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Professor Hugh Possingham of the University of Queensland. (Photo: University of Queensland/FIS)

Scientific basis to protect SW oceans

Click on the flag for more information about Australia AUSTRALIA
Thursday, November 11, 2010, 23:10 (GMT + 9)

A new science-based blueprint for the country’s south-west oceans developed by the University of Queensland represents a historic opportunity for Australia to become a world leader in marine conservation, an alliance of environment groups said today.

The Save Our Marine Life alliance of 11 leading environment groups said the blueprint will provide the federal government with the information it needs to make accurate decisions about establishing a network of marine sanctuaries in Australia’s South West Marine Region (Commonwealth waters offshore from Kangaroo Island to Geraldton) later this year.

After gathering the best available scientific data and applying world-leading marine protected area (MPA) design principles, the scientists found 50 per cent of the south-west region would need to be protected in a network of marine sanctuaries if marine life was to remain healthy. Currently, less than 1 per cent of the south west region is protected from threats such as over fishing and oil spills.

Professor Hugh Possingham and his team from the University of Queensland found a high level of protection is necessary to protect unique marine life and it can be achieved at minimum cost to other users.

Released today by the University of Queensland, the blueprint – called Systematic Conservation Planning – A Network of Marine Sanctuaries for the South West Marine Region – details for the first time a scientifically-based road map to safeguard marine life and protect economic and social interests.

Australia South West Marine Region. (Map: noosagreens.org)

The University of Queensland also today released a consensus statement of 44 of Australia’s leading marine and social scientists in support of marine protection.

The 44 scientists developed the ‘Scientific Principles for Design of Marine Protected Areas in Australia’, which provides peer-level guidance on the selection, design, and implementation of marine protected areas.

“The scientific evidence in support of a network of large marine sanctuaries in the south west is compelling,” said Dr Gilly Llewellyn from WWF Australia.

“The University of Queensland’s blueprint for Australia’s south-west oceans shows us that we can protect our unique marine life and ensure that we can continue to fish and benefit economically from our oceans,” said Chris Smyth from the Australian Conservation Foundation.

There is a far greater level of unique marine life found in the south west than on the Great Barrier Reef.

“The federal government now has the scientific evidence it needs to confidently make important decisions about the future health of the oceans and marine life in Australia’s south west,” said Tim Nicol from the Conservation Council of WA.



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