Australia’s marine life is globally significant, but under threat

Pollution, over fishing, entanglement in nets and destruction of important habitat are just some of the many threats to Australia’s remarkable marine life. If this continues, we risk joining the unprecedented global collapse of marine life where two-thirds of the world’s coral reefs are dead or dying and 90% of the world’s large fish have been fished-out.

Australians claim the third largest area of ocean on Earth and have an international responsibility to conserve our oceans. The Commonwealth Government signed the United Nation’s Convention on the Law of the Sea to manage the oceans surrounding our continent for both economic benefit and conservation. However, only four per cent of our 16.5 million square kilometres of oceans around Australia are protected, despite many of our marine species being found nowhere else.

The south west waters of Australia are unprotected

Many thanks to the photographers that support Save Our Marine Life: Glen Cowans www.glencowans.com, Clay Brice, Sue Morrison, Mito Paz, Andrew Halsall courtesy Wilderness Society www.halsall.com.au, Tim Nicol, Joshua Coates

In some places like the Great Barrier Reef, steps have been taken to protect areas of our marine environment, but in the south west the story is very different.

Less than 1% of the 1.3 million square kilometre south west region is protected from threats.

Save Our Marine Life is an unprecedented collaboration of organisations and community members campaigning for a network of marine sanctuaries around Australia, starting in our South West. By protecting key feeding and breeding areas as well as exceptional and iconic marine features we aim to save valuable species from extinction, replenish our fish stocks and protect marine life for future generations.

A greater level of unique marine life than on the Great Barrier Reef

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Western Australia's big blue backyard. Click picture to enlarge.

The south west region, from Eucla to Kalbarri in WA, is home to a far greater level of unique marine life than the Great Barrier Reef.

Up to 90 percent of the species found here are found nowhere else. Almost every week new species are being discovered – it is a truly extraordinary region.

Thousands of species of fish, seabirds, sharks, dolphins, turtles, seals, shellfish and whales live, breed and feed in these waters. The world’s largest animal, the endangered blue whale, comes to feed just offshore from Perth – one of only two places in Australia this occurs.

One of the country’s most valuable fisheries, the western rock lobster, has evolved in WA’s clear, warm waters and a small colony of fur seals still survives after being all but wiped out by commercial sealing.

Australians value their coastline and marine life

Leatherback turtle

The endangered leatherback turtle, the world's largest marine turtle, drifts with the Leeuwin Current feeding on jellyfish © Michael Patrick o'neill / oceanwideimages.com

Australians have a special bond with their coastline and their oceans. We all enjoy holidays on the coast, seafood barbeques, swimming and snorkelling at the beach, fishing, diving and surfing with friends. Our marine environment needs protection if it is to remain healthy and if we are to continue to enjoy what it provides us.

Its also important to remember that a healthy economy needs a healthy environment. Sectors such as Western Australia’s $3 billion tourism industry and $45 million whale watching industry depend on unspoiled attractions to draw visitors from around the globe. Additionally valuable fish species such as dhufish and snapper – popular seafood on the West coast – are in decline with fisheries having to close.

Marine protection requires a network of marine sanctuaries

World-first research by the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and James Cook University published in January 2009, found that a network of marine sanctuaries protects species from local extinction plays a major role in rebuilding numbers of threatened fish and other species. http://www.coralcoe.org.au/news_stories/marineparks.html

This research added to the overwhelming and compelling scientific evidence that marine sanctuaries, along with other marine management measures, are an essential tool for protecting our marine life into the future.

The Australian Government’s plan for marine sanctuaries

Marine Network

The Australian Government’s proposed marine network

After mounting public calls for greater marine protection, in June 2012 the Australian Government announced that it would create the largest network of marine parks and sanctuaries in the world. This announcement was greeted around the globe as a visionary and historic step forward for marine conservation; an example to the rest of the world. However until the plan becomes law in the first half of 2013, the future of our marine life will continue to hang in the balance.

Marine protection the Government’s most popular decision

Years of public polling repeatedly demonstrated that at least 70 percent of Australians supported the need for greater marine protection. The popularity of marine sanctuaries was confirmed when a poll by Essential Research in July 2012 showed that 70 percent of Australians approved of the Federal Government’s plan to establish a national network of marine sanctuaries, with just 13 percent disapproving. This made this policy decision the most popular announcement for this term of Government.

Please help secure this historic opportunity for marine protection by joining the Big Blue Army today.