Australia outlines large system of marine reserves

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The Australian government recently unveiled the world's largest system of marine reserves with plans that put limits on oil and gas exploration in western Australia, extend reef protection in the Coral Sea and possibly open the floodgates for compensation potentially worth hundreds of millions of dollars for the commercial fishing industry.

Environment minister Tony Burke released the final map for the proposed Coral Sea marine park as part of 44 new marine reserves to cover Australia’s waters.

Although more than a third of Australia's ocean will be protected under a government plan to add the 44 large-scale marine reserves to the national network, the plan falls short of demands by environmental groups to create the world's largest single marine park in the Coral Sea in which all commercial activity would be banned, according to

Burke said the government's aim was to protect Australia's unique marine environment “while supporting coastal communities and marine industries around the country.”

“Over the coming months the government will consult the fishing industry and fisheries management agencies on the design and implementation of a fisheries adjustment assistance package,” he said.

He warned that it was too late to change the size of the reserves and their location.

“The question now is very straightforward: Do we go ahead with the most comprehensive marine park network in the world, or do we not?” he said.

The new marine reserves take the overall size of the commonwealth marine reserves network to 3.1 million square kilometers.

The final reserves are expected to be declared before the end of the year.

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