Plan to protect the Great Barrier Reef recognized as a Gift to the Earth
WWF regards the zoning plan as a pioneering development in marine conservation that sets the benchmark for marine protected area network establishment in Australia and around the world.
“The Great Barrier Reef is one of the world’s most treasured natural wonders, and the Australian government has shown it is truly a world leader in marine conservation by implementing the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park zoning plan,” said James Leape, WWF International Director General designate.
The Great Barrier Reef isn't just one of the world’s most precious natural treasures, it is also one of Australia's most valuable tourism assets. In 2004, reef industries contributed approximately AU$5.8 billion (US$4.3 billion) to the Australian economy and employed about 63,000 people.
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park zoning plan was implemented on 1 July 2004. Under the plan, strict protection rose from 4.6 per cent to 33 per cent of the Marine Park and World Heritage Area, covering more than 11 million hectares. While tourism and other non-extractive activities continue in the new, scientifically-based network of marine protected areas, all commercial and recreational fishing is now banned.
“Protecting and restoring the resilience of the Great Barrier Reef is the most important goal for its future," said Leape. "The network of strictly protected areas outlined in the zoning plan will make a significant contribution to this goal.”
WWF expects the Australian government to continue to take a leadership role in combating threats to the Great Barrier Reef, and will build on its success in protecting the reef as it establishes networks of Marine Protected Areas to safeguard the full range of Australian marine and coastal habitats.
The Gift to the Earth ceremony took place at the opening of the inaugural International Marine Protected Areas Congress (IMPAC) in Geelong, Australia. Almost 700 experts in marine conservation from over 60 countries are attending the international meeting, and WWF hopes that the Gift to the Earth award will inspire other countries around the world to establish similar levels of protection in their marine environment.
• The Gift to the Earth award is WWF’s highest accolade for conservation outcomes. It is only awarded to individuals, companies, institutions or governments who have demonstrated environmental leadership, and made a globally significant contribution to the conservation of the natural world.
For further information:
Andy Ridley, National Communications Manager
Tel: +61 2 8202 1237