Time to turn the tide on our ocean health after dire environmental report released

A hawksbill turtle.

The new State of the Environment report paints a concerning picture of the health of our oceans and lands and shows we must urgently turn the tide to protect Australia’s priceless marine environments and wildlife, the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) believes.

The devastating new assessment has found our coasts, and marine environments are deteriorating and highlights several threats to marine health that must be addressed, including climate change, industrialisation, plastic and water pollution.

The report also flags that more species are listed as threatened or in a higher threat category than five years ago, including marine wildlife, highlighting that Australia’s weak environment laws are failing to protect and recover our unique flora and fauna.

AMCS said it was important to note the report was completed and handed to Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek’s predecessor Sussan Ley in December 2021.

This was before this year’s devastating mass bleaching event on our Great Barrier Reef, bleachings on our West coast reefs, and the impacts on ocean environments and wildlife of recent flooding in eastern Australia.

AMCS CEO Darren Kindleysides said the sorry State of the Environment report shows the dire consequences of years of poor environmental policy and climate inaction in Australia.

“The new government’s response to this devastating report card is the first test of their environmental credibility. They must make sure it marks a turning point in Australia’s ambition and action to protect our environment,” he said.

“The wellbeing of Australians is wrapped up with the health of our oceans, and the marine wildlife found there, but sadly our oceans are suffering from overheating, overuse and under-protection.

“We need to do more now or we put at risk everything we rely on our oceans for – our health, wellbeing, livelihoods and our culture,” Mr Kindleysides said.

“The State of the Environment report must inject a sense of urgency to keep the Paris goal of no more than 1.5 degrees of warming alive – this is a warming threshold that is crucial to keep within for the sake of our precious coral reefs.”

Mr Kindleysides said the new government had the opportunity and mandate to ensure the state of our oceans improves across the next five years.

“It can do this by taking urgent action to address climate change,” he said.

“Scientists agree that Labor’s current commitment to cut emissions by 43% by 2030 is not a trajectory that ensures the future of the Great Barrier Reef.

“The four mass bleaching events since 2016 show the pressure our global icon is under from marine heatwaves driven by global heating already – we cannot shy away from this reality anymore.

“The Albanese government must also focus on strengthening our national environment laws, so they actually protect nature on the land and beneath the waves,” Mr Kindleysides added.

“We need a tough cop on the beat in the form of an independent Environment Protection Agency enforcing the laws and responding in a timely fashion to the latest findings from our rapidly changing environments. 

“The government must also fully fund the recovery of Australia’s threatened marine wildlife. It can also increase protections in our oceans by expanding the coverage of carefully designed marine sanctuaries where marine wildlife and fish can be given a chance to recover.

“We need policies that will ease pressure on our oceans while temperatures rise.

“This means building resilience by reducing stress from industrialisation, poor fisheries management, water and plastic pollution, and bringing in more protections for our incredible and unique marine wildlife,” he continued.

 “We look forward to working through the findings of the State of Environment report in more detail and working with the Albanese government to improve ocean health.”

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