The latest "world's biggest" comes from Australia, with a new proposal to establish the world's largest marine reserve. The reserve will be located in the Coral Sea off the north-east coast, beginning on the eastern edge of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, and cover around 990,000 square kilometers. Of this, 507,000 square kilometers will be a "no take" area, which means fishing is banned entirely.
These no take areas are vital to keeping fish populations healthy, as they provide a place for fish to mature and eventually restock the areas where fishing is allowed.Nature.com reports, "Announcing the proposal on Friday, environment minister Tony Burke said his government would be creating the world’s largest marine protected area as the last component of a huge marine planning exercise."
However, because the no take area is arguably small compared to the entire protected area, some conservationist groups feel the plans don't go far enough. "British government’s reserve around the Chagos islands in the Indian Ocean is 544,000 km2 and is entirely no-take, making it the largest no-take marine reserve in the world," reports Nature.com.
Balancing fishing industry interests with conservation interests is a tricky business, as is ensuring marine protected areas are effective and don't simply look good on paper.
“The Government’s proposed plan is for a multi-use marine reserve, which doesn’t go far enough, and is piecemeal with only two reefs out of 25 in the Coral Sea set to receive full protection,” said the Green Party’s Queensland Senator, Larissa Waters. “To protect the region as a whole instead of creating a Swiss cheese of different-use zones would make it much easier for the Government to manage and monitor the area.”
What is important is that any no take areas are strategically placed. They must be in areas that act as nurseries for fish species, areas important for breeding or spawning, and be somewhat connected so that maturing fish aren't captured immediately. Details about the plans for the Coral Sea Commonwealth Marine Reserve are online.