Marine National Parks and Sustainable Seafood
Just like national parks on land, marine national parks are places in the sea where wildlife and their habitats are protected.
Marine national parks are essential in protecting the ocean's rich diversity of life. They are havens which allow fish to spawn and grow. They protect vulnerable species such as grey nurse sharks and dugongs and underwater habitats such as coral reefs, kelp forests and seagrass meadows.
Marine national parks also provide us with places to visit, study, be inspired by, and see nature at its best.
The myth of the 'lock out'
Anyone can enter marine national parks (sometimes called 'green' or 'sanctuary' zones). They are designated sanctuaries - natural places where people can swim, boat, snorkel and dive, but where fishing and other extractive uses are not permitted. Far from being places that are 'locked up', marine national parks are places where ocean life (and people) can swim wild and free.
Marine national parks and fisheries
Marine national parks play an important role in sustainable fisheries. They can help rebuild fish populations through increasing the size, biomass and diversity of fish species and can help repopulate surrounding areas through a 'spillover' effect into fished areas.
Just two years after the marine national park zones were expanded on the Great Barrier Reef in 2004, scientists found that coral trout, for example, had increased by 60% in the protected areas. The equation is simple - if you leave fish to breed and replenish, over time there will be greater numbers of bigger fish.
Marine national parks are often zoned within broader areas of management, called 'multiple use marine parks'. Multiple use marine parks are a different management tool as they can be zoned to incorporate a range of uses including fishing, mining and collecting.
Marine national parks around Australia
Australia boasts the third-largest ocean jurisdiction on Earth, but we currently protect less than 5% of our seas in marine national parks. This is way below levels of protection recommended by marine scientists under The UN Convention on Biological Diversity. Despite the fact that water covers almost three quarters of our blue planet, currently less than one per cent of the world's oceans are fully protected. This compares very poorly to roughly 12% protection on land.
Marine national parks are good for the oceans and good for us
We all stand to benefit from fully protected areas in the sea which act as an insurance policy against climate change and other threats, and help create a lasting legacy of healthy oceans for future generations. AMCS is working around the country to secure an adequate network of marine national parks. You can help support this important work by actively getting involved in our campaigns.
Coral Trout image credit: Troy Mayne, Oceanic Imagery