Conservation Groups Collaborate to Secure Southwest Australia's Marine Life

A new collaboration of Australian and international conservation groups has announced a new initiative to secure the future of Australia's southwest marine environment, a globally significant area that is home to more unique marine life than the Great Barrier Reef.

The collaboration — which includes the Wilderness Society, the Conservation Council of Western Australia, the Nature Conservancy, the Pew Environment Group, the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF), WWF Australia, and the Australian Marine Conservation Society — announced the Save Our Marine Life initiative in conjunction with the release of a report prepared by ACF.

The report, Protecting Western Australia's Big Blue Backyard (35 pages, PDF), found that up to 90 percent of species living in the waters off Australia's southwest coast exist nowhere else on earth, yet less than 1 percent of this region is protected. The report also identified a series of globally significant "hotspots" for marine life in the region, including Perth Canyon, one of only two known sites in Australian waters where the endangered blue whale comes to feed.

To combat threats to the marine life in this delicate region and allow depleted fish stocks to replenish, the report recommends that Australia's federal government create large marine sanctuaries and that the Save Our Marine Life initiative support this approach. Marine sanctuaries also would boost Western Australia's $3 billion tourism industry and its $45 million whale-watching industry.

"Many economically important marine species such as rock lobster, dhufish, and baldchin groper are under threat," said Jessica Meeuwig, a professor at the University of Western Australia's Centre for Marine Futures. "Large marine sanctuaries are critical to maintaining the health of the marine environment, helping fish stocks recover, and securing the future of commercial and recreational fishing in Western Australia."