Department of the Environment

Archived media releases and speeches

The Hon Tony Burke MP

Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities

Community feedback on marine reserves at halfway point

Media release
22 June 2011

Environment Minister Tony Burke today encouraged communities to take the opportunity to get involved in the development of marine reserves and bioregional planning in Australia's south-west, with 45 days remaining in a three month consultation period.

In early May, the Government released a draft marine bioregional plan and proposed marine reserves network for the south-west for community feedback before the plans are finalised.

The proposed network of marine reserves covers breeding and feeding grounds for species such as the Australian sea lion, southern right whales and blue whales. It also includes the Perth Canyon which is a deep sea canyon similar in size to the Grand Canyon.

Under the proposed marine reserve network there would be three zones including:

  • Marine National Park zones which would provide the highest level of protection and would be managed to protect areas where marine life live and the important conservation values of the area; limited activities would be permitted;
  • Multiple Use zones which would protect and maintain the conservation values of the area while allowing sustainable economic use, including all recreational fishing. Some types of commercial fishing would be allowed. As is currently the case, certain production and exploration would be permitted subject to national environment law approval; and
  • Special Purpose zones which would allow some activities not allowed in other zones. For example, Special Purpose zones in the proposed south-west marine reserve network would allow the use of some fishing gear types that would not be permitted in Multiple Use zones.

The proposed 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.

Mr Burke said there was a unique opportunity for the Government and community to work together to take steps now to protect the region's marine environment for future generations.

"If these areas of biodiversity had been on land we would have protected them years ago. It is time for the protection of our oceans to start catching up," Mr Burke said.

"Often when we talk about climate change it's about how it affects our land. But climate change is also impacting on our marine environment - ocean acidification and rising water temperatures are putting pressure on our marine life.

"For generations Australians have understood the need to preserve precious areas on land as national parks. Our oceans contain fragile marine life which deserve protection too.

"We have a once in a generation opportunity to put in place the measures needed to protect our precious marine environment for future generations.

"Since I launched the draft plans there has been more than 30 meetings with commercial and recreational fishing groups, government and non-government organisations and more than 10 community open days in coastal centres across South Australia and Western Australia."

Further meetings will be held during the remainder of the consultation period and departmental officers are available to respond to requests for further information or to discuss the details of the proposals and the process for making submissions.

Mr Burke said the Government had worked with the fishing industry, recreational fishing groups, environment groups and other users in the development of a draft bioregional plan and a proposed marine reserves network for the south-west.

"We extended the 60 day consultation period to 90 days to ensure people have every opportunity to provide feedback. The feedback and input the Government receives will assist in finalising the proposal for a new marine reserves network and bioregional plan for the south-west," he said.

The Gillard Government has committed to the development of marine bioregional plans and new marine reserve in four identified regions across Australia to protect the nation's unique marine environment for future generations.

Draft bioregional plans and proposals for marine reserve networks for the north, north-west and east regions are being developed. This will be followed by a three month period of community consultation. Once the proposals are finalised, they will be subject to further public consultation prior to being proclaimed under national environmental law.

For more information on the draft marine bioregional plans and the proposed Commonwealth marine reserves in the South-west region, including high resolution maps, go to www.environment.gov.au/coasts/mbp/south-west.