Australia to Triple Size of Macquarie Island Protection Zone to Shield ‘Remote Wildlife Wonderland’ in Southern Ocean
Australia’s Albanese Labor Government has announced its plans to triple the size of the Macquarie Island Marine Park to protect millions of seals, seabirds and penguins in the Southern Ocean, a press release from Australia’s Minister for the Environment and Water Tanya Plibersek said.
The expansion of the marine park would protect the entire Exclusive Economic Zone surrounding the island and expand Australia’s marine parks to 48.2 percent of its oceans.
“The proposal includes a new high protection zone larger than the area of Germany, an important contribution to our commitment to protect 30 per cent of our land and 30 per cent of our oceans by 2030,” Plibersek said in the press release. “Macquarie Island Marine Park is a remote wildlife wonderland.”
Millions of penguins — including southern rockhopper and royal penguins — as well as southern elephant seals and subantarctic fur seals breed in the island’s sub-Antarctic marine environment, which is also an essential feeding ground for them. Grey petrels and black-browed albatrosses also call the island — which lies halfway between Australia and Antarctica — and its surrounding waters home.
“The marine park has a Sanctuary Zone, providing the highest level of protection for birds and other marine life. The Sanctuary Zone is managed to minimise disturbance to the environment from human activities, so only scientific research is allowed,” according to the Macquarie Island Marine Park website. “The marine park also includes a Habitat Protection Zone. While some activities are allowed in the Habitat Protection Zone, others are restricted in order to protect important habitats.”
Macquarie Island was added to the list of World Heritage Sites in 1997, and the marine park was established in 1999. The expansion would bring the marine park up to nearly 149,808 square miles.
Australian Marine Conservation Society’s campaigns director Tooni Mahto said the area’s wildlife was having a difficult time adapting to threats like fishing, as well as rapidly warming ocean temperatures, reported The Guardian.
“If approved it will provide a refuge to help the island’s iconic species adapt to the changing climate,” said Antarctic conservation manager with WWF-Australia Emily Grilly, as The Guardian reported. “This announcement is an important contribution to conservation in the oceans of the southern hemisphere – a region where dramatic climate change impacts may threaten unique wildlife.”
Parks Australia manages a total of 14 marine parks under the South-east Marine Parks Network Management Plan 2013-2023, the press release said.
The continuation of Macquarie Island Toothfish Fishery would also be included in the new marine park design.
The statutory and public consultation periods on the proposed expansion of the marine park and the intention to prepare a new South-east Network management plan will begin in the coming weeks.
“I encourage everyone who, like me, cares deeply about the future of our oceans and of the industries and activities that rely on their health, to provide your input on the proposal to expand the Macquarie Island Marine Park and on the future of the South-east marine park network,” Plibersek said in the press release. “Expanding and increasing the protection of the waters surrounding Macquarie Island will allow us to better manage this important ecosystem for the future.”
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