Media Release Marine Parks

Increased protection for Australia’s World Heritage-listed Macquarie Island

February 23, 2023

An alliance of 27 leading environment groups has welcomed the Albanese Government’s announcement to increase protection for Australia’s World Heritage-listed Macquarie Island.

“Federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek’s  announcement today opens the door to a once-in-a-decade opportunity to increase protection for one of the most unique environments on the planet,” said Fiona Maxwell, the National Oceans Manager for The Pew Charitable Trusts.

The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) lead the Save Our Marine Life alliance.

“Macquarie Island, which lies 1,500 kilometres south of Tasmania and halfway to Antarctica, is a lush and windy wonderland teeming with wildlife, including albatross, seals, whales and penguins. Some species, such as the royal penguin, are found nowhere else on Earth,” Ms Maxwell said.

“Macquarie Island is the only place in the world formed entirely of oceanic crust, where rocks from the Earth’s crust are exposed above sea level, creating an island with steep escarpments, lakes and Sub-Antarctic vegetation – a spectacle of wild natural beauty in the Southern Ocean.

“In 1999, a Commonwealth marine park was established in waters off Macquarie’s south-east. But now, 24 years later, the marine park is well overdue for renewal as our understanding of the incredible values of  the region, and the threats it faces, have changed significantly.

“The Albanese Government’s proposal ensures the region gets the level of protection it deserves, while continuing to accommodate the small footprint of the existing, relatively well-managed and sustainable commercial fishery.”

Australian Marine Conservation Society Campaigns Director Tooni Mahto said: “The proposed expansion of Macquarie Island Marine Park will be a major contribution towards international efforts to conserve the Southern Ocean.

“Globally, our oceans are in big trouble. Across the Southern Ocean temperatures are rising and the rate of ice loss has tripled, with much of this occurring during the past five years. Industrial fisheries are damaging areas of high biodiversity and food chains.

“The Southern Ocean’s rich wildlife — fish, penguins, seals, whales, and albatross — are struggling to adapt to these rapid changes and these threats. Marine sanctuaries – which afford an area full protection from extractive industries – play a crucial role in building resilience in the face of these increasing threats.

“With this proposal, Australia demonstrates that we can be a global leader by providing strong sanctuary protection for one of the world’s most unique Sub-Antarctic marine environments at a time when there is an increasing international imperative to secure the future of life in the Southern Ocean.

“We also welcome the opportunity to engage in the review of the South-east Marine Network Management Plan.”


Image credit: Sleeping pups Macquarie island – Gary Bell –