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

AUSTRALIA TAKES EARLY PLUNGE INTO 1998 YEAR OF THE OCEAN


26 December 1997
(154/97)

Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill has invoked the spirit of Australia's great sailors to help launch the 1998 UN International Year of the Ocean.

Australia has jumped the starter's gun by using today's start of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race to signal the beginning our 1998 Year of the Ocean efforts.

Senator Hill says Australia's premier yachting event provides the perfect focus for marine conservation efforts.

"The images of this magnificent battle between seasoned competitors and the natural elements will be beamed around Australia and the world.

"It should remind all Australians of the rugged beauty of our oceans and the need to conserve and protect our marine environment.

"Great Australians such as Sir James Hardy, Kay Cottee and Ian Kiernan have sailed the oceans of the world and seen first-hand the damage being done.

"They have returned to Australia determined to protect our oceans and to see Australia play its part in a global effort to turn back the tide of degradation.

"This is the spirit we must capture in the International Year of the Ocean."

Senator Hill says the Federal Government will be stepping up its marine conservation efforts during 1998 and will call on the community to play its part.

"The community really must be the cornerstone of our efforts. It has already shown its commitment to protecting our coasts and beaches through the successful Coastcare program.

"We will build on that commitment through the $125 million Coast and Clean Seas program under the Natural Heritage Trust. This represents the largest funding commitment made by any Australian Government to protect and manage the marine environment."

Senator Hill has signalled that Australia use the International Year to stamp itself as a world leader on marine conservation issues.

"Central to our efforts in 1998 will be the release of Australia's first ever Oceans policy.

"This landmark policy will be one of the first of its kind in the world. It will promote the sustainable use of Australia's ocean resources while protecting the plants and animals of the marine environment.

"Among its priorities will be to reduce sewage and stormwater pollution, protect threatened marine life, help prevent and eradicate marine pests, and increase our ability to protect the coastline against oil spills.

"It will also preserve the future of fishing by restoring fish habitats and promoting sustainable fishing practices, encourage sensible development in coastal areas, and monitor and control illegal fishing by foreign vessels.

"It will build on our existing achievements such as our intention to declare the world's second largest marine park in the Great Australia Bight which will provide new protection for the Southern Right Whale, the Australian Sea Lion and a large sample of marine life which inhabits the sea floor.

"In addition, we have extended the world's largest marine park, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, and will continue our efforts to assist our neighbours to protect and conserve their coral reef systems."

Senator Hill says the Howard Government has also made a concerted effort to ensure the future of our marine life.

"Australia has led the world in conservation efforts to save threatened marine species such as the albatross, the dugong, marine turtles and sharks.

"The first ever restrictions on exporting some of Australia's marine life including all species of seahorses, sea dragons and pipefishes have also been introduced.

"The International Year of the Ocean will also give a renewed focus to Australia's efforts to establish a global sanctuary for whales, bringing to an end the cruel practice of whaling."

Australia now has one of the largest declared Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) in the world, over 11 million square kilometres, an area larger than the Australian land mass. IYO activities will encourage the Australian community to play a greater role in caring for our oceans and help change damaging practices.

Media Enquires
Matt Brown (Senator Hill's office) (02) 6277 7640 or 0419 693 515

Further Information
Will Jones (University of Sydney) Ph: (02) 9351 5636
Maria Simonelli (Environment Australia) Ph: (02) 6274 1906
26 December 1997
(154/97)

Commonwealth of Australia