Malcolm Turnbill – the country’s Minister of Environment and Water Resources – has labeled the reserves, situated off the south-east coastlaine of Australia, as a “global landmark in marine protection.”

The affected area, totaling 226,000 square kilometres, is said to be the first such network of marine reserves at this scale in the world.

“Taking in an area over three times the size of Tasmania, the network includes 13 new marine reserves in waters off southern New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and eastern South Australia.” Malcolm Turnbill said.

“The reserves contain representative examples of the unique marine life and the undersea features of the region.

They include undersea mountains higher than Mt Kosciusko, canyons deeper than the Grand Canyon, and unique marine species that inhabit these ecosystems, found nowhere else on the planet.

The reserves will come into effect on September 3rd of this year, and cover five different zones where extractive will be prohibited in sanctuary zones, banned in areas from 500 metres below sea level to the sea floor and only ‘low-impact’ fishing methods are to be permitted in multiple use zones.

Recreational and charter fishing will be allowed in select ‘recreational use zones.’

Although commercial fishing will be prohibited in ‘special purpose zones,’ oil and gas activities as well as recreational fishing will continue in special purpose zones.

Some environmentalists have criticised the new restrictions, saying it was disappointing that inshore areas should also be included where marine life would greatly suffer from lack of protection.

In other parts of the world, governments have tried to impose restrictions. The United States last year declared the world’s other large marine reserve, located in the tropical waters surrounding Hawaii.

Also, last month in Canada, various marine areas were declared as protected areas with the hopes of speeding up the recovery of cod stocks, which have greatly suffered since the 1990s.

Dana Gornitzki

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