Australia creates one of the world’s largest safe havens for marine life

Turtles underwater
Critically endangered turtles (Image Credit: Sea Shepherd Global.)

AN alliance of leading environmental groups has welcomed the Morrison Government’s declaration of two new marine parks off Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, which together form one of the largest highly protected marine sanctuary areas in the world. 

The marine parks, which have been co-designed and are supported by the local island communities, include marine sanctuaries covering around 739,000 square kilometres, an area bigger than Victoria, Tasmania and the ACT combined. 

Christabel Mitchell, National Oceans Manager for The Pew Charitable Trusts, said that this was a truly historic moment for marine protection in Australia and for the global health of our oceans.

“Covering an area twice the size of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, these sanctuaries will provide an important safe haven for a wealth of Indian Ocean marine life that is under increasing pressure from industrial fishing, climate change and pollution.

“Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands are uniquely Australian and globally significant.

“The remoteness of the islands has helped to maintain their rich biodiversity and uniqueness.

There’s nowhere like them on Earth,” Ms Mitchell said.

“Healthy oceans and sustainable fishing are central to the Christmas and Cocos Islanders’ way of life, their culture and their livelihoods.

“It is very encouraging that the Morrison Government has worked collaboratively with the island communities to co-design these marine parks to meet local aspirations and protect marine life.”  

Darren Kindleysides, CEO of the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) said these new marine parks in Australia’s Indian Ocean Territories will make a major contribution towards international efforts to conserve our oceans in a network of highly protected areas.

“They will provide crucial protection for marine life in the region, including part of the only known spawning ground for critically endangered Southern bluefin tuna, as well as supporting local communities’ culture and aspirations.

“Christmas Island’s famous annual red crab migration was referred to as one of the 10 natural wonders of the world by David Attenborough.

“The island’s thriving rainforests, deserted beaches and fringing reef provide a haven for unique and rare seabirds, land crabs and marine life.

“The Cocos (Keeling) Islands are Australia’s unspoiled tropical island paradise. Their azure waters are home to an incredible array of diverse marine life including tropical fishes, corals, turtles, manta rays and dolphins,” Mr Kindleysides added.

“We look forward to continuing our work with the government and the island communities to preserve this unique part of Australia, for our marine life and future generations.”

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