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The Hon Peter Garrett AM MP
Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts

Improved protection for the Coral Sea as marine planning continues

Media Release
19 May 2009
PG/272

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Environment Minister Peter Garrett today announced the establishment of the Coral Sea Conservation Zone under national environmental law, protecting the unique characteristics of the Coral Sea while an assessment process is undertaken.

“The establishment of this conservation zone demonstrates the Australian Government’s continuing commitment to protect and conserve Australia’s marine environment,” Minister Garrett said.

“The Coral Sea Conservation Zone will protect this environmentally significant area from increasing pressures while the marine bioregional planning process is undertaken, with a final plan scheduled for completion in 2010.”

The Coral Sea Conservation Zone covers 972,000 km2 of Australian waters and seabed east of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, out to the edge of Australia’s Exclusive Economic Zone.

“The pressures on our oceans are increasing and we need to take clear steps to protect our fragile marine environments. Just last week, I was privileged to witness six leaders of our neighbouring countries agree to work cooperatively and decisively to preserve their coral reefs through the Coral Triangle Initiative” Mr Garrett said.

Minister Garrett announced the Conservation Zone while releasing the East Marine Bioregional Profile at the Sydney Aquarium. The profile is the first stage of the marine bioregional planning process for the region.

“The bioregional planning process is part of Australia’s push to better understand our marine resources from a scientific and socio-economic perspective and the best means of protecting them. This Bioregional Profile identifies key habitats, species, natural processes, heritage values and human activities in the area,” Mr Garrett said.

The East Marine Region covers 2.4 million square kilometres from the Torres Strait to southern New South Wales, and as far east as Norfolk Island. The region encompasses the Coral Sea, but does not include the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park or the Torres Strait Protected Zone.

“The East Profile shows that the environmental significance of the Coral Sea lies in its unique array of coral reefs, atolls, deep sea plains and canyons, and the extent to which the region’s natural and heritage values have remained relatively undisturbed by direct human impact,” Mr Garrett said.

“It is for these reasons I have taken the step of declaring the region a conservation zone, protecting it from increasing pressures while a detailed assessment of the area is undertaken through the national marine bioregional planning process.”

Mr Garrett said the establishment of the Conservation Zone would allow for detailed and extensive consultation with local communities and stakeholders before any permanent protection measures are proposed.

“Acknowledging the concerns of the affected stakeholders, the Conservation Zone I am announcing today will not impact on existing commercial, recreational or traditional Indigenous fishing, or cruise and merchant shipping in the area,” said Mr Garrett.

“There will also be no new regulatory impacts on commercial activities such as charter boat and tourism operations other than the requirement for a permit, for which there is no cost. Further consultation will be a critical part of the marine bioregional planning process.”

“The next phase of the marine bioregional planning process will inform the development of the draft East Marine Bioregional Plan. Any permanent protection measures being considered for the East Marine Region, including in the Coral Sea, will be subject to extensive consultation during this time,” he said.

To download a copy of the East Bioregional Profile, visit: www.environment.gov.au/coasts/mbp/east/index.html For more information about the Coral Sea Conservation Zone, go to: www.environment.gov.au/coasts/coral-sea.html

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