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

11 May 2001

BETTER PROTECTION FOR ASHMORE REEF AND CARTIER ISLAND


Majestic coral reefs, migratory water birds and threatened marine turtles are a step closer to a safer future today with the release of a draft management plan for Ashmore Reef National Nature Reserve and Cartier Island Marine Reserve.

Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill today encouraged public comment on the draft management plan, which affects the two Reserves located off Australia's North West Coast.

"Ashmore Reef and Cartier Island are central hubs for marine diversity in Australia's northern waters. They have the highest biodiversity of reefs in the region with 752 species of fish, 256 species of reef building corals, 136 species of sponges and 433 species of molluscs," Senator Hill said.

"The Reserves are safe havens for threatened species including dugongs, three species of marine turtles and sea snakes. Ashmore also has the highest density and diversity of sea snakes anywhere in the world, totalling 40,000 in 16 different species."

This is the second management plan for Ashmore Reef National Nature Reserve, declared in 1983, and the first for the nearby Cartier Island Marine Reserve, declared in June 2000.

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

Proposed management goals and management strategies relating to specific activities in the Reserves such as visits by traditional Indonesian fishers, research and tourism are also detailed in the draft plan.

"It is important to protect these Reserves which are also important breeding habitats for seabirds and migratory water birds, with an estimated 100,000 birds in the Reserves at any one time," Senator Hill said.

"There have been 96 bird species identified, of which 46 are listed under international migratory water bird agreements."

The draft plan is available for public comment until 31 July 2001. Copies are available at: www.environment.gov.au/marine/marine_protected/ashmore/main.html or Environment Australia's Community Information Unit on 1800 803 772.

11 May 2001

Media contact: Belinda Huppatz (08) 8237 7920 or 0419 258 364

Commonwealth of Australia