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24 March 2010
Environment Protection Minister, Peter Garrett, said the release today of the Areas for Further Assessment for the East Marine Region marks an important milestone in an unprecedented effort to assess the unique economic and environmental values of the Australian east coast marine environment.
Mr Garrett said the ongoing process would inform the development of a network of 'multiple use' and 'no-take' marine reserves in Commonwealth waters throughout the region, which covers 2.4 million square kilometres from the Torres Strait to southern New South Wales, and as far east as Norfolk Island.
"Today's identification of Areas for Further Assessment kicks off a new round of scientific assessment and consultation that will help ensure that any future decisions about protecting our marine environment are made taking into account the need to minimise the impacts on industry," Mr Garrett said.
"This ongoing consultation program is critical to ensure that we gain a comprehensive understanding about the areas that are important to both industry and to recreational fishers, as well as being environmentally significant so that we can ensure we get the balance right in our future planning.
"The Hunter Area for Further Assessment, located off Newcastle, is adjacent to the Great Lakes Marine Park in NSW state waters. It extends from three to around 120 nautical miles off the shore at its widest point," Mr Garrett said.
The Hunter area connects coastal waters with deeper ocean environments and include important seafloor features such as canyons of the continental slope and shelf edge rocky reefs.
"The Australian Government is committed to the enormous task of better understanding Australia's waters so that we can conserve our unique marine environment and sustain our marine based industries into the future," Mr Garrett said.
Seven areas, plus the Coral Sea Conservation Zone, have been identified for further assessment. The seven areas are the Fraser, Tweed, Clarence, Hunter, Batemans, Hunter and Norfolk.
"These areas for further assessment are simply areas where more detailed information will be collected. Importantly, they do not have any regulatory impact on industries, recreational fishers, boating enthusiasts, tourism operators and other users," Mr Garrett said.
Once consultation on the Areas for Further Assessment has concluded, the Government will finalise proposals for a network of marine reserves in the East Marine Region, which will be identified in the draft marine bioregional plan due out early next year. Stakeholders and the public will again be able to give the government feedback on the proposed marine protected areas during a statutory consultation period on the draft plan.
"Everyone with a stake in Australia's marine environment will have the opportunity to provide detailed information and express their views on the draft bioregional plans," Mr Garrett said.
Marine bioregional plans are being developed under national environment law and will fulfil the Australian Government's 2002 commitment to establish a National Representative System of Marine Protected Areas by 2012.
For further information on the marine bioregional planning process go to www.environment.gov.au/mbp