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Final Coral Sea Marine Reserve has been announced – but it’s not over yet!

In June 2012 the Federal Environment Minister announced the Final Plan for the Coral Sea and other marine reserves as part of the national system of marine reserves around Australia. 

The final decision on the fate of the Coral Sea is undoubtedly a historic step in marine conservation and one that we can all be proud to have helped to make a reality.

Coral Sea Beauty © Lucy Trippett

However, in marine parks it is not the outer boundaries that dictate protection but the zoning boundaries within the park and the related activities permitted in each zone. While a third of Australia’s ocean have been included in marine reserves today, it is important to look at the details to see if the protection that has being given to these wonderful area of our ocean will ensure the long term conservation of healthy populations that inhabits this area and that make the Coral Sea so unique and iconic.

These healthy pelagic populations are probably the most outstanding natural value of the Coral Sea and, despite the scale of this announcement, we have grave concerns about the effectiveness of the hairline of the zoning boundaries in the long term protection of these healthy populations when excluding most of their range from the protection. This can be clearly seen in the western side of Osprey and Shark Reef that have been included in the Marine National Park zone but they will remain open to commercial and recreational fishing.

A Coral Sea marine national park zone created that spans 502,654 square kilometres and will be the world’s second largest fully protected no-take marine reserve. This is part of a larger marine protected area in the Coral Sea, which is nearly 1 million square kilometres in area.

 

Details of the Final Coral Sea Marine Reserve  (Coral Sea Marine Park Map )

  • Longline and bottom trawling have been banned in two thirds of the Coral Sea.
  • Importantly three-quarters of the area is protected from long-line fishing and the majority of the marine reserve is protected from trawling, as we saw in the draft plan.
  •  Osprey Reef, Shark, Vema, Bougainville and Marion Reefs have been added to marine national park ‘green zone’ protection but only by a hairline (250 – 750m from the reef edge).  The important and healthy pelagic populations that make these reefs iconic will still be open to sort of  fishing pressure that has seen shark populations plummet on the Great Barrier Reef. All up 40% of the Coral Sea reef area has been added to the no-take area.

    Coral Sea Map

  •  Importantly three-quarters of the area is protected from long-line fishing and the majority of the marine reserve is protected from trawling, as we saw in the draft plan.
  •  Conservation Park Zones created around Diane, Holmes, Moore, Willis, Saumarez and Flinders Reefs. This zone gives increased protection from the draft plan but again leaves these reefs vulnerable to fishing pressure: Ashmore, Boot, Flora, McDermott Bank, Herald Surprise, Malay, Abington and Tregosse (Australia’s largest emergent reef)have been left in zones open to recreational fishing and some forms of commercial fishing
  •  Frederick, Wreck and Cato Reefs left open to the impacts of recreational fishing and commercial long-line fishing which is well known for its bycatch impact on endangered turtles, sharks and seabirds, will be allowed in thesurrounding waters. Trap fishing will be banned from these reefs and seamounts
  •  The southern region of the Coral Sea – a global predator biodiversity hotspot – is left open to long-line fishing which is well known for its bycatch impact on iconic marine species such as endangered turtles, sharks and seabirds.

 

Grey Reef shark © Lucy Trippett

A public consultation period of around two months will begin in a few weeks and this will be our final chance to call for real and meaningful protection of Osprey and other Coral Sea reefs.

So, this is not over yet and we will be asking for your support. We hope this will be final time we need to ask before the final marine reserve is passed into law.

More info:

Map of the Coral Sea Marine Reserve

Coral Sea Marine Reserve Zoning Scheme

Coral Sea Marine Reserve Fact Sheet

 

Permanent link to this article: https://cafnec.org.au/2012/06/14/final-coral-sea-marine-reserve-announced-today-but-its-not-over-yet/