This article has been reprinted with permission from Mongabay.
The Australian government has taken steps to create two new marine protected areas covering an expanse of ocean twice the size of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
The two parks will be established around Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands in the Indian Ocean to the northwest of mainland Australia. The new parks cover 740,000 square kilometers (286,000 square miles) of ocean.
The decision was immediately welcomed by conservation groups.
“Christmas and Cocos (Keeling) Islands are exclusively Australian and of world importance; there is no place like them on Earth, “said Michelle Grady, director of The Pew Charitable Trusts, in a statement. “Most famous for its annual red crab migration, David Attenborough himself referred to Christmas Island as one of the 10 natural wonders of the world. Its thriving rainforests, deserted beaches and surrounding reefs provide a haven for unique and rare seabirds, land crabs and marine life. “
“Christmas and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands are recognized as outstanding natural wonders of global importance,” added Darren Kindleysides, executive director of the Australian Marine Conservation Society, in a statement. “The world’s oceans are in serious trouble from pollution, overfishing, habitat loss, and the very real and immediate impacts of climate change. Establishing marine parks to provide a safe haven for our marine life is critical to helping prevent our oceans from reaching a tipping point. “
Christabel Mitchell, director of the Save Our Marine Life Alliance, applauded the move, but urged the Australian government to work “collaboratively” with local communities to “co-design” protected areas.
“Healthy oceans and sustainable fishing are critical to the lifestyle, culture and livelihoods of the people of the Cocos and Christmas Islands,” Mitchell said in a statement.
“Creating world-class marine parks for this region will provide crucial protection for a wealth of marine life, make a significant global contribution to the health of our oceans, and support the culture and aspirations of local communities,” said Mitchell. . “We look forward to working with the island government and communities to preserve this unique part of Australia, for our marine life and future generations.”
The new parks will bring the percentage of Australian waters under protection from 37% to 45%. Conservation groups around the world are pushing for the protection of 30% of the world’s oceans and land mass by 2030.
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