WA coast gets some help

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A campaign is being launched to protect vast areas around Western Australia – but this time there’s no trees involved.

Conservation groups want much more of the ocean turned into marine parks to keep the fishermen out.

Spokeswoman Jessica Meeuwig, a marine scientist from the University of Western Australia, said WA’s oceans were full of unique species but they were threatened by fishing.

More people were going fishing and they had more money, hence bigger boats and better equipment, Prof Meeuwig said. Marine equivalents of national parks were needed.

“It’s really about saying: `Hang on, just like we do on the land, where we’ve got large national parks, we need the same in the marine environment’,” Prof Meeuwig told AAP.

One species at risk was the western blue groper, which lived to 70 years old and turned from a female to a male at about 30.

“So, when you pull out those old big blue males, you’re leaving a bit of a lonely hearts club behind,” Prof Meeuwig said.

Seven conservation groups are teaming up to call for new reserves, with a focus on areas off Geraldton and Perth.

The groups say up to 90 per cent of WA’s marine species are found nowhere else on earth, but less than one per cent of the state’s southwestern waters are protected.

Prof Meeuwig conceded some fishermen would not welcome the campaign.

“I think there will be some apprehension … there are always some people who resist any constraints on their activities.”

But, she said, there was a growing awareness that marine parks would conserve fish stocks and lead to better fishing in the future.

The campaign will be launched in Perth on Monday. Members are the Australian Conservation Foundation, WWF, The Wilderness Society, Conservation Council WA, Australian Marine Conservation Society, the Pew Environment Group, and the Nature Conservancy.

Source: theage.com.au