Department of the Environment

Archived media releases and speeches

The Hon Tony Burke MP

Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities

Australia working to protect the international marine environment

Media release
16 May 2013

Australia is acting on the international stage to address ocean fertilisation, an emerging technology that presents a significant risk to the international marine environment.

Environment Minister Tony Burke said Australia has formally submitted a proposed amendment to the London Protocol for discussion at its meeting in October.

"From creating the world's largest network of marine reserves, to preventing the super trawler from fishing without the sufficient scientific checks and putting Ningaloo Reef on the World Heritage List, this Government has made it clear that we will not take risks with our precious oceans,'' Mr Burke said.

"The amendment seeks to put mandatory regulation in place around the practice of ocean fertilisation.

"It prohibits commercial ocean fertilisation activities, while allowing for legitimate scientific research to identify potential benefits and ways to safely manage the process."

The London Convention and Protocol provide the global rules and standards on protecting the marine environment from pollution caused by dumping wastes at sea.

The potential impacts of ocean fertilisation could be severe and may include ocean acidification, harmful algal blooms, oxygen depletion in deep waters, or other unwanted ecosystem changes and human health consequences.

"Australia is leading the world in advocating for more research on ocean fertilisation. This is an important opportunity to protect the international marine environment,'' Mr Burke said.

"Australia has worked with Nigeria, the Republic of Korea, and a number of other countries to develop the draft text of the amendment.

"The London Protocol and Convention has been concerned about this issue for some time and in 2008 adopted a voluntary resolution prohibiting ocean fertilisation activities other than legitimate scientific research.

"Adoption of Australia's proposed amendment would mean that the 42 parties to the London Protocol would take a precautionary approach while more research is undertaken.

"This is in line with the Australian Government's approach of using the best available science to protect our precious marine resources."