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Government review supports Australia’s marine reserves – now it’s time to move on

Michelle Voyer and Richard Ambrose Kenchington write in The Conversation (6.9.16) about the results of a federal government review of Commonwealth marine reserves, which recommended few changes to the system of protected marine zones introduced by the Gillard Labor government.

‘More of Australia’s oceans should be placed under high protection, according to the long-awaited review of Commonwealth marine reserves released yesterday. The review, launched in 2014 by then prime minister Tony Abbott, largely vindicates the original planning process. It recommends zoning changes to 26 of 40 reserves, and reductions to the area available to mining, while reducing the impact on commercial fisheries.

‘The Commonwealth marine reserves were meant to be an easy win for the then-Labor federal government when they were declared in November 2012. All are in Commonwealth waters, from three nautical miles (about 5.5km) from the coast to 200 nautical miles (370km). Their generally remote location meant that few people would be affected.

‘Declaring the reserves fulfilled national and international commitments, a feat achieved by very few marine jurisdictions in the world. Australia was leading the way.

‘… So in 2013 the incoming Abbott government suspended the parks’ management plans, making the reserves, at least temporarily, “paper parks”.

‘The review has restated the importance of no-take zones and recommended an increase in some of the reserves and a decrease in the Coral Sea.

‘So will the recommendations appease the critics?’

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