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“Shortcomings” Identified in Marine Park Network

By Ian Lowe

A report finds that highly protected marine areas tend to be the least economically valuable rather than the most ecologically vulnerable.

Ian Lowe is Emeritus Professor of science, technology and society at Griffith University.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

There were celebrations in the scientific community when the Australian government announced the world’s largest network of marine protected areas last year. But now detailed analysis of the changes has revealed what the science journal Nature calls “worrying shortcomings” in the network’s coverage of the oceans.

Lisa Barry and Hugh Possingham, who are based in the Environmental Decisions Centre at the University of Queensland, analysed the extent to which the protected areas represent the full range of marine ecological systems. They concluded that the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea regions are now well protected.

Elsewhere, however, the picture is much less rosy. Of the 85 bioregions identified, 30 have the highest level of protection for less than 1% of their area.

"A key problem is that the highly protected areas tend to be in deep water, whereas the most vulnerable ecosystems are usually closer to shore, on the continental shelf,” Possingham said. He pointed out that significant areas of shallow northern waters are believed to have potential for fossil fuel development, and speculated that the government might be reluctant to rule out those possible economic activities.

I vividly recall the responsible Minister, Tony Burke, defending the proposed network against attacks from fishing interests by pointing out that most of the protected...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.