27 September 2023

Marine Parks planned for island waters

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The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment is to establish two new Marine Parks covering up to 740,000 square kilometres of waters around Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling Islands) in the Indian ocean.

Minister for the Environment, Sussan Ley is to open consultation with the island communities and the commercial fishing industry to establish the Marine Park Area (MPA) larger than that of the Great Barrier Reef and second only to the Coral Sea.

“This is an international marine treasure on Australia’s doorstep; one that is, from a scientific perspective, relatively undisturbed and undiscovered,” Ms Ley said.

“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.”

She said the area was critical for the spawning of blue fin tuna and “while we are yet to unlock its many other secrets, it is important that we protect the ocean’s unique habitats and the species that rely on them”.

“Establishing an MPA will support ocean health, scientific research and the ‘blue economy’ we all depend on, while at the same time providing greater protection from illegal international fishing operations,” Ms Ley said.

“It will play an important strategic role in strengthening Australia’s network of Marine Parks, already among the world’s largest, and lift the percentage of protected Australian waters from 37 per cent to up to 45 per cent.”

Assistant Minister for Regional Development and Territories, Nola Marino said it was important that the Commonwealth national parks Agency, Parks Australia, work with local community groups, industry and stakeholders to design and shape the future of Indian Ocean Territory Marine Parks.

“With the existing Christmas Island National Park covering 63 per cent of the island and with the Pulu-Keeling National Park’s headquarters on the Cocos Islands, Parks Australia is already an important presence in the Indian Ocean Territories,” Ms Marino said.

“Putting the views and aspirations of marine users — especially the Christmas and Cocos Island communities — at the forefront of the process to design these marine parks and manage them into the future is essential,” she said.

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