Australia trumps science to become first nation to cut ocean protection

Australia will trump even Donald Trump and become the first nation to cut protections of its ocean estate if it implements plans, released today, to expose vulnerable areas of the marine environment to industrial fishing exploitation, a national alliance of environment groups said.

An election promise to be science-based has been ignored in changes proposed to the national network of marine sanctuaries, the Save Our Marine Life alliance of 25 national and state environment groups said.

Federal Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg today released maps detailing a 50% cut backs to marine sanctuary protection of coral reefs and key feeding and breeding areas in the Coral Sea and reductions around Australia.

The 350,000 Australian supporters of the Save Our Marine Life alliance and the Australian Marine Conservation Society will be mobilised to approach local MPs to inform them of the science evidence of sanctuaries, and to make submissions to government about the benchmark for protection it needs to achieve.

Tourism jobs will also be placed at risk, particularly in the valuable dive and whale watching sectors, if Australia’s reputation as a destination for unspoilt nature experiences is damaged, the Australian Marine Conservation Society said.

“Australia will trump even Donald Trump if it implements these cut backs,” AMCS Director Darren Kindleysides said.

No other nation has chosen to go backwards in the protection of its ocean estate. In the US, the Trump administration has launched a review, but Australia is now at the end of its review, ordered by former Prime Minister Tony Abbott in 2013.

“All Australians will be justifiably distressed to know that science evidence supporting an increase in protections for marine life has been thrown out the window,” Mr Kindleysides said.

More than 3.5 years after the Abbott Review of national marine sanctuaries was launched, commercial fishing has emerged as the biggest beneficiary. Large areas of Queensland’s Coral Sea, as well as sanctuary protections off the coast from Western Australia, the Northern Territory and NSW could be scrapped to make way for an expansion of damaging long-line fishing and seafloor trawling.

“The treat to jobs, local businesses and to the survival of unique marine life could be avoided if the government instead chose to create an evidence-based balance for Australia’s oceans,” Michelle Grady, Oceans Director from the Pew Charitable Trusts said.

“The government-appointed review panel reinforced the importance of marine sanctuaries and Australia’s leading marine scientists have informed the Environment Minister of the threat to the productivity of our oceans if sanctuaries are removed,” she said.

“Fishing is an important part of Australian life and economic activity, but so is our tourism sector and the opportunity for all Australians to experience nature unspoilt by industry. The success of our ‘blue economy’ depends on securing a healthy marine environment, not in undermining it.”

Media contacts: Michelle Grady, 0437 653 388, Darren Kindleysides, 0422 396 077, Paul Sheridan, 0410 516 656

NPA is part of Save Our Marine Life; an alliance of 25 local, regional and national conservation organisations, working to protect Australia’s marine life and way of life. Contact Save Our Marine Life at or PO Box 554, West Perth, WA 6872.

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