The final boundaries released by the Federal Government for changes to marine parks confirm they will be the largest downgrading of protected area the world has ever seen.
The plans ignore 80,000 submissions, including 10,000 from recreational fishers, which opposed the government’s changes.
More than 35 million hectares, an area almost twice the size of Victoria, will be removed from Australia’s marine sanctuary network.
According to WWF website PADDDtracker.org, which records Protected Area Downgrading, Downsizing, and Degazettement (PADDD) around the world, no other country has ever removed protection from that large an area on land or sea.
“This will send Australia’s reputation for marine conservation from the penthouse to the outhouse,” said WWF-Australia Head of Oceans Richard Leck.
“The Coral Sea, which is the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, is the worst affected area by far with protected areas reduced by 50%.
“This expanse of ocean beside the Great Barrier Reef is the Serengeti of the Sea – still largely untouched.
“Now it will be open slather for destructive commercial fishing activities like trawling, gillnetting and longlining.
“Forty-four marine parks in Australia are affected by these changes. Forty-two marine parks are now open to the construction and operation of oil and gas pipelines,” he said.
The plan will come into effect unless it can be defeated in Parliament.