As the health of our planet's oceans continue to towards an uncertain future at the hands of big business, the urgency of protecting them has never been more important -- and today they got a much needed boost. In an announcement on the heels of the Rio+20 Earth Summit, Australia's Environment Minister Tony Burke recently unveiled plans to establish what will be the world's largest marine reserve.
Under the Australian government's plan, an additional 44 large areas of marine reserve will be added to nation's existing network of protected zones, encompassing the nation's most important aquatic ecosystems. Once fully implemented by year's end, approximately one-third of Australia's territorial waters will be under legal protection -- totally a whopping 1.2 million square miles of ocean.
"For generations Australians have understood the need to preserve precious areas on land as national parks,'' said Minister Burke, as reported by The Daily Telegraph. "Our oceans contain unique marine life which needs protection too.''
Going forward, the broad swaths of marine reserve will be off limits to commercial fishing and oil exploration in a bid to protect the fragile aquatic ecosystems from the harmful impacts of overfishing and offshore drilling.