World Oceans Day: Supporting local communities to care for our marine life

The Albanese Labor Government is delivering over $4.5 million in community projects to better protect our oceans and the precious species that call them home.

Earlier this week we decided on a final marine park design to triple the size of the Macquarie Island Marine Park as part of our commitment to ocean conservation. But we know we need to also invest in practical solutions to tackle issues affecting marine creatures like climate change, light pollution and being caught as bycatch in fishing gear.

Too many marine animals, including threatened species like sawfish, dugongs and turtles, are being injured and killed in fishing nets. That’s why we’re delivering $2.8 million for seven projects to prevent animals being caught as bycatch. Funded projects include a new alternative mesh that will reduce the numbers of sawfish becoming entangled in nets in Queensland and a new system to design and trial purpose-built nets that help to retrieve entangled seabirds in Western Australia.

Climate change is the greatest risk to marine turtle recovery, with rising sea levels causing the ‘drowning’ of turtle nests. Beaches where turtles are nesting are also getting hotter, this rise in sand temperature is influencing the sex of hatchlings, resulting in more females than males. That’s why we’re investing over $1.5 million for four projects including protecting Olive Ridley turtles with shaded cages in Cape York and using Traditional Owner knowledge to improve management of the Flatback turtle on the Uunguu Coast in Western Australia.

We’re also announcing over $210,000 for five projects to help ‘switch off’ light pollution near threatened species’ coastal habitat. Light pollution can prevent species such as green turtle hatchlings from reaching the ocean and short-tailed shearwater fledglings from taking their first flight. Projects funded include the installation of light shields and filters and restoration of dunes to improve nesting habits and create natural light buffers.

This is on top of what we’re already doing to protect our oceans and those who call them home. We have:

  • Tripled the size of the Macquarie Island Marine Park.
  • Invested $1.2 billion in the Great Barrier Reef to improve water quality, remove pests and increase traditional owner management.
  • Committed to protecting 30% of our oceans by 2030. Including the new Macquarie Island Marine Park, 48% of our oceans are marine parks and 22% are highly protected.
  • Delivered an ambitious global high seas treaty to regulate the conservation and sustainable use of international waters.
  • Negotiated for a strong new global agreement on plastic pollution, as part of our goal to see a plastic free Pacific in our lifetimes and invested $15 million to tackle deadly ghost nets in our northern waters.
  • Doubled the funding for the Australian Institute of Marine Science, ensuring that our scientists can continue to lead the world with their research.
  • Committed to phasing out gillnets in the Great Barrier Reef by 2027.
  • Committed to developing a Sustainable Ocean Plan.
  • Invested in restoring valuable blue carbon ecosystems.

Quotes attributable to Minister for the Environment and Water, Tanya Plibersek:

“I want to better protect our precious oceans but there are serious pressures facing our oceans, pressures we need to acknowledge and confront.

“Oceans are soaking up a quarter of the world’s carbon emissions, and they’re capturing 90% of the heat generated by greenhouse gases.

“And they have become the unfortunate endpoint of our society’s addiction to plastics pollution.

“These problems require global action, but there is work that communities can do on the ground right now to protect our precious marine creatures.

“That’s why we’re delivering over $4.5 million in grants to Traditional Owners, local councils, researchers and businesses to help threatened turtles adapt to climate change, prevent light pollution and stop marine life being caught as bycatch in fishing gear.”