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Media Release
Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment and Heritage

27 October 2000

SPONGE GARDENS WIN NEW ENVIRONMENTAL SAFEGUARDS


Green turtle nesting grounds, tropical seabird species and spectacular sponge gardens in the Coringa-Herald National Nature Reserve and the Lihou Reef National Nature Reserve will be further protected in a new draft management plan.

Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill said the draft plan is the second management plan for each of the Reserves, located on the Coral Sea Plateau east of Cairns, with the existing plans being in place since 1989.

"The draft plan will ensure the continued protection of the region's rich terrestrial and marine biodiversity," Senator Hill said.

"Lihou Reef is the largest reef structure in the Coral Sea and has 18 small sand islands around its horseshoe-shaped reef. The Reserve boundary for Coringa-Herald encloses extensive coral reefs and six small islands.

"These unique islands are home to some of the most ecologically significant seabird rockeries in the Coral Sea region.

"Many of the 13 seabird species that breed on these tiny islands are included under the Japan-Australia and China-Australia Migratory Bird Agreements. Species include the red-footed booby, least frigatebird, great frigatebird, and the red-tailed tropic bird.

"Algae and large sponge gardens form an important part of the marine fauna. The Reserves are also home to hermit crabs, starfish, feather stars, sea urchins, and other invertebrate groups."

Senator Hill said the draft management plan would use education and regulation to help minimise the risk of damage to the Reserves from human use.

"The draft plan proposes prohibiting extractive commercial activities, such as mineral and petroleum exploration and development, commercial fishing and bio-prospecting.

"As Strict Nature Reserves, they will be managed for scientific research, to ensure habitats, ecosystems and native species are preserved in as undisturbed state as possible.

"Limited passive commercial tourist and recreational activities, and other ecologically sustainable activities, will be allowed in the Reserves under permit.

"Camping, charter fishing and game fishing will not be allowed. Fishing for immediate consumption will be limited by the Plan and by Regulations under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999," Senator Hill said.

The draft plan is available for public comment until 18 December 2000 and copies are available from Environment Australia's website at:

www.environment.gov.au/marine/marine_protected/coringa/main.html or
www.environment.gov.au/marine/marine_protected/lihou/main.html

or Environment Australia's Community Information Unit on 1800 803 772.

Media enquires:
Senator Hill's Office Belinda Huppatz (02) 6277 7640 or 0419 258 364
Environment Australia Dr David Kay (02) 6274 2374

Commonwealth of Australia