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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Nemo’s home to be the world’s largest marine park

Everyone’s heard of the Great Barrier Reef, in the Coral Sea off the east coast of Australia. You know, the home of Nemo, that cute little clown fish with the odd shaped fin. Recently Australia’s best marine scientists together with the Pew Environment Group have called for the Coral Sea to be declared a marine protected area. A National Park in the sea.

That’s 400 000 square miles, even bigger than Texas!

Professor Terry Hughes from James Cook University (a man whose seen the Caribbean coral reefs fade away) said “There is overwhelming evidence the world's marine ecosystems have been seriously degraded by overfishing, pollution and global warming. These trends call for urgent, practical solutions”. The Coral Sea is a beautiful place and one of the last relatively unscathed warm water environments on Earth. The endangered Hawksbill and Green turtles call it their home as well as 25 species of whales and dolphins, countless species of fish, birds, invertebrates, and of course little old Nemo.

The large fish like sharks, tuna, marlin and sailfish are some of the fastest animals in the seas. They are targeted by fishers in all the oceans of the world because they are so valuable. Fishermen can get up to $110/ kg for shark fin making them well worth the hunt. The Coral Sea is one of the few places left on Earth where these large fish have not been overfished…yet.

With climate change on the way and an ever increasing human population, marine ecosystems need as much biodiversity and responsible management as they can get if they are to be resilient in the face of changing ocean currents, ocean acidification, and habitat loss. There are only a handful of places in the world where a large oceanic marine park could be made, and enforced, Australia and the Coral Sea is one of them.