Australia's north and northwest teeming with rare and threatened marine life, new reports say. The reports draw attention to the urgent need for marine sanctuaries to protect these vulnerable, iconic and unique environments. The new reports, Wild Blue Yonder: Fifteen underwater places for protection in Australia's north west and Twelve Tropical Sea Treasures: Underwater icons of Northern Australia reveal critical sites for rare and threatened sea life off Australia's north and northwest coast.
"Environment Minister Tony Burke has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to protect tropical sealife across northern Australia. The government's recently proposed reserves must protect every one of these iconic areas from the threats of oil and gas drilling and overfishing", said Paul Gamblin from WWF-Australia.
"Unless large sanctuaries are established in these iconic places, Australia will not be able to claim that it is adequately protecting its tropical marine environment."
"Spanning over one and a half million square kilometres, currently less than one per cent of these regions is protected from threats such as oil and gas drilling, seabed mining and overfishing", said Gavan McFadzean from The Wilderness Society.
The reports uncover an underwater treasure trove rich in threatened sealife, including ancient coral reefs, enormous whale sharks, dugong feeding grounds, habitat for the rare and recently described snubfin dolphin and humpback whale havens.
"This vast and diverse region, from Shark Bay through to the Gulf of Carpentaria, is a haven to tropical sealife, threatened with extinction in other parts of the world," said Jess Abrahams from the Australian Marine Conservation Society.
"This report clearly shows that marine sanctuaries are critical for protecting vulnerable marine life and their underwater habitat."
—Jess Abrahams from the Australian Marine Conservation Society
"The ocean off North Western Australia is our last great whale haven. But this plan sets the scene for unconstrained development of the oil and gas industry to the detriment of whales, dolphins and other marine animals. The Australian Government must do more to balance the needs of industry and conservation if it's to maintain its global reputation as a whale protector," said Isabel McCrea from IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare).
The reports have been produced by Save Our Tropical Sealife, an alliance of local, national and international conservation groups, as part of the campaign to seek protection for iconic and vulnerable marine habitats across northern Australia.