Australia will expand its marine reserves to a third of the island’s waters: an area as big as India, according to Financial Times.
Canberra will ban gas and oil explorations and limit commercial fishing in what is the largest marine protected area in the world, from Perth Canyon in the southwest to Kangaroo Island in the south, taking in the Coral Sea surrounding the Great Barrier Reef, environment minister Tony Burke told Reuters.
The announcement from the island nation underlines its role in global efforts to address climate change, which that will be the subject of the upcoming United Nations’ sustainable development conference in Rio de Janeiro, RIO+20.
Critics said the plan will gravely impact the fishing and energy industry. Dean Logan, Chief executive of the Australian Marine Alliance, told the media that coastal communities will suffer. Australian Greens spokeswoman Rachel Siewert said that the boundaries for the plan coincide with areas determined by oil and gas sector lobbyists. Tony Abbott, Conservative opposition leader, says the plan would “damage the rights of the commercial fisheries and commercial tourist operators”.
Environmentalist groups are also saying that the plan falls short of protecting marine animals from oil and gas exploration in other areas.