The Commonwealth Government worked with communities to establish a network of marine reserves, starting in the South-west, to drive a sustainable future for our marine environment and to ensure our oceans stay healthy and productive. This network of marine reserves has now been completed around Australia and planning for future management is underway.
The network of marine reserves in the south-west region covers an area of approximately 538 000 km2 in Commonwealth waters, which start 5.5 kilometres off the coast. Almost 90 per cent of the marine species in parts of the south-west are not found anywhere else in the world and a third of the world’s whale and dolphin species are found in this region. It also includes the Perth Canyon which is a deep sea canyon similar in size to the Grand Canyon.
The Government has worked with the fishing industry, recreational fishing groups, environment groups and other users in the development of a bioregional plan and a marine reserves network for the south-west. Through the initial consultation in the development of these draft plans, where possible, we have avoided having an impact on local jobs or people who love to fish.
It is important to remember that these reserves will be established only in Commonwealth waters, which generally start 3 nautical miles (5.5 kilometres) from the coast. Beaches, estuaries, bays, coastal waters and the waters around islands are all managed by the states and the Northern Territory.
On the east coast, anywhere south of Mackay, you would be hard pressed to find an area where recreational fishing was banned. If you are at Mackay and headed north, you’d have to travel for around 400 km before you hit a no take zone.
The Government recognises that Australians need our oceans to be healthy if they are going to keep providing us with fish to eat, a place to fish, sustainable tourism opportunities and a place for families to enjoy. But the fact is that our marine environment is under long-term pressure from climate change and increasing industry activity.
We have a once in a generation opportunity to put in place the measures needed to protect our precious marine environment for future generations.
Further information on marine reserve network may be found at: http://www.environment.gov.au/coasts/mpa/southeast/index.html