campaigner, Matthew Collis, said.
The Government received 80,000 submissions in the most recent consultation on the marine reserves proposal, the vast majority of which were supportive of the plan to create the world’s largest network of marine parks.
However, IFAW also warned that this announcement is just an important first step in better protection for Australia’s marine life. The next stage of the process is to decide how activities within the marine reserves network will be managed. There are also many critical whale and dolphin habitats which remain outside of the network and under threat, including from offshore oil and gas exploration.
“The Environment Department has had its hands tied throughout the whole process in any attempts to address the threats to marine life from the oil and gas industry. Today’s announcement, while an occasion to be celebrated, should not obscure the increasingly urgent and very real challenge for the government in protecting whales and dolphins from threats brought by the oil and gas industry, such as noise pollution, ship strikes and oil spills,” said Mr Collis.
Environment Minister, Tony Burke, is poised to make a decision in the next few days on an application to conduct seismic testing off Kangaroo Island, a critically important feeding ground for blue whales and many other species, and an area that was not protected from oil and gas activities in the reserve network.
“Mr Burke’s claim to be a world leader on ocean protection will seem hollow without a sensible decision that protects Kangaroo Island’s precious marine life,” said Mr Collis.