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


31 December 1997

New export restrictions to come into force on New Years Day will help protect some of Australia’s most fascinating marine life.

The export controls to protect Australia's seahorses, sea dragons and pipefishes (collectively called syngnathids) will contribute significantly to preserving our marine biodiversity.

Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill says the new restrictions also help mark the beginning of the 1998 UN International Year of the Ocean.

“The Howard Government has already established a reputation as a world leader on marine conservation issues.

“The coming year will see the government step up those efforts through the development of Australia’s first ever Oceans Policy.”

Senator Hill says syngnathids are coming under increasing commercial pressures.

“Populations of seahorses, sea dragons and pipefishes have declined dramatically in many parts of the world through uncontrolled and excessive trade.

“There is strong demand for syngnathids for use in traditional Asian medicines and from the aquarium industry.

“It is estimated that more than 150,000 specimens were exported from Australia between July 1995 and January 1997.”

Senator Hill says Australia has chosen to take a lead on efforts to conserve these quirky marine creatures.

“With half of the world’s 220 known species of syngnathids occurring in Australian waters, we have a special responsibility to ensure their survival.

“The new restrictions are a precautionary measure by Australia which acknowledges the worldwide concern over the exploitation of syngnathids.”

From New Year's Day export permits will be issued only for specimens that have been captive-bred, or taken from the wild during an approved harvesting operation. People wishing to collect or export syngnathids from Australia for commercial or private purposes must apply for a permit from the State and Federal Environment Departments. Advice about export permits is available from Environment Australia, Wildlife Protection on 02 6250 0300.

Media contacts: Matt Brown (Senator Hill) 0419 693 515 or 02 6277 7640
David Kay (Environment Australia) 02 6250 0766
December 31, 1997 (155/97)

Commonwealth of Australia