I’m writing this on a boat in Cairns, about to set off beyond the Great Barrier Reef to the extraordinary Coral Sea – one of the last wild places on Earth where healthy coral reefs and ocean giants still thrive.
On board with me are Julia Summerling, who has dived the Coral Sea more than anyone else in the world, Mike Ball, a long-term advocate for the Coral Sea and one of many local businesses who benefit from the Coral Sea Marine Reserve, and Danielle Ryan and James Sherwood – the talented filmmakers behind the award-winning Sea & Me film which documented our ocean caretakers and the value of marine parks to local communities
We’re making a new film about the Coral Sea which we’ll be taking on tour over the next couple of months. We’ll be in touch with details of upcoming screenings.
Any day now we expect to see the recommendations of the Turnbull Government’s Review into our suspended national network of sanctuaries, and we fear a drastic cut back of sanctuary protection for our Coral Sea.
In 2012, just over half of the Coral Sea Marine Reserve was protected in a large sanctuary – a first for Australia in creating protection across an area large enough to protect ocean giants, such as sharks, tuna and sailfish, which are in dramatic decline globally.
The Coral Sea is home to gigantic whale sharks, 28 types of whales and dolphins, 52 types of deepwater sharks and rays, 6 of the world’s 7 sea turtles, and the only known black marlin spawning event in the world!
Combined with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, the two parks together make the world’s largest marine protected area – a global icon with huge benefits to Queensland and to Australia’s reputation, economy and local livelihoods.
As well as the large sanctuary to protect crucial feeding and breeding areas, the Coral Sea Marine Reserve created what was essentially the biggest recreational fishing zone in Australia’s history – demonstrating an excellent balance for conservation, recreation and business to work hand-in-hand.
Any expansion of damaging commercial fishing in the Coral Sea would place all this at risk, and add to the continued uncertainty the Review has created for local businesses.
We’ve just interviewed ocean legend Valerie Taylor and two eminent scientists. Now we head off to capture the wonders of the Coral Sea on film, including Bougainville Reef, Holmes Reef and the world-famous Osprey Reef – described by David Attenborough as ‘the perfect reef’.
We’ll be in touch to let you know about the upcoming screenings, and how you can help save our Coral Sea sanctuary when the Review’s recommendations are released over the coming weeks.
The Coral Sea Marine Reserve was the result of more than a decade of science, overwhelming community support (including from the majority of fishers) and work by all sides of politics. Together we created the Coral Sea Marine Reserve, and with your support, we can and will defend it.