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New marine protected areas for Australia

Press release from World Wildlife Fund | May 05, 2006

Melbourne, Australia - Australia has committed to creating 13 new Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), totalling 226,000km2 in Australia's south-eastern waters. The area covers waters off the Australian states of Victoria, Tasmania, southern New South Wales and eastern South Australia, paving the way for the creation of a national network of MPAs throughout Australia's vast ocean territory.
"The MPAs are a good start to building a safety net for marine biodiversity in the south-east region, but there are some big holes in the net"
- Dr Ray Nias, WWF-Australia's conservation director

While welcoming the announcement of the MPAs, WWF expressed some concern that the park system was still far from being comprehensive, adequate or representative, and represent a major concession to oil, gas and fishing interests.

"These new marine protected areas are a significant contribution to the protection of marine biodiversity in Australia, and certainly impressive by world standards, but they fall short of best practice in terms of marine science and planning," said Dr Ray Nias, WWF-Australia's conservation director.

This includes not adequately addressing the very low level of protection of the shallower coastal shelf, Bass Strait and the Cascades where a significant amount of the region's biodiversity is likely to occur. Although welcoming a provision that allows for upgrading protection levels in many areas, WWF is disappointed that zones closed to commercial fishing are not also closed to recreational fishing.

Underwater, the south-east region is a rich and complex seascape, complete with canyons, deep sea trenches, underwater mountains and plateaus. The area represents a significant addition to the protection of temperate marine biodiversity worldwide. However, it should be noted that only around 10 per cent of the total area will be fully protected from all extractive uses.

"The MPAs are a good start to building a safety net for marine biodiversity in the south-east region, but there are some big holes in the net," Dr Nias said. "Strong and independent scientific advice is the best safeguard for biodiversity in regional marine planning."

With the clock ticking on Australia's commitments to build a national system of representative marine protected networks by 2012, WWF hopes to see an accelerated roll-out of more MPAs around the rest of the country.

editors note For further information:
Jacqueline McArthur, Communications Manager
Tel: +61 2 8202 1237

Article has been adapted from a news release issued by World Wildlife Fund. Click here for the original news release.

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