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21 September 2009
The Australian Government has identified ‘Areas of Further Assessment’ in northern Australia as part of its comprehensive planning process to protect Australia’s marine biodiversity.
Announcing this latest step in the marine planning process for the North and Northwest marine regions, Environment Minister Peter Garrett said the areas under assessment are not proposed boundaries for marine reserves or protected areas.
“The Australian Government has identified the areas for assessment as the first step in refining our information on how people use the marine environment, whether it’s for recreation, commercial fishing, oil and gas development or other uses.
“These ‘Areas for Further Assessment' are large areas within Commonwealth waters that encompass examples of the vast range of biodiversity and ecosystems in Australia’s northern waters.
“Over the next few months the Government will be consulting with stakeholders to gather further information on the human activities within these areas.
“The aim of the consultation process is to gain a thorough understanding of the potential socio-economic impacts of any new marine reserves that may be established within these areas,” Mr Garrett said.
Mr Garrett said the Government’s objective is to achieve good conservation outcomes while minimising socio-economic impacts.
“The areas we are going to be assessing further are not the proposed boundaries for marine reserves or protected areas,” Mr Garrett said.
“Following consultation with key stakeholders in the north and north-west regions, as well as the Western Australian, Queensland and Northern Territory Governments, we will look at identifying new marine reserves within the areas. These proposed marine reserves will be included in the draft bioregional plans which are due to be released early in 2010.”
Mr Garrett said the same process had commenced in South-west marine region in May and his Department had consulted extensively with industry and other stakeholders. A draft marine bioregional plan for the South-west region, including proposed marine reserves, is planned to be released for public consultation early in 2010.
The marine bioregional plans are being developed under national environment law and will fulfill the Australian Government’s commitment to establishing a National Representative System of Marine Protected Areas as agreed by all Australian governments over a decade ago.