CCG Coral Sea Report to Australia's Commonwealth Marine Reserves Review

In reviewing the available data on the Coral Sea the Centre for Conservation Geography makes five key findings relating to a review of the zoning plan for the Coral Sea Marine Reserve (the Coral Sea Marine Reserve and its zoning was passed into law by the Abbott Government in December 2013[1]):

  1. Marine National Park Zones:  Are critical to the protection of the Coral Sea’s marine life with the weight of scientific evidence showing that partially protected zones do not deliver the broad ranging and significant benefits for marine life of highly protected zones. Making more than minor changes to improve the extent of protection offered by the Marine National Park Zones risks destabilising the shape of the broad compromise between competing interests that has been largely welcomed by commercial and recreational fishers.
  2. Social and economic impacts:  The information compiled by the Centre for Conservation Geography shows that the net social and economic value of the Coral Sea Marine Reserve to the Australian community is $1.2 billion. Within this, positive impacts on nature-based tourism and recreational fishing are found to outweigh any possible negative impacts on commercial fishing by at least $5 million per annum. The Coral Sea Marine Reserve is predicted to result in a net increase of 100 jobs, particularly in North Queensland. Community support for the marine reserve is very strong with over 99% of the nearly half a million submissions to the public consultation process supportive of increased protection for the Coral Sea. There is significant international interest in the Coral Sea Marine Reserve as an example of how to protect intact marine life at the large ecosystem scale. The zoning plan could be improved so as to enhance the positive social and economic impacts of the Coral Sea Marine Reserve by providing more secure protection to the key regional economic assets of the dive tourism industry and by extending the area protected from pelagic longlining down to 22oS as recommended by key members of the Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery during the public consultation process.
  3. Coral reef protection:  Scientific evidence published by Edgar et al (2014)72 after the declaration of the reserves by the Abbott Government in December 2013 suggests that a number of minor changes are needed to the Marine National Park Zones around some of the key coral reefs targeted for protection.
  4. Unprotected habitats:  Major concerns exist within the scientific community about the low level of protection for the unique habitats of the western and southern Coral Sea, particularly its deep water troughs, pelagic ecosystems and unique coral reefs. The review should consider increasing the protection for these features.
  5. Destructive commercial fishing practices:  The Government’s risk assessment process found eight commercial fishing practices to be incompatible with the conservation values of the Coral Sea. The zoning plan should be adjusted to ensure that these eight fishing practices are fully removed from the Coral Sea Marine Reserve.

[1] Commonwealth of Australia, 2013. Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (Commonwealth Marine Reserves) Proclamation 2013 <>


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CCG report on the Coral Sea to the Commonwealth Marine Reserves Review in March 2015.
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