Department of the Environment

Archived media releases and speeches

The Hon Tony Burke MP

Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities

Gillard Government proclaims the final network of Commonwealth marine reserves

Media release
16 November 2012

Australia's precious marine environments have been permanently protected with the proclamation of the world's biggest network of marine reserves.

Environment Minister, Tony Burke, today marked the proclamation which will protect more than 2.3 million square kilometres of ocean environment.

"Australia is a world leader when it comes to protecting our oceans, and so we should be, we've got responsibility for more of the ocean than almost any other country on Earth," Mr Burke said.

"Australia is home to some incredible marine environments including the Perth Canyon in the south-west and the stunning reefs of the Coral Sea and this announcement cements Australia's position as a world leader on environmental protection.

"Australia's oceans support many of the world's endangered marine animals including the Green Turtle, the Blue Whale, the Southern Right Whale, the Australian Sea Lion and the whale shark.

"Following consultation, the Director of National Parks prepared a report on the comments received and I have considered these in making my recommendation to the Governor General that the proposed reserves be declared.

"Of the 80,000 submissions received, the vast majority of submissions were supportive of the Government's plan to create the world's largest network of marine parks.

"The declaration of these new marine reserves delivers on an election commitment and represents a major achievement for the long term conservation and sustainable use of Australia's oceans.

"Even though the new marine reserves have been designed in a way to minimise impacts on industry and recreational users, the Government recognises that there will be impacts on some fishers and we will support those impacted.

"In a separate announcement today, I have also outlined how the Australian Government will be allocating around $100 million in fisheries adjustment assistance to support the creation of the network of marine reserves."

The process of developing the management plans for the new reserves will commence immediately.

"The management plans will set out how the reserves are to be managed and what gear types and activities can and cannot be used and undertaken in the marine reserves,'' Mr Burke said.

"While the management plans for the new reserves are being developed, transitional arrangements will be in place that maintain current arrangements for industry and recreation fishers.

"This means that from 17 November until the new management plans come into effect in July 2014, there will be no 'on the water' changes for users in the new areas added to the Commonwealth reserve estate."

Existing management arrangements for former reserves, or areas subsumed into new reserves, will remain in place until the new management plans come into effect.

New marine reserves have been proclaimed in five of Australia's six large marine regions. The reserves in the South-east region were proclaimed in 2007.

The regions are:

The Coral Sea Region is the jewel in the crown of the marine parks network and covers an area of more than half the size of Queensland. It supports critical nesting sites for the green turtle and is renowned for its diversity of big predatory fish and sharks. The network includes protection for all reefs in the Coral Sea with the final proposal adding iconic reefs such as top dive site Osprey Reef, Marion Reef, Bougainville Reef, Vema Reef, and Shark Reef as marine national parks.

The South-west Marine Region which extends from South Australia to Shark Bay in Western Australia is of global significance as a breeding and feeding ground for a number of protected marine species such as southern right whales, blue whales and the Australian Sea Lion. Features in the South-West region include the Perth Canyon – an underwater area bigger than the Grand Canyon – and the Diamantina Fracture Zone – a large underwater mountain chain which includes Australia's deepest water.

The Temperate East Marine Region which runs from the southern boundary of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park to Bermagui in southern New South Wales, and includes the waters surrounding Lord Howe and Norfolk Islands. It is home to the critically endangered east coast population of grey nurse shark, the vulnerable white shark and has important offshore reef habitat at Elizabeth and Middleton Reefs and Lord Howe Island that support the threatened black cod.

The North Marine Region which includes the Commonwealth waters of the Gulf of Carpentaria, Arafura Sea and the Timor Sea extending as far west as the Northern Territory-Western Australian border. Globally important foraging and resting areas for threatened marine turtle species including flatback, hawksbill, green and olive ridley turtles will be protected. So too will important foraging areas for breeding colonies of migratory seabirds and large aggregations of dugongs.

The North-west Marine Region which stretches from the Western Australian-Northern Territory border through to Kalbarri, south of Shark Bay in Western Australia, is home to the whale shark, the world's largest fish, and provides protection to the world's largest population of humpback whales that migrate annually from Antarctica to give birth in the water off the Kimberley.

The South-east Marine Region which extends from the far south coast of New South Wales, around Tasmania and to South Australia. It includes the Commonwealth waters of Bass Strait and waters surrounding Macquarie Island in the Southern Ocean. Significant variations in water depth and sea-floor features found throughout the South-east Marine Region contribute to the high level of species diversity in the region. The threatened southern right whale and other migratory species, such as southern bluefin tuna, great white sharks and the wandering albatross travel through the South-east Marine Region on their long journeys across the ocean.

For more information, go to www.environment.gov.au/marinereserves