Protect Australia’s Heard and McDonald Islands

Lying 4,000 km southwest of Perth, the Heard and McDonald Islands are the only Sub-Antarctic island group with an entirely intact ecosystem, free of any known species directly introduced by humans!

Very soon Australia’s Heard and McDonald Islands Marine Park will be up for review, giving us a once-in-a-decade opportunity to increase protection for this spectacular marine treasure.

We’ve already shown it can be done. Thanks to our community, a huge, fully protected marine sanctuary has just been created around Australia’s other Sub-Antarctic Island – Macquarie Island.

The momentum is on our side! Let’s keep leading the charge of protecting the Southern Ocean by increasing sanctuary protection around Heard and McDonald Islands!

Add your name in the form on the right and ask Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek to protect Australia’s Heard and McDonald Islands marine life!

Image: King Penguins on Heard Island | Matt Curnock

Read the letter text

Dear Minister Plibersek (cc Shadow Environment Minister Duniam and Senator Whish-Wilson) 

As Australians, it is our privilege and responsibility to safeguard the health of our World Heritage-listed Heard and McDonald Islands by ensuring they are protected for future generations.

Among the most remote places on Earth, these wild, volcanic islands are home to large populations of threatened seabirds and marine mammals, including seals, albatross, four species of penguin and a shag found nowhere else on the planet.

The marine region supports a range of slow-growing and vulnerable benthic organisms (such as cold-water corals and sponges), several endemic fish species and nursery areas for a range of fish including Patagonian toothfish.

They are the only Sub-Antarctic island group with an entirely intact ecosystem, free of any known species directly introduced by humans. This means that biological and evolutionary processes can occur naturally, making these islands a living test tube and important barometer of climate change. 

Despite the unique and rich conservation values of these globally recognised islands, only small sections of the waters surrounding Heard and McDonald Islands are fully protected. The marine parks established in 2002 and 2014 did an excellent job of identifying some high conservation value areas for marine sanctuary protection, but given subsequent scientific research revealing the depth of their biological value and the impact of climate change they now need updating to maintain their world leading status.

The 10-year review of Heard and McDonald Islands marine park management plan is due to be finalised in 2024, providing a window of opportunity to put in place stronger protections.

I urge you to maximise marine sanctuary (MNP zone) protection within the Australian Exclusive Economic Zone around the islands. This can be done while keeping key areas available to the existing commercial fishing outside the sanctuaries.

Expanding the level of fully protected marine sanctuary (MNP zone) in the marine park would protect key habitats that are not represented, or are under-represented. For example, the deeper waters outside of the previous Kerguelen Plateau planning region contain important and unique habitats that are currently unprotected or under protected. The current marine sanctuaries contain no meaningful examples of seamount, ridge, or canyon habitats. Including these areas within marine sanctuaries is a critical step in the completion of Australia’s National Representative System of Marine Protected Areas. 

You can edit the text using the form on the right.

Join the push to protect the Heard and McDonald Islands’ unique ecosystem; sign now to increase marine sanctuary protection for Australia’s Sub-Antarctic treasure!

We acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which our offices stand and we pay our respects to Elders past, present and emerging.