By Bob Pressey, Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University
“Australia’s precious marine environments have been permanently protected with the proclamation of the world’s biggest network of marine reserves.”
That’s how the federal government describes the recent creation of marine reserves covering 2.3 million square kilometers of ocean, a decision which made the news worldwide. But is it accurate?
What if the reserves were designed to minimize impact on commercial and recreational fishing and the oil and gas industries, and therefore minimize real protection for marine biodiversity? The government may be simply taking its policy of reserving also-ran, non-commercial tracts of land and applying it to the ocean.