Wreck reef Coral Sea sharks and divers by John Rumney

Adele Pedder, Australian Society for Marine Conservation

The world’s oceans are facing increasing challenges with climate change, pollution and overfishing. In light of these challenges it is becoming increasingly important to set aside large areas of our ocean to restore some balance beneath the waves and allow marine ecosystems to function in their natural state. Globally more and more nations are relying on marine parks to give their parts of our blue planet a fighting chance.

As stewards of the world’s third-largest marine territory and some of the most diverse marine life on Earth, Australia has a lot at stake. Our continent rises from the junction of three major oceans, and contains tropical, temperate and sub-Antarctic ecosystems, with much of our marine life found nowhere else.

The Turnbull Government has recently proposed marine park plans which will slash our marine sanctuaries – drastically reducing high level green zone protection. The cuts will be equivalent to removing an area twice the size of Victoria and equivalent to removing almost every second national park on land.

Under the Turnbull management plans, 30 out of the 44 marine parks will be open to mining and 42 marine parks would be open to the construction and operation of oil and gas pipelines. 37 of the 44 marine parks are proposed to contain destructive commercial fishing activities like trawling, gillnetting and longlining.

The Government has ignored decades of science, advice from their own independent review, the wishes of local communities, and the voice of hundreds of thousands of Australians who have been consulted over the years. In fact more than 80,000 Australians made a submission during the public consultation last year, rejecting their proposed cuts and asking for more protection, not less. This included more than 16,000 recreational fishers who supported increased marine sanctuaries.

Many of Australia’s marine icons and coastal communities will be affected. Lord Howe Island NSW, Geographe Bay WA, and the jewel in the crown of the network, the Coral Sea Queensland – the cradle to the Great Barrier Reef, just to mention a few. With Australia’s marine tourism industry worth $28 billion per annum, these cuts threaten to undermine Australia’s regional economic development.

These marine park plans must be improved.

Australian Marine Conservation Society is committed to continuing to fight for our sanctuaries. With a federal election potentially as soon as this year, we have a powerful chance to let our elected representatives know that we want a science based marine park network that delivers marine biodiversity conservation and sustainable regional economies.

You can write to your federal MPs and Senators, tell them that these marine park plans aren’t good enough and you want them to fight for our marine sanctuaries, now and into the future.

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