Inadequate Evaluation and Management of Threats in Australia's Marine Parks, Including the Great Barrier Reef, Misdirect Marine Conservation
The magnificence of the Great Barrier Reef and its worthiness of extraordinary efforts to protect it from whatever threats may arise are unquestioned. Yet almost four decades after the establishment of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, Australia's most expensive and intensely researched Marine Protected Area, the health of the Reef is reported to be declining alarmingly. The management of the suite of threats to the health of the reef has clearly been inadequate, even though there have been several notable successes. It is argued that the failure to prioritise correctly all major threats to the reef, coupled with the exaggeration of the benefits of calling the park a protected area and zoning subsets of areas as ‘no-take’, has distracted attention from adequately addressing the real causes of impact. Australia's marine conservation efforts have been dominated by commitment to a National Representative System of Marine Protected Areas. In so doing, Australia has displaced the internationally accepted primary priority for pursuing effective protection of marine environments with inadequately critical adherence to the principle of having more and bigger marine parks. The continuing decline in the health of the Great Barrier Reef and other Australian coastal areas confirms the limitations of current area management for combating threats to marine ecosystems. There is great need for more critical evaluation of how marine environments can be protected effectively and managed efficiently.