As Australia’s corals move south driven by global warming, Moreton Bay Marine Park off Brisbane will become an even more vital haven for marine species of all kinds, the Director of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, Professor Terry Hughes, said today
Welcoming the announcement by the Queensland Minister for the Environment the Hon. Lindy Nelson-Carr of the start of the Moreton Bay Marine Park Zoning Plan Review, Prof. Hughes said: “Moreton Bay is an absolute treasure on Brisbane’s doorstep, yet it’s in danger of being loved to death by more and more people.
Corals on the Great Barrier Reef are likely to migrate south, in response to global warming.
“There’s no other major city in the world where you can still see dugongs, whales and dolphins. Unfortunately, there are fewer today than not so long ago – while the human population is expected to climb from 2.77 million today to 3.2 million by 2016,” he said.
“Public support for greater protection of Moreton Bay is overwhelming – in a recent survey 93 per cent of residents said it should be protected. Experience with marine zones around the world shows the critical importance of public input and community support for long-term success.”
“The Environment Protection Authority’s commitment to community engagement from the outset is refreshing, ensuring public ownership of the final outcomes,” Professor Hughes said.
“Currently, only half-a-percent of Moreton Bay Marine Park is classified as green zone – where fishing is prohibited but boating and diving are encouraged.”
“Our current research demonstrates that the new green zones on the Great Barrier Reef are already showing the benefits of better protection of fish stocks. Green zones allow the fish to grow larger, producing more juveniles to restock the entire region, and restoring the ecological roles of fishes.”
“The new zoning will be critical for sustaining the two largest industries supported by the Bay – tourism and recreational fishing.”
Professor Hughes warned the coming decades will be a stressful time for marine ecosystems struggling to cope with climate change.
“We could well see more and more corals and other species migrating south from the Great Barrier Reef to Moreton Bay as tropical conditions move further south.”
Moreton Bay Marine Park extends for 125 kilometres from Caloundra to the Gold Coast Seaway and covers 3,400 square kilometres. It encompasses the sand islands of Bribie, Moreton, and North and South Stradbroke islands. As a multiple-use marine park, it allows for a range of activities including boating, diving, tourism and recreational and commercial fishing.
The park currently contains:
- over 750 species of fish
- over 120 species of coral
- the highest diversity and abundance of whales and dolphins in Australia
- the world’s largest population of dugong next to a capital city
- migrating humpback whales
- small populations of endangered grey nurse shark
- six of the world’s seven species of sea turtle
- special wetlands recognised under the international Ramsar Convention
- crucial habitat for 35 species of migratory shorebirds.
Professor Terry Hughes, Director, CoECRS, +61 7 4781 4000
Jenny Lappin, CoECRS, +61 7 4781 4222
Jim O’Brien, James Cook University Media Office, +61 7 4781 4822