Australia to expand marine reserves

June 14, 2012 at 2:57 PM   |   Comments

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CANBERRA, Australia, June 14 (UPI) -- Australia says it will create the world's largest network of marine parks covering 1.2 million square miles of ocean including the Coral Sea.

In the protected zones constituting more than a third of Australia's ocean waters, restrictions will be placed on fishing and oil and gas exploration, officials said.

"It's time for the world to turn a corner on protection of our oceans," Environment Minister Tony Burke said. "And Australia today is leading that next step."

The network of marine reserves will also include the Great Barrier Reef, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and the proposal will increase the number of marine reserves off the Australian coast from 27 to 60, The Sydney Morning Herald reported Thursday.

However, conservation and environmental groups are likely to be less than satisfied with the plans, having campaigned for a complete ban on commercial fishing in the Coral Sea, the newspaper said.

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