The Morrison Government is moving to secure the future of one of our last ‘untouched’ marine environments with plans to establish two new Marine Parks, covering up to 740,000 square kilometres of waters around Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling Islands).
Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley will open consultation with Island communities and the commercial fishing industry to establish a Marine Park Area (MPA) larger than that of the Great Barrier Reef (348, 000 km2) and second only to the Coral Sea (989,000 km2).
“This is an international marine treasure on Australia’s doorstep, one that is from a scientific perspective relatively undisturbed and undiscovered,” she said.
“The Christmas and Cocos Islands boast some of the most fascinating and unique ecosystems on earth and this is about extending that protection to the surrounding waters of the Indian Ocean.
“We know that this is a critical area for spawning blue fin tuna and, while we are yet to unlock its many other secrets, it is important that we protect the ocean’s unique habitats and the species that rely on them.
“Establishing an MPA would support ocean health, scientific research and the ‘blue economy’ we all depend on, while at the same time providing greater protection from illegal international fishing operations.
“It would play an important strategic role in strengthening Australia’s network of Marine Parks, already among the world’s largest, and lift the percentage of protected Australian waters from 37 per cent to up to 45 per cent.
“As part of our $100 million Oceans Leadership package, the Morrison Government will commit $5.4 million towards supporting local jobs and economic growth associated with the new marine park.”
Assistant Minister for Regional Development and Territories, Nola Marino said that it was important Commonwealth national parks agency, Parks Australia, work with local community groups, industry and stakeholders to design and shape the future of Indian Ocean Territory marine parks.
“With the existing Christmas Island National Park covering 63 percent of the island and with the Pulu-Keeling National Park’s headquarters on the Cocos Islands, Parks Australia is already an important presence in the Indian Ocean Territories, and an integral part of the local island community fabric,” Assistant Minister Marino said.
“Putting the views and aspirations of marine users – especially the Christmas and Cocos Island communities – at the forefront of the process to design these marine parks and manage them into the future is essential.
“We will look to ensure a balanced outcome that conserves our natural habitat, encourages sustainable use of the waters, promotes eco-tourism and research and helps stimulate the regional economy.”
Discussions with stakeholders on the new marine parks will begin immediately, and all Australians will have the opportunity to provide their views on the proposal through formal statutory consultations in the second half of 2021.