Big plans for marine reserve
MORE than 14,000 square kilometres of ocean off the Clarence coast is being considered for inclusion in what would be the world's biggest marine reserve.
The area, which stretches from Brooms Head to just north of Hat Head and east from three nautical miles (5.5km) offshore, would form part of a series of reserves covering 1.47 million square kilometres of temperate and subtropical ocean.
It is made up of Commonwealth waters starting from the southern boundary of the Great Barrier Reef to Bermagui in southern NSW and includes the waters surrounding Lord Howe Island.
Environment Minister Tony Burke said the draft bioregional plan and proposed marine reserves network would be would be open for public consultation until February 21 next year.
He said there was a unique opportunity for the Government and community to work together to take steps now to protect the region's marine environment for future generations.
"For generations Australians have understood the need to preserve precious areas on land as national parks. Our oceans contain fragile marine life which deserve protection too," Mr Burke said.
"The Temperate East Marine Region has many unique features and is home to a large number of protected species and species that occur nowhere else in the world. It is home to the east coast population of the critically-endangered grey nurse shark and includes the southernmost extent of many reef-building coral species.
Mr Burke said the Government had worked with environment groups, the fishing industry, recreational fishing groups and other marine users in the development of a draft bioregional plan and proposed marine reserves network for the temperate east.
A consultation session is to be held in Coffs Harbour at a date to be announced.