||Macquarie Commonwealth Marine Reserve
||27 October 1999
|Types of zoning
||Overall — IUCN Category IV . Includes three Zones as follows:
- Highly Protected Zone — IUCN Category Ia — 5 800 000 Ha (58 000 km2)
- Northern Species/Habitat Protection Zone — IUCN Category IV — 2 700 000 Ha (27 000 km2)
- Southern Species/Habitat Protection Zone — IUCN Category IV — 7 700 000 Ha (77 000 km2)
|Management plan status
||Interim management arrangements
||Macquarie Island World heritage listing
The Macquarie Island Commonwealth Marine Reserve is situated in the Southern Ocean about 1500 km south east of Tasmania. The Park lies adjacent to the Macquarie Island Nature Reserve which is managed by the Tasmanian Government. This reserve includes Macquarie Island and associated Judge and Clerk Islets and Bishop and Clerk Islets.
Judge and Clerk Islets are located approximately 11 kilometres to the north of Macquarie Island, and Bishop and Clerk Islets are located approximately 37 kilometres to the south. Macquarie Island itself is approximately 34 kilometres long and up to five kilometres wide. These are the only terrestrial environments in the Macquarie Island Region.
The Region of Australia's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) around Macquarie Island covers about 47.6 million hectares. It extends 200 nautical miles out from Macquarie Island and associated islets in most directions. The north-eastern portion of the Region extends to meet New Zealand waters around Campbell and Auckland Islands and the south-eastern portion of the Region is adjacent to an area of Australia's claimable continental shelf. It includes a large portion of the submerged Macquarie Ridge, which stretches north-south through the centre of the Region and interacts with the strong oceanic fronts to create several distinct oceanographic sections within the Region.
Macquarie Island Commonwealth Marine Reserve covers about 16.2 million hectares.
Discovery of the island is attributed to Captain Frederick Hasselborough of the brig Perseverance who sighted it on 11 July 1810 during a sealing voyage out of Sydney, there is some evidence that Polynesians may have visited the island before him as he recorded seeing a wreck 'of ancient design' on the island. Hasselborough named the place after the then Governor of New South Wales, Lachlan Macquarie.
From when it was first discovered, Macquarie Island was also of interest to scientists. The Russian expedition led by Thaddeus von Bellinghausen collected flora and fauna on the island in 1820. Charles Wilkes's US Exploring Expedition and two New Zealand scientists, JH Scott and A. Hamilton, followed. Joseph Burton spent three and a half years from 1896 collecting specimens while working with oiling parties on the island. Scientists with Captain Robert Scott in 1901 and Sir Ernest Shackleton in 1909 also collected specimens on the island.
In 1911, Australia's Sir Douglas Mawson established the island's first scientific station. The station was primarily used to conduct geomagnetic observations and map the island but also studied the island's botany, zoology, meteorology and geology. The Mawson's expedition also established the first radio link between Australia and Antarctica by setting up a radio relay station on Wireless Hill. This allowed communication between Mawson's main expedition group at Commonwealth Bay on the Antarctic mainland and Australia.
From 1913 to 1915 the meteorological observations begun by Mawson's group were continued by the Commonwealth Meteorological Service. The observations were discontinued after the loss of the relief ship Endeavour with all crew and passengers in 1914. Macquarie Island's Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions (ANARE) station was established on 25 March 1948 and has been operating continuously ever since.
Despite Macquarie Island's great natural beauty, not everyone has been keen to visit it. In 1822 Captain Douglass, of the ship Mariner described it as 'the most wretched place of involuntary and slavish exilium that can possibly be conceived; nothing could warrant any civilised creature living on such a spot'.
Despite the harsh treatment meted out to convicts during Australia's colonial era, administrators baulked at sending them to Macquarie Island. In 1826 the Hobart Town Gazette contained the quote: 'the remote and stormy region in which Macquarie Island is placed is a strong reason against the adoption of that place as a penal settlement'.
But the lure of skins and oil led many people in the 1820s to brave the weather and isolation. Within the first 18 months of commercial operations on the island at least 120 000 fur seals were killed for their skins and ten years later the population, which had initially been estimated at between 200 000 and 400 000, had been driven to the point of extinction.
Once the fur seal population was unable to support the skin industry, the focus of commercial activity turned to elephant seals. The seals' blubber was refined to extract oil that was used for products such as soap and lamp oil. By the mid-1840s numbers of elephant seals had been reduced by 70 percent.
Commercial exploitation then turned to the island's three million strong penguin population. Whilst not as valuable as seal oil, penguin oil had the advantage of being relatively easy to obtain. After the king penguin colony at Lusitania Bay was devastated by this activity, attention turned to the royal penguins at The Nuggets. At the peak of the industry in 1905, the plant established at The Nuggets was processing 2000 penguins at a time with each penguin producing about half a litre of oil.
During this period a dispute between the colonies of Tasmania and New Zealand about sovereignty over the island was resolved in Tasmania's favour. Macquarie Island is now part of Tasmania's Huon Municipality.
Commercial exploitation of the island finished in 1920 and Macquarie Island was declared a wildlife sanctuary in 1933. With the establishment of the Tasmanian National Parks and Wildlife Service in 1971, Macquarie Island became a conservation area. It was upgraded to a state reserve in 1972 and in 1978 was renamed the Macquarie Island Nature Reserve. In 1998 Macquarie Island was granted World Heritage status and the Macquarie Island Commonwealth Marine Reserve was proclaimed on 27 October 1999.
A substantial amount of information on the geology and ecology of the Island has been produced from these voyages and ongoing research based on the Island. The Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) maintains a research station year round on Macquarie Island. Several studies into the activities of the marine mammals and seabirds that rely on the Island are conducted there each year. Many of these studies are components of ongoing projects aimed at gaining a better understanding of the relationship between land-based animals and the surrounding marine environment.
The island and surrounding area are unique in their geological characteristics. It is the only known location where oceanic crust, from a normal mid-ocean ridge, has been lifted above sea level in a major oceanic basin. Moreover, its overall north-south trend means that it acts as a major barrier to the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, the earth's largest and most important oceanic current, which flows eastward about the Antarctic landmass. This impacts on the balance of oceanic and atmospheric heat and chemical exchange, which in turn has an effect on the southern hemisphere's weather patterns.
A number of species found in the Macquarie Island Region, including five albatross species, four penguin species and two seal species, are under local or global threat and because most of these species require extremely large migratory or foraging ranges, protection of their critical feeding and migratory areas has international significance.
These species include:
- Subantarctic fur seal (Arctocephalus tropicalis)
- Antarctic tern (Sterna vittata)
- Fairy prion (southern) (Pachyptila turtur)
- Grey petrel (Procellaria cinerea)
- Blue petrel (Halobaena caerulea)
- Black-browed albatross (Thalassarche melanophrys)
- Wandering albatross (Diomedea exulans)
Although the timing of many species seasonal occupation of the Region and their behaviour while onshore are well documented, the behaviour of these animals while in the marine environment or outside breeding seasons requires further research.
Elephant seals and gentoo penguins, Australian Antarctic Division