It’s been announced that Australian waters will soon be home to the world’s second largest no-take marine reserve. Half a million square kms of the Coral Sea will be out of bounds to the oil & gas industry as well as fisheries – it will include around one third of the coral reefs in the region. It’s part of the string of marine reserves that will fringe the Australian coast (as we heard yesterday in the Washington Post).
I dived the Coral Sea many years ago and those dives are still among some of the most spectacular I’ve ever done. I remember one time in particular, being down at 40m on the edge of a steep coral wall and being able to see all the way up to the surface, through shoals of fish above me.
An interesting part of this latest marine protection initiative is the role that the Australian citizens played in pushing for more. Following announcemnt of the initial plans, there was a major public outcry calling for stricter protection and which the government, to some extent, listened to.
It makes me kind of ashamed at my own island nation for our general lack of enthusiasm for the proposed network of marine conservation zones that are currently in a delayed planning process. We are seriously dragging our feet. And while there are campaigns to make the most of things, there are also noisy complaints.
Of course fishermen get upset at being told they can’t fish where they used to. But according to the Guardian, the Australian government is expecting to pay out 100m ozzie dollars to fisheries to make up for the areas they’ll no longer be able to operate in.
Time will tell what happens here in the UK. I can only hope that we’ll take a lesson from Australia and step up to the plate on this one.
Anyway, just for fun, here’s a a duo of talking fish – Barry the Wrasse who helped out in the Protect the Coral Sea campaign followed by our very own British version, Bernard the Gurnard.