Australia’s portion of the Coral Sea should be designated as a giant no-take marine reserve, according to a new campaign led by the Pew Environment Group (a US-based NGO), several Australian marine scientists, and former Australian Navy officials. The proposed Australian Coral Sea Heritage Park would stretch from the offshore boundary of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park in northeast Australia to the edge of the nation’s maritime boundaries with Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and New Caledonia. It would cover roughly one million km2, making it the largest no-take marine reserve in the world. The proposal is available online at www.globaloceanlegacy.org/coralsea.
A spokesman for Australian Environment Minister Peter Garrett said the Government would consider the proposal. Garrett last year responded favorably to a similar proposal by environment group WWF. “Like the Great Barrier Reef, our greatest natural treasure, [the Coral Sea] should be cherished, and serious attention needs to be given to consider better protecting its environmental values in future,” said Garrett in 2007.
Pew Environment Group has identified Australia’s Coral Sea as one of a small number of places remaining in the world where a very large, highly protected MPA could be created, protected, monitored, and enforced. “The Coral Sea, fully protected, would be a safe haven for globally threatened species and fish that are rapidly declining around the world such as tuna and sharks,” states the proposal for the new park. It recommends assigning management of the proposed closure to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, and buying out all current fishing effort in the Coral Sea. At present, two Commonwealth-managed fisheries operate in the region: a longline fishery and a small mixed fishery. The Queensland Seafood Industry Association has voiced opposition to the proposal, terming it “ludicrous” and calling for any potential MPA in the region to be multiple-use rather than no-take (www.qsia.com.au/docman/media-releases/coral-sea/download.html).