Australia has just created the world’s largest marine park, a network of marine protected areas, setting the bar high for crucial ocean protection around the world. This has been unveiled just in time for the gathering of world leaders at the Rio+20 summit, where hopefully more leaders will see the value of marine parks to protect the ocean.
The marine park system will cover more than a third of the Commonwealth waters of Australia. This park will encompass the Coral Sea marine park, alongside the Great Barrier Reef marine park, turning it into the world’s largest park. Oil and gas exploration will be banned, and commercial fishing will be limited in some of the more sensitive areas.
According to WWF’s Australian CEO Dermot O’Gorman, this is a major advance in marine conservation. It’s a move that is significant both nationally and globally. He also notes it is an “inspiring outcome for other countries to follow.”
Australia has the third largest territory of ocean in the world, ranging from the tropics to the sub-Antarctic, housing thousands of species including whales, dolphins, turtles, sharks, and corals.
Marine parks like this provide secure areas for wildlife to feed and breed, as well as a way to ensure food security for the millions of people who rely on the ocean for their food sources and livelihood. WWF notes that there are other critical marine environments in Australia that have yet to be protected from oil and gas rigs, but for now, this marine park is a huge step for the sustainability of the ocean and its ecosystems.