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More than 35,000 public submissions in support of marine sanctuaries have been lodged with Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke over a proposed plan for the country’s south west waters.
On the final day of public consultation, community and environment groups have confirmed the record number of submissions, which were generated online and via postal comments.
The Save Our Marine Life alliance of 11 national and international environment groups said the public has demonstrated its overwhelming support for sanctuaries and urged Mr Burke to create a lasting legacy for Australia’s South West.
SOML spokesperson Michelle Grady from the Pew Environment Groups said the concern of marine scientists across Australia that the government’s proposed plan did not go far enough to protect marine life had motivated many people to express their concern and also support for a network of marine sanctuaries.
There is no longer any doubt that marine sanctuaries are the missing piece of the puzzle to manage our oceans for the future and to ensure marine life such as the blue whale, Australian sea lions, and fish stocks remain healthy.
Public opinion research has also found high levels of support for marine sanctuaries.
In May this year, leading market research company Patterson Market Research found that six out of 10 Western Australians who regularly fish believe marine life is in decline and an even greater number, 72 per cent, support the creation of marine sanctuaries off the cost to protect fish stocks and other marine life.
More than 180 marine scientists from Australia and internationally last week wrote to Mr Burke to outline the scientific evidence and urge him to create a network of marine sanctuaries in the South West, in places such as Geographe Bay, the Perth Canyon, Great Australian Bight, Kangaroo Island and Abrolhos Islands.
Former Australians of the Year have also written to Mr Burke to raise their concerns about the government's proposed plan for the South West. Ian Kiernan, Tim Flannery, Dr Fiona Wood and Dick Smith support the creation of large marine sanctuaries to safeguard fish stocks and other unique marine life for the future.
Support for marine sanctuaries in WA is also widespread. Eleven prominent Western Australians, including businesswoman Janet Holmes a Court, basket ball star Luc Longley, author Ben Elton, celebrity chefs Anna Gare and Ian Parmenter joined together to publish full page advertisements to express their support for marine life to be protected in sanctuaries.
Save our Marine Life is a collaboration comprising the Conservation Council of Western Australia, the Australian Conservation Foundation, the Wilderness Society, WWF-Australia, the Australian Marine Conservation Society, the Nature Conservancy and the Pew Environment Group.