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

REPORT SUPPORTS GOVERNMENT'S PLANS TO PROTECT SEAMOUNTS


5 June 1998
(60/98)

A major study into the marine life found on undersea mountains off Tasmania's south coast has strengthened the Howard Government's case for a new marine park in the area.

CSIRO Marine Research has recommended the protection of the unique marine life of the Tasmanian seamounts.

Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill says the report adds weight to the government's proposal to include the seamounts in what will be Australia's first deep-sea marine protected area.

"Because of the area's unique values, we have identified the seamounts as a priority area in our program to ensure that a comprehensive system of representative marine parks is in place in Commonwealth waters.

"The Seamount Fauna off Southern Tasmania: Benthic communities, their conservation and impacts of trawling includes the results of a three-year project by the CSIRO, jointly funded by Environment Australia and the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation.

"The Tasmanian seamounts, which are in Commonwealth waters, include around 70 mountains which rise from water depths of between 1000 and 2000 metres on the continental slope, between 50 and 100 kilometers off southern Tasmania. They are 200 to 500 meters high and several kilometers across at their base.

"This field of seamounts is a distinctive geological feature not known to occur anywhere else in Australian waters.

"The research has found the seamounts support an incredibly diverse range of bottom-living plants and animals such as corals and crabs, many of which are new to science and are not found anywhere else in the world.

"Some of the species are of considerable scientific interest and may hold clues to understanding the taxonomy and evolution of major groups of Australia's marine life.

"Environment Australia will now consult with the users of the region, including the fishing industry and all other interested parties, to establish a marine protected area to conserve a sample of this unique environment."

Senator Hill says the pro-active support of the fishing industry for the research into the Tasmanian seamounts has been important.

"The cooperation and environmentally-responsible attitude shown by the fishing industry is to be commended and demonstrates how conservation efforts and marine-based industries can go hand in hand."

Contact:
Matt Brown (Senator Hill) 02 6277 7640 or 0419 693 515
Peter Taylor (Environment Australia) 02 62741759 or 0419 293 465
5 June 1998
60/98

Commonwealth of Australia