The current marine park adjacent to Australia’s Macquarie Island in the Southern Ocean does not adequately protect the unique and rich biodiversity that rely on the waters surrounding this World Heritage-listed area, according to an independent report by five leading scientists released today.
“The report recommends extending marine sanctuary protection right across Australia’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) around the island, except for an area that allows the current sustainable fishery to continue,” said report lead author Dr Ian Cresswell, who was also the co-chief author of the latest State of the Environment Report.
“The Australian waters surrounding Macquarie Island are significant for their role in supporting the diverse ecology of the area,” Dr Cresswell said.
“The island, 1,500 km southeast of Tasmania, is the exposed crest of the undersea Macquarie Ridge – the only place in the world formed entirely of oceanic crust. The significance of this massive 1,600 km-long ridge cannot be underestimated and may play a key role in the dispersal of life across the Sub-Antarctic.
“The island’s stunning landscape of steep escarpments, lakes, and Sub-Antarctic vegetation, along with the nearby ocean seamounts and canyons, support a vast array of marine life, including 3.5 million breeding seabirds, fur seals, elephant seals and 13 species of cetaceans – many of which forage widely across Macquarie’s waters.
“The royal penguin – one of four species of penguin which breed on the island – is found nowhere else on Earth.
“Currently, the entire area west of the Macquarie Ridge and most of the northern and southern parts of the ridge, are outside the marine park boundary.
“With the management plan for the Macquarie Island Marine Park now up for its 10-year review, this is an excellent opportunity to expand and upgrade the park’s protection levels.”
The Federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek last month announced the government’s proposal to almost triple Macquarie Island Marine Park to cover an area more than twice the size of Victoria. The proposal will be open for public consultation later this month.
The 79-page science report, “The unique marine ecosystem surrounding Macquarie Island,” was co-authored by Ian Cresswell, Nicholas Bax, Andrew Constable, Keith Reid, and Anthony Smith and was published by The Australian Marine Conservation Society and The Pew Charitable Trusts. The two organisations lead the Save Our Marine Life alliance.
The report will be launched at the Australian Parliament at 5.30pm on Tuesday 7 March 2023.