NQCC submission on the Coral Sea Marine Park Draft Management Plan.
On 20 September public comments closed on the federal Department of Environment and Energy’s Draft Management Plan for the Coral Sea. This was an opportunity for NQCC to have its views heard along with groups and individuals from around the country and the full text can be found here.
You may recall, Australia was heralded as a world leader in 2012 when the Marine Park Network and particularly the Coral Sea Marine Park were declared by the Labor Government. The Australian public overwhelmingly supported their declaration. This followed some 15 years of research, advocacy and consultation including some 10 years work by consecutive governments of both major parties. It included campaigning by NGOs in Australia, such as former colleagues of mine at WWF, one of whom received a richly deserved AO in part for her role in the Coral Sea declaration. To see this good work partly unravel is disillusioning. But it is not over yet!
The Coral Sea is north-east of the Qld coast with boundaries to the west by the Great Barrier Reef and to the north by the Torres Strait. The Coral Sea is a biodiversity hotspot with 49 different habitats supporting over 300 threatened species. It is one of the very few places left on earth where large predator fish such as marlin, sail fish, swordfish, sharks and tunas have not been greatly reduced. It is habitat for numerous endangered species such as green and hawksbill turtles and supports 28 species of whales and dolphins and 27 species of seabirds.
At a time when marine ecosystems and species are under great threat and pressure from a myriad of directions, including unsustainable fishing and mass coral bleaching such as occurred in the Great Barrier Reef and broad parts of the tropical Pacific Ocean from warming waters in 2015 and 2016, now is the time for significantly increasing marine park protections not winding them back. This is particularly the case in the more remote Coral Sea which has avoided many of the impacts associated with development closer to the Australian coast.
In last year’s first round of statutory consultation on these marine park management plans there were 54,000 submissions and these were overwhelming in favour of extending protections, not retracting. I expect this will be the case again. The question is if the government will take any notice this time around.