The findings of a scientific report into the Coral Sea have strengthened calls from conservation groups to establish the region as a marine reserve.
by Media Services
The report, titled Australia's Coral Sea: A Biophysical Profile was written by independent marine ecologist Dr Daniela Ceccarelli and commissioned by the Pew Environment Group-Australia on behalf of the Protect our Coral Coalition.
The key findings of the report label the region as a global 'biodiversity hotspot' for marlin, tuna and large predatory sharks.
The report also outlines the various species of marine life that inhabit the region.
Currently, the area located between the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and the maritime boundaries of New Caledonia, the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea is protected under the interim Coral Sea Conservation Zone.
This area falls under Australian jurisdiction, and is being protected while the federal government assesses the possibility of its inclusion into one or more Commonwealth marine reserves.
Conservation groups are calling for the marine reserve to be of the scale of the current Conservation Zone at around one million square kilometres.
Professor Hugh Possingham, director of The Ecology Centre at the University of Queensland, supports this proposal.
'The Coral Sea may be the only part of the world's tropical ocean where a permanent marine park of the scale of the interim Conservation Zone could be established and effectively managed with a relatively small impact on users', said the Professor.
'This is the chance to have a vast area with large numbers of herbivores and predators functioning over a huge scale in a way that the world once was like without humans'.
Under the interim protection the zoned area is open to commercial and recreational fishing.
If the Protect our Coral Coalition’s proposed Coral Sea Marine Park is formed, commercial and recreational fishing would be prohibited in the reserve.
Oil and gas exploration and seabed mining would also not be permitted.
The Coral Sea Marine Park would start on the eastern side of the current Great Barrier Marine Park and extend offshore.
Permitted activities would include dive and snorkel tourism, yachting, cruise and commercial shipping, and defence activity. The federal minister for environment Tony Burke is expected to make a decision on the matter later this year.
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8:59 AM Sat 20 Aug 2011 GMT
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