A once-in-a-decade global forum on parks closed in Sydney on Wednesday calling for an urgent increase in ocean protection and stressing the economic benefits of natural sanctuaries. The World Parks Congress, with representatives from 160 nations, outlined a pathway for achieving a global target to protect at least 17 percent of land and 10 percent of oceans by 2020.
As divers, we share a special connection with our ocean planet and therefore hold a natural affinity to want to protect the marine environment. This past 10 days, Project AWARE has been on the frontlines participating at the IUCN World Parks Congress in Sydney to represent and highlight all the awesome actions that divers across the globe take to help protect our ocean planet.
The IUCN World Parks Congress 2014, which will take place in Sydney, Australia, from 12 to 19 November, is a landmark global forum on protected areas. The Congress will share knowledge and innovation, setting the agenda for protected areas conservation for the decade to come.
Building on the theme “Parks, people, planet: inspiring solutions”, it will present, discuss and create original approaches for conservation and development, helping to address the gap in the conservation and sustainable development agenda.
Marine protected areas have been created across the globe to stem the loss of biodiversity in our oceans. But are they working? Now, thanks to a six-year survey involving over one hundred divers, we know that the global system of marine protected areas still has much to achieve.
The marine environment lies out of sight and is expensive to survey, so its true condition is very poorly known. What we do know is that multiple threats—most notably introduced pests, climate change, fishing and pollution—are pervasive.
On 13th December 2013, the Australian Government took a major step backwards for marine conservation, suspending the implementation of management plans for the 33 new marine parks, including parks in the Coral Sea, the Kimberley and the Great Australian Bight. These management plans outline the levels of protection the parks provide to fragile ocean habitat and the marine species within them.
Environmental groups, including Project AWARE, have released a report, highlighting the unique marine life in NSW, Australia which is currently at risk should the State Government decide to wind back marine protection. In a joint effort to call on the State Government to review this decision, the report was recently presented to Members of Parliament.
Dive store owners from across New South Wales (NSW), Australia have united, writing to Premier O’Farrell urging him to reverse the decision to allow fishing in marine sanctuaries and reinstate the protection the ocean requires.