Media release: Poll shows nearly nine out of ten West Australians back strong marine sanctuary protection for WA south coast
A YouGov poll released today shows strong support among West Australians for the state government’s plan to create a world-class marine park along the state’s south coast.
The research found that 86 percent of West Australians — and 84 percent who identify as recreational fishers — support the creation of a network of fully protected marine sanctuaries in coastal waters east of Bremer Bay.
Nine out of ten West Australians polled believe marine sanctuaries are a good idea, with the greatest support (92 percent) coming from those identifying as recreational fishers. Only three percent of West Australians thought marine sanctuaries were a bad idea.
“This research is a strong and timely reminder of just how much West Aussies value our big blue backyard and its incredibly diverse marine life,” said Joe Heffernan, CEO of the Conservation Council of WA (CCWA).
“West Australians are right behind the Cook Government in creating a world-class marine park to protect our unique marine species and our great coastal way of life.”
The Cook Government is currently considering levels of protection within the proposed south coast marine park, which will cover coastal waters from Bremer Bay to the South Australian border.
A marine park can include areas for many different activities – recreational and commercial fishing, boating, diving, even mining – but the most important zone for keeping marine ecosystems healthy across the park, are the fully protected marine sanctuaries.
“Despite being recognised as a biodiversity hotspot – home to many species found nowhere else on the planet – there is currently no protection in state waters for the south coast’s unique marine life,” said Monique Barker, WA Oceans and Rivers Manager with the Pew Charitable Trusts.
“Endangered southern right whales, endangered Australian sea lions, iconic sea dragons and a vast array of fish and seabirds all depend on the Great Southern Reef’s diverse ecosystems. Marine sanctuaries help to protect marine life and build resilience in the face of growing threats like climate change.
“The research shows West Australians appreciate the crucial role marine sanctuaries play in ensuring the south coast can remain healthy, to be enjoyed by generations to come,” Ms Barker said.
Nearly six out of ten West Australians (58 percent) believe it is reasonable for the WA government to include at least 30 percent of the proposed south coast marine park in fully protected sanctuary zones. Only two in ten (23 percent) believe it should be less than 30 percent in sanctuaries.
“Science has shown at least 30 percent sanctuary protection is the gold standard for world-class marine parks,” said Adele Pedder, Protected Areas Manager with the Australian Marine Conservation Society.
“Marine parks with strong sanctuary protection are in place right around Australia, like at Ningaloo, the Kimberley and the Great Barrier Reef, providing an insurance policy for the health of our marine environment and bringing great benefits to the communities which live and work alongside them.”
The research found that three quarters of West Australians said it was important to establish marine sanctuaries to help protect marine life from overfishing and mining; and to protect breeding, feeding and nursery areas for marine life and help keep fish populations healthy.
The state-wide YouGov poll of 1,027 West Australians was conducted between August 25 and September 3, 2023.
The research was commissioned by Save Our Marine Life, an alliance of 27 conservation groups representing tens of thousands of West Australians. The alliance includes the Conservation Council of Western Australia, the Australian Marine Conservation Society and the Pew Charitable Trusts.
Key poll findings:
The full data set and methodology from the September 2023 YouGov report is available here.
Image: Endemic Leafy Seadragon and endangered Australian Sea Lion pictured in Esperance’s coastal waters. Credit: Scott Portelli.