Australia leading the way in ocean conservation

During September 2012 the IUCN World Conservation Congress in South Korea adopted a resolution congratulating Australia for its landmark announcement to establish the world’s largest network of marine reserves, and urging Australia to proclaim the network swiftly. Just weeks later the Australian Government did just that, and set in law the national network of marine reserves showing the world that Australia means business when it comes to protecting our oceans.

Lionfish swimming around the Great Barrier Reef, Australia

On the 16th of November 2012 the Australian Government formally proclaimed 40 new marine reserves in a network that builds on existing Commonwealth marine reserves. This added more than 2.3 million square kilometres to Australia's marine reserve estate, resulting in approximately a third of our ocean territory (3.1 million square kilometres) now in marine reserve with approximately 13% of this in an IUCN I or II protected area.

A national network of marine reserves has been in the making since the 1990s. It was started under the Howard Coalition Government and is now being finalised by the Gillard Labor Government. But the process is not quite over. The Australian Government is currently preparing the management plans for the new marine reserves. It is expected that they will be established under Australia's national environment law after being tabled in the Australian Parliament in the coming months.

Tens of thousands of Australians from east to west have said yes to the federal government's plan to create the world's largest network of marine parks. Australians value their oceans and marine life and are aware that protection must be improved if we are to continue to benefit from them and hand on healthy oceans to future generations. It is clear from this overwhelming response that Australians want the Government to get on with the job and finalise a process that will bequeath an ocean legacy that future generations will thank us for.

Contributed by Fiona Maxwell, Marine Campaigner, Australian Marine Conservation Society.

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