Media Release Marine Conservation

New nature laws must protect our oceans & reefs

December 8, 2022
  • Federal government must quickly establish strong national environmental standards for independent Environment Protection Agency to enforce
  • Great Barrier Reef, Ningaloo & Great Southern Reef battle with climate change

The Australian Government’s ambitious environmental law reform must address our precious oceans, coastal waters and reefs, the Australian Marine Conservation Society said today as the government announced its response to the Samuel review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).

“This is a hugely important day for the future of Australia’s threatened wildlife,” said AMCS Chief Executive Darren Kindleysides. “Australia’s nature laws have been failing our country, our seascapes and our wildlife for too long so it’s pleasing that the Albanese Government has the ambition to try to change the way we protect our natural heritage. 

“These timely plans lay the foundations for significant nature law reform that gives Australia the opportunity to be a world leader in environmental protection. A good framework, including an independent national Environment Protection Agency, will only work with strong national environmental standards and good resourcing. 

Australia’s natural heritage includes our coasts and oceans and these reforms must embrace the marine environment and the impacts of global warming. Our reefs support an extraordinary diversity of fish, sea turtles, corals and other marine life, much of which is found only in Australian waters, yet they face significant and existential threats

“The World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef and Ningaloo, along with the Great Southern Reef along Australia’s southern coast, are all under pressure from mounting threats including climate change, with the giant kelp marine forests of the Great Southern Reef now threatened as waters there warm more rapidly than the global average. These reforms must take climate change and carbon emissions into account.”

AMCS Threatened Species Campaign Manager Alexia Wellbelove said: We need strong laws that protect nature and halt the damage to Australia’s oceans, coastlines, landscapes and wetlands. Endangered species, such as Australian sea lions, urgently need plans in place that enable their recovery for future generations. 

“The government needs to quickly establish strong national environmental standards that protect and restore nature and commit to enforcing them to avoid any more extinctions. 

“We welcome the establishment of an independent national Environment Protection Agency, but it must be well-resourced and have strong governance arrangements that guarantee independence and good decisions based on sound science. It must also have the powers to monitor and enforce strong national environmental standards that protect and restore nature. 

“Conservation plans must support the goal of zero extinctions. Every threatened species must have a legally binding plan with clear requirements for protecting and recovering the species, and these plans must be properly funded. We welcome the government’s commitment to reduce opportunities for inappropriate commercial trade of wildlife.

“This is a once-in-a generation opportunity for the government to fix Australia’s environment laws and deliver on its commitment to stopping extinctions.”