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Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment and Heritage
23 April 1999
The Australian government has called on the international community to support the establishment of a global system of marine protected areas to protect marine biodiversity.Speaking in New York at the United Nation's Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) session on oceans and seas, Federal Environment and Heritage Minister, Robert Hill, said that the international community must act now to protect the world's marine assets before they are lost. "The Australian government recognises the vital role that marine reserves play in ensuring that marine ecosystems and species are properly protected," Senator Hill said. "Australia is therefore seeking a new commitment from the Commission on Sustainable Development and all nation's in support of the creation of a representative system of marine protected areas within their Exclusive Economic Zones. "While all nation's have the capacity to declare marine protected areas within their EEZ's, so far the performance of the world community has been uneven and patchy. Senator Hill said that he has also called on the international community to support the creation of marine protected areas on the high seas. "At present there is no international legal mechanism for the creation of marine reserves outside of national jurisdictions," Senator Hill said. "Yet it is just as important that we ensure that the biodiversity found in the high seas is conserved through marine protected areas. "The expanding capacity of nation's to exploit marine resources in international waters poses considerable threats to many marine environmental values. Ensuring that representative samples of marine ecosystems are included in marine protected areas must therefore be a priority. "As part of our efforts to improve international cooperation on oceans issues, Australia is supporting, at this week's meeting of the CSD, the creation of an Open-Ended Working Group on Oceans which will report annually to the General Assembly of the United Nations. /2 "I have indicated that Australia will be seeking to ensure that the proposed Working Group considers mechanisms to allow marine reserves to be created in international waters. "Australia is a world leader in this area - our waters contain and world's largest two marine parks and our management arrangements in the Great Barrier Reef are regarded as an exemplar model within the international community. "We are therefore well placed to lead the push for an international system of marine protected areas. "In doing so, I have stressed that marine protected areas are entirely consistent with the international community's support for sustainable development and should not be seen as a threat to the economic interests of individual nations. "In this respect, the multiple-use approach that Australia has used within the Great Barrier Reef has represented an excellent example of how conservation requirements can accommodate other uses of marine areas such as tourism, recreation and fishing," Senator Hill said. For further information: Rod Bruem (Senator Hill's office) 02 6277 7640