January 1, 2015 Latest News No Comments

Australia’s network of Commonwealth marine reserves is under review by the Abbott Government putting at risk the adequate protection of these environments and their biodiversity established by the previous Labor Government.

Coral Sea Commonwealth Marine Reserve - Photo © www.environment.gov.au

Coral Sea Commonwealth Marine Reserve – Photo © www.environment.gov.au

In 2012 the Labor Federal Government established Australia’s network of Commonwealth marine reserves – the largest in the world – by expanding and building on existing reserves, and went on to prepare management plans for the newly established network including the Coral Sea and North Network reserves, as well as the North-West, South-West and Temperate East Network reserves. The management plans, set to be implemented in July 2014, were underpinned by wide-spread consultation, 750 000 submissions and more than 10 years of science. The government’s decision had overwhelming support.

With the change in government however, these plans were set aside for review, the Abbott Government’s intention being to deliver on an election promise for a “more competitive and sustainable fisheries sector”. The actions will allegedly instil confidence in Commonwealth marine reserves by certifying that their management strategies are informed by the finest available science and reflect the needs and desires of the stakeholders (businesses, communities) in those regions through extensive consultation.

In an attempt to remove bias from the process and produce a report that revolves around impartial and rigorous scientific fact whilst encapsulating the mindset of the business and community spheres, the government has commissioned the independent Commonwealth Marine Reserves Review. Two independently operating panels co-sharing information and members will generate two separate reports which will provide insight into scientific, economic and social needs and mindsets. The reports will then be used to inform the development of a new set of marine reserve management plans. An expert scientific panel will review the science supporting the current marine reserves while bioregional advisory panels for each marine region will consult with stakeholders, including community members such as you and me.

With so many other pressing environmental issues, Wildlife Queensland believes this to be a costly and unnecessary review; however, we welcome it on the proviso that it strengthens the level of environmental regulation and protection surrounding our Commonwealth marine reserves, with particular focus on the Coral Sea and North Network. Wildlife Queensland would like to see expansion on existing management plans to ensure:

  • greater integration of management strategies between agencies managing the Coral Sea and the Great Barrier Reef due to their adjacent geographic locations impacting one another
  • increased environmental protection in the southern Coral Sea
  • reduced commercial charter and private recreational fishing
  • improved enforcement and management strategies that are realistically developed alongside the new management plans to prevent illegal fishing and trawling activities in protected areas
  • preservation of areas where gaps in knowledge about oceanic flora and fauna distribution and concentration exist, and further development of baseline data to close these gaps
  • clearer classification of how the various preservation categories will influence shipping channels, and greater restrictions on shipping with vessel tracking requirements for sensitive environmental areas.

Wildlife Queensland fears, however, that the Abbott Government’s motivation is not to enhance and strengthen marine reserve regulation and protection but to weaken them. And there is of course the risk of the reserves being cut back or completely erased.

Fortunately Wildlife Queensland has every confidence that the members of the two panels will undertake their functions within the given terms of reference. In order for the panels to fulfil their roles adequately, it is essential that they hear from a broad range of stakeholders. Only then can effective management plans be put in place once again to afford the adequate protection of the natural wonders of our marine reserves.

Tubastrea yellow tube coral by night - Great Barrier Reef- Photo © Peter Nangle

Tubastrea yellow tube coral by night – Great Barrier Reef- Photo © Peter Nangle

If you’d like a say on how the Coral Sea and North Network marine reserves should be managed, this is your call to action. Stand up and be heard by sending a written submission before 28 February 2015 by email to haveyoursay@marinereservesreview.com.au or post to:

Join the Conversation
Commonwealth Marine Reserves Review
C/o Department of the Environment
Reply Paid GPO Box 787
Canberra ACT 2601

You can also be heard by completing a short survey at http://www.marinereservesreview.com.au/.

Wildlife Queensland urges you to get involved NOW. Have your say to preserve the Coral Sea and North Network marine reserves and their biodiversity. You, your children and their children must have the opportunity to experience these amazing locations, some of Australia’s most important and beautiful natural resources.

Written by Wildlifeqld