On 16th November 2012, Australia's Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke set in law the world's largest network of marine parks, including the 'jewel in the crown'- the Coral Sea Marine Reserve. The Coral Sea Marine Reserve is located east of the Great Barrier Reef and extends out to the edge of Australia's waters. It is almost 1 million square kilometres equating to an area of more than half the size of Queensland. Half of this is fully protected in a sanctuary zone.
The Federal Government is currently deciding how to manage this new marine park and has released a draft management plan. This is yet another opportunity to take action.
Currently interim management arrangements apply and there will be no on water changes within the park until July 2014.
Why is the Coral Sea Important?
Australia's Coral Sea is a stunning place. It is one of the last few pristine ecosystems on the planet, and a biodiversity hot spot. The Coral Sea is globally recognised for the number and diversity of large ocean predators such as sharks, tunas, marlin, swordfish and sailfish - a true Serengeti of the Seas.
From thickly forested islands to small sandy cays, beautiful coral reefs and deep sea canyons, the Coral Sea contains 49 different habitats and supports over 300 threatened species. At least 28 species of whales and dolphins are found in these waters, some in pods of up to 400 strong. There are 52 species of deepwater sharks and rays, 18 of which are unique to the Coral Sea. The Coral Sea's twilight zone (30 - 100m deep) contains abundant soft corals and large sea fans while cold-water corals live on the deep sea knolls rising 200 to 300 metres from the seafloor.
Help Guide the Management of this Marine Jewel!
The Federal Government is currently deciding how to manage the new Coral Sea Marine Reserve and has released a draft management plan.
Minister Burke listened to our concerns and has increased the protection for Osprey Reef - one of the world's best dive sites and haven for sharks and rays! But the draft management plan, while improving protection in the northwest of Osprey Reef, reduces the level of protection in the southwest of the reef. This is an area of high ecological significance, as it is a cleaning station for sharks, rays and other marine life. Cleaning stations are the 'salons of the seas' - places for marine creatures like fish, turtles, sharks and rays to be pampered by critters like cleaner fish and shrimp, which love to remove (and devour) unwanted parasites.
This area was protected under the government's previous publicly released map and should be restored.
Please take action! Thank Minister Burke for increasing protection in the north but urge him to restore full protection of this relatively small but ecologically important area.
The Australian Marine Conservation Society, along with
, is involved in a visionary campaign to establish a large, world-class, highly protected marine park in the Coral Sea that will provide a safe haven for marine life and recognise its historic significance. You can visit the website of the Protect our Coral Sea campaign