Home to incredible marine species such as whales, dolphins, turtles, sharks and spectacular corals, the world’s biggest network of marine protected areas (MPAs) was declared by Australia this week. This newly established MPA covers more than 1.1 million square miles of ocean.
Within our stunningly diverse oceans, MPAs protect habitats such as coral reefs and sea grass beds from destructive fishing practices. They allow depleted fish populations to recover and provide refuge for endangered species such as marine turtles. They also provide food security for people who rely on the ocean for their daily sustenance and livelihoods.
Australia’s announcement sets a global precedent for ocean protection as countries prepare to meet for Rio+20, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, next week. It also follows California's decision last week to complete a marine park system stretching along its entire coastline to ensure its waters remain full of life and continue to draw visitors. This signals a growing movement to protect some of the oceans most ecologically valuable areas before they are damaged beyond repair.
Working to Protect 10% of Our Oceans by 2020
WWF works to ensure MPAs are designed and managed well, and monitors the impacts of reserves to find solutions that benefit both people and nature. We monitor fish spawning areas and the health of coral reefs, and study the impacts of protected areas on local communities.
Australia’s new network of marine parks will span more than one third of its waters—a milestone that WWF has been working toward for more than 15 years. It’s also one step closer to the global scientific community’s recommendation of protecting 10% of our oceans by 2020.
WWF still expresses concern that some of Australia’s critical marine habitats are not included in this recent declaration and are still vulnerable to industrial exploitation. We will continue to work toward well-designed and well-managed marine protected areas in the Coral Triangle, Pacific and other parts of the world, to ensure our oceans remain abundant for future generations.