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Call For Australian Lead In Safeguarding Oceans

October 3, 2011

Australia should show a strong international lead in protecting the oceans and sea-life against overexploitation and other human impacts, a leading marine scientist says.

In the lead up to the ℠Coral Reefs: Coast to Coast Symposium´ to be held in Fremantle, WA, on October 20-21, convener Professor Terry Hughes, the director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University, is urging governments State and Federal to up Australia´s commitment to establishing and managing marine reserves based on scientific evidence.

 “The Australian government is emerging as a global leader in managing marine ecosystems.  It is a global contribution we can be extremely proud of — but much more remains to be done.”

Prof. Hughes says “Over recent years Australian scientists have gathered a mass of evidence that no-take marine reserves result in increases in fish numbers and fish sizes, with major benefits to the whole ecosystem. The science is in — and the results are clear for all to see.”

“It´s not rocket science, either: if you leave a portion of the fish population alone, they grow larger and more numerous, and they have more babies to rebuild depleted stocks — and that benefits everyone, including fishers, tourism operators and the ecosystem,” he says.

“Fish are ecological engineers — they play a huge role in maintaining healthy ocean ecosystems. By preserving fish stocks, we protect the entire ecosystem and how it works.”

One example of Australia´s enhanced stewardship could be the establishment of the world´s largest permanent no-take area in the temporary Coral Sea Conservation Zone  — a move which would not only protect the vulnerable and isolated reefs in the remote areas of the Coral Sea but also provide enormous benefits to the Great Barrier Reef , he says.

“Given that global fishing effort is going up all the time, and there is uncontrolled plundering of fish stocks on the high seas by ℠pirate fishers´, there are grounds for serious concern about the state of the oceans and sea life. This underscores the importance of Australia continuing to show international leadership in protecting marine ecosystems,” Prof. Hughes says.

“By establishing the world´s largest no-take area in the Coral Sea Conservation Zone, we would both be setting an international example — and also protecting the adjoining Great Barrier Reef Marine Park for the future.  The Coral Sea is the one of the last great marine systems that is still in great shape — we should all encourage the government to keep it that way”

Prof Hughes said the Coral Sea Conservation Zone is an important source of both coral and fish larvae to recharge the Great Barrier Reef area.  Looking after these fabulous places now, is all the more important to build their resilience to the impact of future climate change, he says.

“We need networks of protected areas which can assure the resilience of sea life under changed conditions of sea temperature, acidity, storms, pollution and so on.

“For example, two huge cyclones recently crossed the Coral Sea and the Great Barrier Reef.  For the corals to recover as quickly as possible, they need fresh larvae flowing from reef to reef.  They need the right mix of fish species to keep reefs healthy and to prevent young corals from being choked by seaweed.  Protecting fish helps us to look after the whole reef.”

“The science is telling us that establishing no-take marine parks is the right thing to do — and is essential not only for the ecosystem, but for our society, for industry, for consumers, for recreation, for tourism, for our regional towns and cities.”

Coral Reefs: Coast to Coast will be held at the Western Australian Maritime Museum in Fremantle on 20th and 21st October, 2011. Media are welcome to attend.

A public forum will be held at the WA Maritime Museum, Fremantle at 5.15pm for a 6.00pm start, Thursday 20th October. Five leading international scientific experts will outline issues of critical importance to the future of coral reefs. This event is open to anyone with an interest in our oceans and reefs.

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