Australia will soon be home to the world’s largest network of marine reserves, as the country’s Environment Minister, Tony Burke, announced today that the government will be designating a total of 3.1 million square kilometres of ocean as a protected zone, more than doubling the nation’s number of individual marine reserves from 27 to 60.
Once made national law, the move will restrict fishing activity and also grants areas like the Coral Sea and the world-famous Great Barrier Reef (a designated World Heritage Site) with additional protection from exploratory drilling for oil and gas. These two sites alone, incorporating about 1.3 million square kilometres, will become the world’s largest adjoining marine protected area.
“Australia’s announcement today is groundbreaking and builds on the country’s legacy of environmental protection,” Michelle Grady, of the Pew Environment Group in Australia, said in a statement. “The scale of protection is unparalleled and is vital to ensuring the long-term health of Australia’s unique marine life.”