Australia is all set to upgrade its existing network of marine reserves that would lead to the creation of sprawling parks covering the nation's coastal areas and providing protection to a host of endangered sea creatures.
Environment Minister Tony Burke said on Thursday that the country's current marine parks network will be pushed up from 27 to 60, spawning sanctuaries spread over a total area of 3.1 million square kilometres, once the plan is officially rolled out by the federal government.
He expects the ecological blueprint to materialise in the latter part of 2012 following the two-month consultation process that is mandatory prior to the formal declaration of the sea reserves upgrade, Mr Burke said.
Canberra unveiled the plan ahead of the Rio+20 environment summit set next week in Brazil, which Prime Minister Julia Gillard will attend, with Mr Burke joining Australia's official delegates.
"Australia today is leading that next step ... and it's time for the world to turn a corner on protection of our oceans," the Environment Ministry chief was quoted by Agence France Presse (AFP) as saying in a statement issued today.
"This new network of marine reserves will help ensure that Australia's diverse marine environment, and the life it supports, remain healthy, productive and resilient for future generations," Mr Burke added.
With the blanket of protection in effect, Canberra said that more sea creatures, such as the blue whale, green turtle, grey nurse sharks and dugongs would be afforded a vast coverage of protection assured by the federal government.
The reserves will mean that fishing activities and resource projects will be outlawed from within the parks' confines, allowing threatened sea creatures more space and time for unhindered breeding and feeding.
It is understood too that the government plan will greatly benefit the Great Barrier Reef area, which environmentalists said has been absorbing unnecessary intrusions of increased economic activities as Australia's resource boom further accelerates.
Environmental activists also praised the government initiative but insisted that more sea expanses must be added in the near future to ensure that the oceans within the jurisdiction of Australia will be protected from reckless resource explorations and sea-based mining.
Mr Burke admitted that the planned sea reserves expansion was not without exception as certain coastal portions in Western Australia will still be opened by the national government for future oil and gas projects.
He addressed too the concerns that were raised by the fishing communities near the reserve parks that the government will identify as off-limits to fishermen.
"Over the coming months, the government will consult the fishing industry and fisheries management agencies on the design and implementation of a fisheries adjustment assistance package," Mr Burke said.
The federal government, he added, has earmarked as much as $100 million that will be used to compensate for the projected loss that the fishing industry is expected to file in the immediate years ahead.
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