Have your say: Commonwealth Marine Reserves

What’s at Stake?

The Commonwealth Marine Reserves: they are the ones beyond the individual States’ waters, that extend from 3nm offshore to 200km offshore which is the edge of Australia’s EEZ (Economic Exclusion Zone).

They are typically out of reach of recreational fishers: so the main concerns are commercial fishing and extractive industries, like drilling for oil and mineral mining on the seabed.

When did this all start?

Actually there has been a long history of bipartisan support for marine parks, since the Great Barrier Reef and Ningaloo Marine Parks were first gazetted. The 40 marine parks declared in 2012 were the final tranche of 60 parks in Australia’s National Network of Marine Parks, a bipartisan process commenced by the Howard Government in the late 1990s.

What is a Commonwealth Marine Reserve?

In this case, it is a collection of zoned areas, afforded differing levels of protection. It’s not simple, but there are global standards and principles. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) specifies levels of protection from 1 – ‘no touchy’, down to 6 – ‘rape and pillage’. Other principles state that reserved areas must be Comprehensive, Adequate and Representative (CAR). Globally, an aspirational target of 30% at IUCN Level 1 has been set; which still means that we can exploit 70% of the oceans!


What happened?

In 2013, Tony Abbott, famously declared at a fishing Expo on the Gold Coast that he wouldn’t allow the oceans to be locked up, declared the marine parks suspended and commissioned a Review. The remit of the Review was not to look at the external boundaries of reserves, but rather the level of protection afforded within each reserve. The results of that Review have now been released for public comment.

And the Results are…?

Overall, less protection, and most notably in some areas that need it most, like Lord Howe Island, Ningaloo, Rowley Shoals and the Coral Sea (where the Great Barrier Reef is).

Bottom line

Globally, as other nations are increasing their levels and extent of protection, Australia is winding it back. Some areas have as much as 3% at Level 1, others have zero (against a target of 30%). Why? Reading between the lines, this government wants to leave the door open for commercial fishing and industrial exploitation.

What can you do?

If you’ve read this far, please invest the extra 30 seconds it will take to make a submission adding your voice to oppose the reductions. Use this one-click link to make a submission via Save Our Marine Life. And please share via social media.

Or you can make your own submission by simply cutting and pasting the text below the dolphins into an email and sending to the email address:  managementplanning.marine@environment.gov.au; cc: Josh.frydenberg.mp@aph.gov.au. Don’t forget to add your name at the bottom of the email, and you’ll have more impact if you write a personal ‘why you give a shit’ as the opening paragraph.

The recommendations from the review into Commonwealth Marine Reserves fall short of the protection required. Submit your feedback to the Review process

Subject line: Australia’s Commonwealth Marine Reserves – restoring their Marine National Park (‘sanctuary’) Zones and making the reserves operational without further delay (SUBMISSION)

Dear Director of National Parks (CC Minister Frydenberg, my local MP and Senators),

I urge you to improve and fully restore Australia’s Commonwealth Marine Reserves (CMRs), with no loss of their Marine National Park ‘sanctuary’ IUCN II Zoning. The recently released Commonwealth Marine Reserves Review recognises the extensive science and consultation that led to the creation of the 40 parks in 2012, but recommends reducing, relocating and in some cases removing the high level Marine National Park Zone protection declared over key habitats, particularly in the globally important Coral Sea.

The timing of the review was unprecedented and premature – conducted after 15 years of science and consultation, and before the marine reserves could become operational and proper performance assessments conducted. In the face of devastating coral bleaching, mangrove dieback and vanishing kelp forests, Australia’s Commonwealth Marine Reserves are even more important than ever. Evidence increasingly demonstrates that they help our marine environment to recover from damage and build resilience in the face of increasing impact, that they provide economic opportunities for regional communities and that they are strongly supported by the Australian public.

I urge you to ensure the 5 management plans are as science-based as possible – both the Review’s recommendations and the 2012/13 management arrangements fall short of the mark in location and level of protection for a representative CAR network. As found by Barr and Possingham (Are outcomes matching policy commitments in Australian marine conservation planning? Marine Policy 42, 39-48 2013) only a small portion of Marine National Park Zoneprotection was placed on the continental shelf (the most biologically diverse and important part of Australia’s marine environment) in the original 2012 declaration. The Review’s recommendations would further reduce that –

  • the Review proposes no overall increase of high level/IUCN I & II protection on Australia’s continental shelf;
  • the Review proposes a decrease in the overall protection (IUCN I & II) for the slope and deep ocean within Australian waters; and further –
  • the review proposes a decrease of high level/IUCN I & II protection for the SW region, and in the other 4 regions high level/IUCN I & II protection for the shelf remains below 3%, with the Temperate East at 0%.

With this in mind, please accept the following as my submission for the development of new management plans for each of the 5 marine regions:

The Coral Sea Commonwealth Marine Reserves:

  1. I reject the proposed major loss and fragmentation of the large Marine National Park Zone (MNPZ) including the fragmentation of the MNPZ between Mellish and Kenn Reefs and the removal of protection between Diane Bank and Osprey Reef;
  2. I accept the increased protection in the north-west of Osprey Reef but reject the proposed loss of protection for the rest of the Reef. Osprey Reef needs high level MNPZ protection in order to deliver economic security to the valuable dive industry. If there is an interest in conducting an experiment into partial protection in the Osprey Group of Reefs the experiment should be conducted on Shark or Vema Reefs, not Osprey;
  3. I reject the proposed loss of protection for Bougainville Reef, and seek expanded protection at Bougainville to over 100km2 by expanding the MNPZ to include the east coast’s only identified whale shark aggregation site to deliver security to the dive industry;
  4. I accept the proposed changes to the MNPZ around Wreck Reefs, South Flinders Reef, Eastern Holmes Reef, Coringa Islets and at the border with the Great Barrier Reef;
  5. I reject the proposed opening up of the Coral Sea to longlining in Area E/Coral Sea Zone of the Eastern Tuna Billfish Fishery. A high level of protection should be achieved in this area to ensure protection of the Queensland Plateau, Queensland Trough and the world’s only known spawning ground for Black Marlin and their recreational, economic and social values;
  6. I reject the proposed loss of MNPZ protection for Marion Reef. Marion Reef is the only location where protection is proposed for the coral reefs, cays and herbivorous fish of the Marion Plateau which is a key ecological feature of the Coral Sea;
  7. I reject the proposed expansion of mid-water trawling, demersal longlining and prawn trawling within the Coral Sea.

The South-west marine region Commonwealth Marine Reserves:

8             I accept the proposed extensions to the MNPZ in the Two Rocks, Bremer, South-west Corner and Perth Canyon CMRs;

9             I recommend the expansion of the Great Australian Bight CMR’s MNPZ westwards to the South Australian border. There is very little high level MNPZ protection in the CMR network. Where possible, more not less should be created in the management arrangements. This proposal would create Australia’s largest area of high level shelf protection with very little additional displacement for commercial or recreational fishers;

10           I reject the proposed removal of MNPZ protection within the Bremer, Perth Canyon and Twilight CMRs;

11           I reject the proposal to open the South-west CMRs to trawling, including the loss of MNPZ protection over the inner-shelf area of the Bremer CMR for scallop dredging;

12           I accept the proposed extensions to protection from mining in the South-west CMRs and seek the expansion of protection from mining for other key coastal communities adjacent to CMRs including at Kangaroo Island (Western Kangaroo Island CMR), Esperance (the SW Corner and Eastern Recherche CMRs), Peaceful Bay (SW Corner CMR) and Perth (Perth Canyon CMR);

13           I recommend the provision of permanent protection for Australian Sea Lions from gillnetting by ensuring that the zoning of the CMRs doesn’t offer less protection than existing fisheries closures (eg: in the Twilight CMR).

The North-west marine region Commonwealth Marine Reserves:

14           I accept the proposed new MNPZs in the Kimberley, Dampier and Argo-Rowley Terrace CMRs;

15           I reject the proposed removal of MNPZs in the Kimberley and Dampier CMRs;

16           I reject the proposed opening up of the Rowley Shoals area to trawling, and recommend the protection of Rowley Shoals from mining by the establishment of new MNPZs or Habitat Protection Zones (HPZ)s;

17           I recommend the replacement of the proposed HPZ for Adele Island with a MNPZ;

18           I recommend the establishment of a new large MNPZ in the North Kimberley CMR to match the protection proposed by the WA Government in state waters in the adjacent ‘Great Kimberley Marine Parks network’;

19           I recommend the management arrangements for the NW marine region CMRs meet CSIRO recommendations for each marine reserve to contain at least one MNPZ;

20           I seek an increase in protection for the Ningaloo CMR by matching the protection provided in the adjacent WA state waters marine park (which has a network of IUCN II zones) with matching zoning in Commonwealth waters – as has been proposed for the boundary between the Coral Sea CMR and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

The Temperate East marine region Commonwealth Marine Reserves:

21           I reject the proposed removal of MNPZ protection at Middleton Reef in the Lord Howe CMR;

22           I accept the proposed new MNPZ in the Norfolk Marine CMR and recommend the expansion to include the Norfolk Island Seamounts;

23           I recommend the management arrangements for the Temperate East marine region CMRs meet CSIRO recommendations for each marine reserve to contain at least MNPZ, with a particular focus on ensuring that the shelf, continental slope and seamounts are better represented with MNPZ coverage.

The North marine region Commonwealth Marine Reserves:

24           I accept the proposed new MNPZ in the West Cape York, Gulf of Carpentaria, Limmen, Wessel and Oceanic Shoals CMRs;

25           I reject the proposed removal of MNPZs in the West Cape York, Gulf of Carpentaria and Wessel CMRs;

26           I reject the proposed expansion of trawling and gillnetting within the North marine region’s CMRs;

27           I recommend the establishment of a new MNPZ over the Timor Canyons, providing the first MNPZ protection for inter alia:

  1. a key ecological feature of the North Region,
  2. the Timor Transition bioregion,
  3. the slope habitats of the North Region, and
  4. the Arafura Marine Reserve;

28           I seek the establishment of new MNPZs in the Arnhem and Joseph Bonaparte Gulf CMRs providing the first MNPZ protection for four additional bioregions.

Yours Sincerely,



One thought on “Have your say: Commonwealth Marine Reserves

  1. Thank you for posting and well worth submitting our comments to ensure we get adequate marine sanctuary zoning for our Federal network of marine reserves!

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