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10 November 2008
The release of a comprehensive profile of Australia's North-west Marine Region is the first step in the marine planning process for one of our most environmentally sensitive and economically important ocean areas, Minister for the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts Peter Garrett said today.
Mr Garrett said today's release of the North-west Marine Bioregional Profile completed the first milestone in the planning process, which will culminate within two years with a Marine Bioregional Plan including a network of Marine Protected Areas.
"The North-west Bioregional Profile consolidates the best and latest environmental information on this vast area that includes Commonwealth waters stretching from west of Kalbarri, south of Shark Bay on the Western Australian coast, around the north-west corner of Australia to the Northern Territory border," Mr Garrett said.
"This body of work will be crucial as we plan for greater protection of marine biodiversity in a region characterised by sub-tropical and tropical ecosystems and iconic creatures including turtles, dugongs and the famous Ningaloo whale sharks."
"Marine Bioregional Planning will help ensure that national economic assets such as the oil and gas and commercial fishing industries can prosper and that the impact of any conservation measures on them are minimised."
The North-west Marine Region accounts for 67 per cent of Australia's oil and condensate production (2006-07 value of $16.4 billion) and 69 per cent of its gas reserves. It also features 16 commercial fisheries in offshore, Commonwealth waters and a further 15 fisheries in state waters. In 2005-06, the finfish, prawn and crab industries associated with the region were valued at around $42 million.
"Protecting this rich and diverse Marine Region is valuable not only for Australia's environmental sustainability, but for our economic development into the future. The North-west Marine Bioregional Profile, ensures we have an information base upon which to make environmental decisions and set priorities for management," Mr Garrett said.
"The North-west Marine Region already has in place four important Commonwealth marine reserves, which play a vital role in protecting resources and biodiversity in these waters. The Australian Government and stakeholders, including the indigenous community, now have the data to begin discussions on the shape of a network of Marine Protected Areas in Commonwealth waters that truly represents the biodiversity of this region."
Mr Garrett said he aimed to release a Marine Bioregional Plan for the region in mid 2010.
The North-west marine region
More information on the North-west Marine Bioregional Profilecan be found at www.environment.gov.au/coasts/mbp/north-west