Burke urged to stand by the sea


Strong scientific data supports more protection for the South West - but will Burke agree?

Fur seal

Populations of fur seals are slowly recovering after being all but wiped out in the region by 19th Century sealing.

Credit: Gary Bell/

South West Map

Stretching from Geraldton to Kangaroo Island, our South West seas are unique, under threat and under-protected.

Credit: Save Our Marine Life

Weedy sea dragon

The weedy sea dragon.

Credit: Tim Nicol

Diver and a sea lion

Diver and a sea lion.

Credit: Glen Cowans

Humpback and calf

A humpback whale with calf.

Credit: Scott Portelli / WDCS

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In the next few weeks, federal environment minister Tony Burke will make a decision on the protection of one of Australia's most unique marine environments - the South West.

"The scientific evidence in support of a network of large marine sanctuaries in the South West is compelling," said Gilly Llewellyn from World Wildlife Fund Australia.

The South West marine region covers over 1.3 million square kilometres, from Geraldton in Western Australia to just near the South Australian border at Kangaroo Island. The underwater landscape includes submerged mountain ranges, deep sea canyons and the most southerly coral reefs in the Indian Ocean.

Up to 90 per cent of the marine life in the South West isn't found anywhere else in the world - but only one per cent of it is protected by marine sanctuaries.

Last month, marine scientists at the University of Queensland released a blueprint for marine management in Australia, saying that 50 per cent of the region needs protection via a network of marine protected areas to sustain healthy marine life.

The 44 scientists who developed the report, in addition to 11 environmental groups across Australia, support increasing the level and area of protection of the South West.

"The University of Queensland's blueprint for Australia's southwest oceans shows us that we can protect our unique marine life and ensure that we can continue to fish and benefit economically from our oceans," said Chris Smyth from the Australian Conservation Foundation.

Tim Nicol from the Conservation Council of Western Australia agrees that the government needs to make a strong decision to support the region. "The federal government now has the scientific evidence it needs to confidently make important decisions about the future health of the oceans and marine life in Australia‟s south west."

Overfishing in the South West has reduced fish populations and degraded habitat. Plus new oil and gas developments are looking to start development soon.

Burke recently said that the Environment Department will be strengthening its consultation with communities and industries by facilitating meetings in coastal towns in the region.

Through the Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation, Jack Johnson has pledged to match donations made to the Seas The Day Appeal dollar-for-dollar up to USD$2500 until 31 December. Click here to donate through the Australian Marine Conservation Society.

To show your support for protecting the South West waters, click here to send a letter to Tony Burke.