NOTE: This is a guest post from our partners at the Protect our Coral Sea coalition.
Industrial-scale fishing has wiped out 90 percent of the world’s large ocean-going fish. Fisheries continue to collapse. To protect the integrity of our oceans, governments must protect these vanishing species of fish and the habitat on which they rely. Right now, the Australian government is reviewing a draft plan to protect the Coral Sea, an incredibly rich and diverse marine ecosystem, but environmental activists are concerned that it doesn’t go far enough.
The Coral Sea contains spectacular coral reefs, remote islands, towering underwater mountains, deep-sea canyons and even underwater volcanoes that are treasure troves of biodiversity. Bigeye tuna, black marlin and various sharks, including the rarely-seen whale shark, all call the Coral Sea home. Australian Environment Minister Tony Burke has even said, “There is no other part of Australia’s territory where so much comes together — pristine oceans, magnificent coral, a military history which has helped define us and now a clear proposal for permanent protection.”
While the current draft plan would protect nearly 1 million square kilometers, this would only give two out of the 25 coral reefs in the Coral Sea a high level of protection, leaving the vast majority of the Coral Sea subject to fishing, poaching and shark finning. Activists and organizations are demanding full protection in order to save this place of refuge for sea creatures and preserve the ocean’s biodiversity.
The plan’s critics worry that the fishing industry will suffer. But the truth is, overexploitation by the fishing companies themselves is likely the biggest causes for collapsing fisheries. Protecting habitat that allows these species to recover helps fish and fisherman alike. That’s why government protection of the Coral Sea is so crucial.
Valerie Taylor, a famous underwater photographer, recently spoke out about the importance of granting the Coral Sea full protection in a short film. “I am concerned the government’s proposal fails to adequately safeguard the Coral Sea for future generations,” Taylor told Cairns News. “I’ve seen the changes that have occurred in our oceans over many years. My husband [actor and filmmaker Ron Taylor] and I have had a wonderful life in the ocean, but it hurts me to see what’s happening to it and that my nephews and nieces will never know it as I have known it.”
On February 24, the Australian government will decide the fate of the Coral Sea and its diverse sea life. Until then, Environment Minister Tony Burke is still taking comments and responses to the proposed draft plan.
Photo credit: Lucy Trippett