Australia to expand sub-Antarctic marine park to size larger than Germany
Sydney, Australia, Feb 23 (EFE).- Australia plans to triple the size of the protected Macquarie Island Marine Park to an area larger than the size of Germany, the government announced Thursday.
Sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island, which lies halfway between Australia and Antarctica, and its waters are essential for feeding millions of seabirds such as petrels and albatrosses, and the breeding of various species of seals and penguins, including the royal penguin, which is found nowhere else in the world.
This small territory was declared a Natural Marine Park in 1999 and the proposal would see the protected area triple in size, said Minister for the Environment and Water Tanya Plibersek.
“The proposal includes a new high protection zone larger than the area of Germany, an important contribution to our commitment to protect 30 percent of our land and 30 percent of our oceans by 2030,” Plibersek said in a statement.
The plan also seeks to support the continuation of sustainable and small-scale fishing of toothfish, she said.
The World Wide Fund for Nature welcomed the proposal that it said will help seals, penguins, whales, fish and other seabirds deal with rising climate change pressures after the island saw a record temperature of 17 degrees Celsius this month.
“This announcement is an important contribution to conservation in the oceans of the southern hemisphere – a region where dramatic climate change impacts may threaten unique wildlife,” said Emily Grilly, Antarctic Conservation Manager, WWF-Australia.
However, Seafood Industry Australia chief executive Veronica Papacosta told public broadcaster ABC that the proposal sidelines the fishing sector to serve environmental interests.
If the plan, which covers the entire exclusive economic zone around Macquarie Island, is implemented, Australia would have more than 48 percent of its maritime territory protected and would exceed one of its environmental commitments, according to the ministerial statement.
Statutory consultation on the proposal will begin in the coming weeks. EFE