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

31 January 2001

PROPOSED HEARD ISLAND AND McDONALD ISLANDS MARINE RESERVE


Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill today announced plans to establish the Heard Island and McDonald Islands Marine Reserve in the south Indian Ocean, Australia's most remote sovereign territory.

"The proposed Reserve will contain outstanding and representative habitats, geographical features and terrestrial and marine species. It will cover some 7.6 million hectares, making it the world's largest highly protected marine reserve," Senator Hill said.

"The Heard Island and McDonald Islands Marine Reserve will protect rich benthic habitats, such as unique coral and long-lived glass sponge habitats, and primary foraging areas for land-based marine predators like Southern elephant seals and Macaroni penguins.

"It will also provide a reference area for the study of how ecosystems function within the region and will protect nursery areas for important commercial fish species such as Patagonian toothfish and Mackerel icefish," Senator Hill said.

The proposed Reserve will include the World Heritage-listed Heard Island and McDonald Islands and territorial sea - the existing Heard Island Wilderness Reserve currently managed under territory-specific legislation.

"This means that we will have a single protected area at Heard and McDonald, declared and managed under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. Such moves to establish integrated ocean planning and management is exactly what was envisaged under Australia's Oceans Policy," Senator Hill said.

Issuing a formal notice of intent for the Marine Reserve reflects the Government's commitment to developing a nationally representative system of marine protected areas.

Consultations with the community, including the fishing industry, conservation groups and other stakeholders, have preceded the development of this marine reserve proposal.

Senator Hill said issuing of the notice of intent will trigger a formal 60-day consultation process on the proposal, including future management arrangements, under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

Submissions should be directed to Barbara Jones, Marine and Water Division, Environment Australia, PO Box 787, Canberra, ACT, 2601, by 2 April 2001. Details of the proposed marine protected areas can be found at: http://www.environment.gov.au/marine/marine_protected/commonwealth/future_mpa.html

January 31, 2001

Media contacts:
Belinda Huppatz (Senator Hill's office) 08 8237 7920 or 0419 258 364
Robyn Bromley (Environment Australia) 02 6274 1906

Commonwealth of Australia