A significant step forward for marine conservation in Australia was made this month when the Federal Environment Minister, Tony Burke, announced the declaration of a sparkling, new, beautiful Coral Sea Marine Reserve as part of the greater network of Australia’s marine reserve network. This completes the development of the National
Representative System of Marine Protected Areas (NRSMPA), as agreed to by all
Australian governments in 1998.
The Coral Sea and the other marine reserves concerned will be part of an Australian network playing a major role in the protection of our marine areas. The new Commonwealth marine reserves will add more than 2.3 million square kilometres to Australia’s marine reserve estate, resulting in a total area of 3.1 million square kilometres of Commonwealth waters being managed primarily for biodiversity conservation.
Xanthe Rivett, Cairns and Regional Outreach Manager of the Protect Our Coral Sea campaign has welcomed the news: “The huge system of marine parks will act as an insurance policy for our oceans, building additional resilience for fish stocks, and protecting fragile and critical habitats, such as shallow and deep coral reefs”.
She also added that now the marine reserve had been made official a crucial part of the project, the development of management plans could now take place.
According to a release from the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, the new reserves came into effect on 17 November 2012, although until the new management plans come into effect there will be no “on the water” changes for users until July 2014. The report also explains that these reserves will comprise the Coral Sea Commonwealth Marine Reserve and the South-west, North-west, North and Temperate East Commonwealth Marine Reserves Networks. In addition, seven former Commonwealth marine reserves will be incorporated into the new network and four existing marine reserves will be renamed and incorporated into the North-west Network of Commonwealth Marine Reserves.
It is anticipated that the new management plans will come into effect on 1 July 2014, with the exception of the South-east Network Management Plan which is expected to come into effect on 1 July 2013. Minister Burke has asked the Director of National Parks to commence the development of management plans immediately, so that all marine users can have the certainty required to operate in the reserves.
On 17 November 2012, the Director of National Parks issued a notice of invitation for the public to comment on a proposal to prepare draft management plans for marine reserves under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act). Comments were invited on the management of the South-west, North-west, North and Temperate East Networks of Commonwealth Marine Reserves, as well as on management of the Coral Sea Commonwealth Marine Reserve. This first statutory public comment period will close on 18 December 2012.
Further information on the final Commonwealth marine reserves network and advice on providing comment on the preparation of draft management plans, is available from the department’s website: www.environment.gov.au/marinereserves.