Each year at least 256 threatened Australian Sea Lions die unnecessarily in fishing nets off Australia's south coast. Despite this, a current plan for new marine parks leaves 96% of their feeding areas unprotected.
The lack of protection is similar for marine life all through the unique southwest region. This area stretches from Kangaroo Island in South Australia over 1.4million square kilometers to Kalbarri in Western Australia. Up to 90% of marine life is unique to the region, and it is home to one half of the world's whale and dolphin species, yet less than 1% of this region is currently protected.
Despite this, a new Australian government draft plan protects only two-of-ten critical biodiversity hotspots in the region, and both of these are in the deep ocean. Less than 5% of the shallower shelf and slope areas where marine life is under most pressure are protected. The critical habitats of threatened Australian sea lions, endangered blue whales and countless thousands of unique species will be left unprotected unless we act.
Got right, this would be an internationally significant declaration of marine sanctuaries on the scale of Chagos, but we need help to this happen in the final marine park plan.
Australia's sea lions are unique to southern Australia and have not recovered from sealing in the 1800s when tens of thousands were killed for their fur. The current rate of deaths is over 2% of the population each year, making this the world's third highest death rate of any seal species as by-catch in fishing nets.
The Australian sea lion deserves more protection. The unique marine life of the South West deserves more protection.
Join us in demanding that the Australian Government respect the science and create a system of fully protected marine sanctuaries that truly protects the unique marine life of Australia's South West, including our unique and threatened Australia sea lions. Submissions can be made until August 8th.
This will be the biggest conservation decision in Australia's history, let's make sure it is the right one for marine life and for the threatened Australian sea lion.
In particular, areas where sea lions feed must be protected, these must include protection for distinct populations in South Australia, the Southern Coast of WA (Recherche and offshore from Fitzgerald River), Jurien and the Abrolhos.
We are concerned that sea lions are slow to breed, that females only return to their home colonies and that both individual colonies and the species are highly vulnerable to mortality as fishing by-catch.
In addition, we call on you to provide adequate protection in a network of marine sanctuaries to the entire South West region that meets the benchmarks set by science.
Marine sanctuaries must be established in the areas where marine life is under greatest pressure, and where the documented benefits for fishing, communities and the economy can be best realised. These areas are on the continental shelf and slopes. The current protection plan with less than 5% of the slope and shelf protected does not meet these benchmarks.
As part of this, protection in marine sanctuaries must be established at all of the ten critical biodiversity hotspots, not just the two in the deep ocean, although we commend you for this proposed contribution to preserving deep ocean life.
These include the Abrolhos Islands (including the Northern Abrolhos, inshore lagoons and Houtman Canyon), the Rottnest Shelf, the Perth Canyon (including a sanctuary in the inshore area near Rottnest Island), Geographe Bay and the Capes, the Albany Canyons (including the Pallinup Spur, the Bremer Canyon and the Malcolme Canyon), the Great Australian Bight and the Kangaroo Island Canyons.
This is an incredible opportunity to preserve the unique marine life and environmental hotspots of Australia%u2019s South West oceans, whilst also making a major contribution to restoring our ailing global oceans.
Please hear our call to protect the unique marine life of the South West, and particularly the threatened Australian Sea Lion. Thank you for taking the time to read this letter.
Please consider this as a submission on the South West bioregional marine plan. Marine sanctuary refers to fully protected areas of the same status as marine national park in the plan.