Australia to quadruple size of Southern Ocean marine park

Canberra, July 5 (UNI) The Australian government has revealed plans for a major expansion of a protected subantarctic marine park.

Minister for the Environment and Water, Tanya Plibersek, on Friday announced a government proposal to expand the size of the protected Heard Island and McDonald Islands Marine Reserve in the Southern Ocean by over 300,000 square kilometres (km).

The proposal would more than quadruple the size of the reserve, which currently encompasses 71,000 square kilometres, and increase the proportion of Australia’s oceans that are covered by protected marine parks to over 50 percent.

Plibersek said in a statement that the expansion of the marine park would help protect globally significant habitat for endangered seabirds and seals.

“There are so few places on earth that can be described as pure, pristine wilderness. Heard, and McDonald Islands is such a place,” she said.

“Quadrupling the size of the Heard and McDonald Islands marine parks would protect more of our oceans around the island and the seals, albatross, and whales that call these oceans home.”

The islands, which are located approximately 4,000 km south-west of Australia and 1,700 km north of Antarctica, became a United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation World Heritage Site in 1997 and are home to Australia’s only two active volcanoes.

Fishing, mining, and other extraction activities are restricted in Australian marine parks, but the proposed expansion would allow for the continuation of the sustainable fishing of mackerel icefish and Patagonian toothfish in the area.

A public consultation on the proposal will run until September 5, at which point the government will finalise the boundaries of the expanded reserve.

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