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The Coral Sea: an ocean jewel that needs more protection

Bob Pressey and colleagues write in The Conversation (6.10.16) about proposed changes that the federal government is considering to Australia’s system of marine reserves. The authors argue that further protection is needed for vulnerable marine environments off the coast of Queensland.

‘Off Australia’s north-eastern coastline, extending eastwards from the outer edge of the Great Barrier Reef, is a vast extent of ocean known as the Coral Sea.

‘Almost a million square kilometres of the Coral Sea is within Australian waters, making up one of six regions used for planning national networks of marine reserves. Unlike the other regions, virtually all of the Coral Sea is within a single reserve.

‘On the face of it, this should encourage people who are concerned with conservation of marine biodiversity. But, as often happens, the devil is in the detail.

‘The effectiveness of the reserve hinges on its internal zones – subdivisions that vary in the uses and activities they allow. So “protected” is a slippery concept. Just how protected the Coral Sea is depends on where and how large the different zones are.

‘The review of Commonwealth marine reserves, released earlier this month, recommended changes to the zoning arrangements put in place when the network was declared in 2012, but not for the better.’

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