To continue on Becky’s theme of maps, here’s another one:
Australia has established more than 40 marine protected areas in the past three decades, which is fantastic news for marine wildlife. The reserves cover 3.1 million square kilometers, which is 3.1 million square kilometers whose primary purpose is to preserve the marine ecosystem. Although there are some areas where extractive activities can occur, much of the reserves are off-limits to mining. Commercial fishing is allowed, but with restrictions and only in certain areas. Recreational activities such as diving, snorkeling, and whale-watching, will generally not be restricted, but will be managed with permits. More information can be found here: http://www.environment.gov.au/marinereserves/overview.html
Of course the Great Barrier Reef is the crown jewel of Australia’s marine ecosystems (and having had the indescribable experience of diving in it, I can attest to this!), but other regions contain treasures as well. Among seabirds, the threatened soft-plumaged petrel, the wedge-tailed shearwater, the flesh-footed shearwater, the threatened Indian yellow-nosed albatross, the short-tailed shearwater, and the Caspian tern will benefit from these protected areas, which will act as safe havens for important food resources for these species.
Other species that will benefit from these marine protected areas include the threatened whale shark, the largest fish in the world, as well as the western rock lobster, humpback, blue, southern right, and sperm whales, and of course innumerable fish and invertebrate species.
Australia has the third largest marine “estate” of any country in the world, so their actions with regard to the marine environment are globally significant and send a strong message to the rest of the world. We applaud the Australians for valuing their marine resources so highly and setting a great example for all nations that border our oceans.