The Coral Sea is a tropical marine jewel. It hosts spectacular coral reefs, remote islands, towering underwater mountains and deep-sea canyons, and is home to whales, dolphins, sea turtles, sharks, rays and seabirds. It is one of the last places on Earth where big fish can still be found in healthy numbers. In May 1942, the Coral Sea was the arena for the Battle of the Coral Sea, and many shipwrecks can be found on its scattered and diverse reefs.
Australia’s Coral Sea is less than 1% fully protected. Its reefs are vulnerable as they are isolated from each other. Without a high level of protection, the beauty and biodiversity of the Coral Sea will diminish over time.
In 2009, the Australian government announced an interim Conservation Zone over the Coral Sea within Australian waters covering 972,000 km2. While the Conservation Zone will not impose regulations on existing activities, tourism such as charter fishing and scientific activities will require a permit to access the area.
The Coral Sea offers the Australian government an unparalleled opportunity to protect one of the world’s last intact tropical oceanic ecosystems, an area of great historic significance and an important part of Australia that lies below the surface. A marine protected area in the Coral Sea would be a source of hope for the future.