Mon, 14 Jun 2021

Australia establishes new marine parks

Xinhua
13 May 2021, 13:05 GMT+10

CANBERRA, May 13 (Xinhua) -- The Australian Government has declared two new massive marine parks in the Indian Ocean in a bid to conserve the area.

Sussan Ley, the Minister for the Environment, announced on Wednesday the government would establish two new marine parks covering up to 740,000 square km, an area bigger than France and twice the size of the Great Barrier Reef marine park, around Cocos and Christmas Islands off the coast of Western Australia (WA).

It will increase the proportion of Australia's waters under marine park protection from 37 to 45 percent.

Ley said the move will deliver greater protection from illegal fishing operations.

"This is an international marine treasure on Australia's doorstep, one that is from a scientific perspective relatively undisturbed and undiscovered," she said in a statement.

"The Christmas and Cocos Islands boast some of the most fascinating and unique ecosystems on earth and this is about extending that protection to the surrounding waters of the Indian Ocean," Ley said.

Marine parks are declared as either green, yellow, dark blue or light blue zones with each designation offering a different level of protection.

Jessica Meeuwig, the director of the Marine Futures Lab at the University of WA, welcomed the announcement, saying the areas were rich in biodiversity "because they're stepping stones across the wider ocean."

However, there are concerns that existing marine parks haven't had enough protection measures to prevent extractive industries from harming the environment.

According to a study published on the Aquatic Conservation journal in 2015, failure in zoning for commercial activities meant there were "business as usual" for extractive industry, in spite of establishment of marine parks.

"For Australia there is no evidence that more threatened biodiversity features (such as shallow-water corals, fishing grounds and the coastline) have been given precedence, and strong evidence for the opposite pattern," it said. "More direct evidence relates to biases away from areas valuable for commercial fishing and extraction of oil and gas."

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