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World first for national ocean protection

The Australian Conservation Foundation has applauded the federal government’s decision to establish the world’s largest national network of marine reserves.

“This world class network of marine reserves is a historic conservation achievement that makes Australia a global leader in ocean protection,” said ACF CEO Don Henry.

“These marine reserves will protect a diversity of Australia’s ocean ecosystems, including reefs and waters in the Coral Sea, majestic seamounts off the east coast, the mysterious deep waters of the Diamantina Fracture Zone and the waters of the Great Australian Bight.” 

The reserves will cover 40 per cent of Australia’s waters, which are home to 45 of the world’s 78 whale and dolphin species, six of the seven known species of marine turtle, and 4,000 fish species.

“With Australia’s magnificent natural endowment of unique marine biodiversity comes a responsibility to protect our oceans from the risks of bottom trawling and oil and gas exploration,” Mr Henry said.  

“Although the reserve network bans oil and gas exploration in the Coral Sea, the north west region has been left vulnerable to these threats.

The reserves will cover 40 per cent of Australia’s waters, which are home to 45 of the world’s 78 whale and dolphin species, six of the seven known species of marine turtle, and 4,000 fish species

“We will continue to work with governments, the community and other stakeholders to improve protection for areas that have not got the protection they need, such as the Albany Canyons and Rowley Shoals off WA and the central Gulf of Carpentaria.

“Commercial fishers will need help to adapt, so we strongly support the federal government’s commitment to provide financial support to the industry.

“The establishment of the national marine reserves follows a long process, which was started by the Howard government in 1998 with the release of its Oceans Policy and the creation of the south-east marine reserve network in 2007.

“We congratulate the Coalition for starting this process and the Government for this historic step forward with a world class network of marine reserves, supported by strong assistance for transition in the commercial fishing sector,” Mr Henry said.

Download the full National Marine Reserve Network map here