In good news for tourism operators and visitors to Australian waters, the Australian government has announced its plans to create the largest network of marine reserves in the world off the back of The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) Rio+20 held in Brazil at the end of June.
Designed to balance the welfare and protection of the delicate marine life and reef ecosystems with the demands of resources and economy, the move is set to protect 3.1 million square kilometres of the Coral Sea and its coastal waters.
Minister for sustainability, environment, water, population and communities Tony Burke last week announced that almost one third of Australia's territorial waters, particularly off the north-eastern coast and Great Barrier Reef, would be restricted from fishing and oil and gas exploration.
Population pressures and climate change have been threatening the long term survival of such areas, however this new network of marine reserves will help ensure that Australia's diverse marine environment, and the life it supports, remain healthy, productive and resilient for future generations said Mr Burke.
There are currently 27 marine reserves covering approximately 800,000 square kilometres but the number of protected waters is expected to rise to 60 once the proposal is approved by Parliament and put into effect later this year.
According to figures released by Tony Burke, the government estimates a $100 million dollar compensation payment to the fishing industry when the new restrictions are put in place. However, this seems like a small price to pay for ensuring the long term welfare of some of Australia's most iconic tourist attractions such as the Great Barrier Reef and Whitsunday Islands.
We have an incredible opportunity to turn the tide on protection of the oceans, and Australia can lead the world in marine protection said Mr Burke.