Australia revealed the creation of the world’s largest network of marine reserves on Friday after years of planning and consultation.

The protected area covers six marine regions, spanning more than 2.3 million square kilometers of ocean environment. The idea aims to expand the protection of blue whales, green turtles and critically endangered populations of grey nurse sharks and dugongs, Environment Minister Tony Burke told AFP.

“Australia is home to some incredible marine environments including the Perth Canyon in the south-west and the stunning reefs of the Coral Sea and this announcement cements Australia’s position as a world leader on environmental protection,” Mr. Burke said. “We’ve got responsibility for more of the ocean than almost any other country on Earth”.

The announcement came despite opposition from fishermen who claimed the reserves would result to thousands of job losses and hurt Australia’s $2 billion aquaculture industry. They also fear seafood import prices would soar.
Mr. Burke said that affected businesses would be able to access an assistance fund worth $100 million. “The government recognizes that there will be impacts on some fishers and we will support those impacted,” he said.