Australia has the world's third largest marine territory and a rich diversity of marine habitats from the tropical coral reefs of the north, through temperate sponge gardens and vast seagrass beds to the chilly southern waters of the Great Australian Bight.
The south west marine region is a global treasure deserving the highest levels of protection. This region has more unique marine life than the Great Barrier Reef and as much as 90 percent of the marine life here is found no where else on earth!
This is where blue whales come to feed, where great white sharks patrol, where critically endangered leatherback turtles drift in the current and seals and dolphins play in the clear cool water. Yet less than 1% of this region is protected from threats such as offshore mining and over-fishing.
But this lack of protection is about to change! And 2011 is shaping up to be the year that marine parks grow extensively all around the Australian coast. Early August brought new marine parks for the south west one step closer as public consultation on a draft management plan was just closed for comment. It’s now up to the Federal Environment Minister to consider all the submissions received before making a final decision.
Project AWARE made a submission to the Australian Government showing our support for new marine parks, and so did 42,000 other citizens and organisations. The message is strong but can always be stronger. How many times have we seen economic interests win out over environmental concerns?
Some industries and community members oppose new marine parks because they prohibit extractive activities. To overcome these objections it is very important that we tell the Australian Government that they have the support of scuba divers and we support the creation of new marine parks to protect the critters we love. As a diver, you are a valuable stakeholder in these decisions. No matter where in the world you live, make sure your voice is heard.
You can play a valuable role in Project AWARE's work for greater protection for our ocean. Shortly, we’ll go through a similar submission process for the Coral Sea, a vast and almost pristine region off Australia's north east coast. Make sure your voice is heard by joining the Project AWARE movement and responding to upcoming calls for action.