Marine Parks and Sharks

You helped us make history in Australia when we backed the creation of the world’s largest network of marine parks in November 2012. This marked a giant stride forward in ocean protection made possible by the overwhelming support shown by ocean lovers from around the world. Thank you!

Marine Parks and Sharks

The tide, however, can turn quickly. On 13 December 2013, Australia suspended 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 each park provides to fragile ocean habitat and the marine species within them.

It is critical that Members of Parliament understand how important marine parks are to all Australians and the world. Please send a letter now to ensure your voice is heard.

Marine sanctuaries provide a safe haven for some of our most threatened species including sharks, rays and turtles; helping ensure marine ecosystems are protected for years to come. For divers, the opportunity to experience pristine marine environments is a key attraction and therefore crucial to the survival of the dive industry. It is therefore, more important than ever that we rally together to help ensure this ocean legacy is secured for years to come.

What are MPAs?

Marine Protected Areas are areas of the ocean where extractive activities such as fishing and mining are more strictly regulated than the surrounding waters. They are known by many names such as marine parks or shark sanctuaries. Some MPAs are zoned to allow multiple uses, meaning only some of their area is fully protected in no-take zones.

Studies show that MPAs allow marine life to recover from overfishing and result in more fish in surrounding areas as well as bring economic advantages to neighboring communities through marine tourism.

MPAs can protect sharks that have a limited range, especially when they protect aggregation areas such as nurseries. If part of an effective network, MPAs can also protect migrating sharks over a range of habitats through which they travel.

Myth Busting

Recently there has been much misinformation about the new marine reserves - let's bust some of those myths

Myth: Marine reserves lock out recreational fishers

Over 90% of Australian marine waters within 100 km of shore will remain open to recreational fishing. 18 of 25 coral reefs in the Coral Sea will remain open to recreational and charter fishing. The closest a no-take zone comes to shore in the Coral Sea is 210 kms from Cairns and 330 kms from Townsville.

Myth: Australia will need to import more seafood

Australia already imports 70% of its seafood, a figure that has risen steadily in recent years despite no significant new marine reserves.

Myth: It's the end of the Australian fishing industry

Less than 1% of the fishing industry will be affected and the federal government has pledged $100 million to assist affected fishing businesses. The new marine reserves will lead to more sustainable fisheries safeguarding the industry for the future.

Myth: Australian fisheries are underexploited

Research in 2010 showed 42% of Australia's fish stocks are either overfished or unknown. Australian waters are low in nutrients, similar to our land, and slow to recover from overfishing. 

Project AWARE is a member of two groups campaigning for MPAs in Australia:

The Protect Our Coral Sea group has worked for the protection of the Coral Sea, which lies adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef. The Coral Sea is home to 52 species of deepwater sharks, 18 of which are found nowhere else. Osprey Reef is one of the top 10 shark dives in the world and generally the density of sharks in the Coral Sea is higher than the Great Barrier Reef.

The Save Our Marine Life coalition of environmental groups is working to protect and secure the world's largest network of marine reserves around Australia. Protecting key feeding and breeding habitats including known shark aggregation sites, will help save species from extinction, replenish fish stocks and protect marine life for generations to come. Great white sharks patrol here and grey nurse sharks hang out in shallow sand gutters. Both species are listed as Vulnerable in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.