The Coral Sea, which is a global biodiversity hotpot for pelagic species has today been protected in the world’s largest marine park, adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef. The Coral Sea Marine Reserve is truly the jewel in the crown of a new system of marine parks around Australia that recognise the value of our oceans as the common heritage of all Australians and make’s Australia the world leader in marine protection.
We now urge the Minister for the Environment to do all he can to protect the Coral Sea by developing a comprehensive and effective management plan. The world’s largest marine park deserves world-class management.
Coral Sea Reefs and Seamounts:
In the Coral Sea, reefs are perched on top of massive underwater mountains that support a myriad of marine life. The slopes of these seamounts provide crucial foraging, breeding and refuge habitat for corals, fish and even whales. At Osprey, Shark and Vema Reefs the slopes are not protected leaving the reef ecosystem vulnerable.
The Osprey Group of reefs should provide sanctuary for the world-renowned, healthy shark population that helps make them iconic. Protection needs to be improved by extending the national park zone 10kms from the reef edge.
Pelagic Biodiversity Hotspot:
The southern Coral Sea has been identified as a global ‘biodiversity hot spot’ for big ocean fish such as sharks, tunas, marlin and other billfish. These apex predators are necessary to maintain a complex ecosystem full of diversity and life, yet scientists estimate that in the last 50 years overfishing has reduced global populations by 90%.
Predator removal can cause a potentially irreversible cascade of complex knock-on effects (known as trophic cascades). Due to the deeply interconnected food webs of our oceans, the full extent of potential and already occurring trophic cascades triggered by the removal of big ocean fish remains unknown. The Coral Sea is one of few places, globally, where a healthy intact population still exists. Under the zoning arrangements for the Coral Sea Marine Reserve this area is still open to a long line fishery that targets these species and has a large bycatch of shark.
The major long-line operators who fish the waters north of 22 degrees south are willing to exit this biologically significant area, provided they receive fair and reasonable fisheries adjustment assistance. We strongly urge the government to take this opportunity to remove all fishing from this region and to extend the national park zone down to 22 degrees south, with a small extension around the historically significant Wreck Reef.
Other Management Considerations:
- The world-class compliance management system used in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park should be extended over the Coral Sea Marine Reserve.
- New and adequate funding for implementation of the management plan should be designated.
About the New Marine Park:
- Nearly 1 million km2 included in the marine park.
- Oil and gas exploration is banned from the park.
- Just over 500,000km2 to become marine national park (green) zone.
- Long line fishing – a threat to sharks, turtles and seabirds – is excluded from nearly ¾ of the park.
- Bottom-trawling which damages sea-floor habitat is restricted to one very small area on the continental slope.
- Increased protection for reefs.
Over the next 30 days – from 17th November to the 17th December 2012 – public input is invited on what should be included in the draft management plan for the Coral Sea. You can have your say at: http://www.protectourcoralsea.org.au