Australia Commits to Ocean Protection by Joining the Global Oceans Alliance

ocean protection

Local environmental groups respond as the Australian Federal Government joins almost 40 other countries in the Global Oceans Alliance to drive urgent action towards global ocean protection.

ESTABLISHED at the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in September 2020, the Alliance is spearheaded by the UK government. Through the 30by30 initiative, the Global Oceans Alliance targets at least 30% of the ocean to be protected under Marine Protected Area (MPA) status by 2030.

Committing to this global target will help safeguard our rich and diverse marine environments and wildlife, a vital measure towards assuring the health of our planet, mitigating the impact of climate change, and protecting the global economy.

The world’s oceans provide more than half the oxygen we breathe, they regulate the climate and feed billions of people across the world.

The Hon Sussan Ley MP, Minister for the Environment
global ocean alliance

While Australia currently exceeds a domestic target of formal protection of 30 per cent of our oceans, we are now committed to collaboration with our Pacific neighbours and other countries to achieve the global target.

Australia has one of the largest networks of marine protected areas in the world, with 37 per cent of our marine jurisdiction formally protected – an area larger than the nation of Argentina….We are now working with other countries to show that a 30 per cent target is achievable globally and that it can have countless benefits for both marine environments and sustainable ocean economies. However threats from pollution, overfishing and changing climates are a global challenge, and that’s why we have joined the Alliance…

The Hon Sussan Ley MP, Minister for the Environment

In her statement, Minister Ley details how “in Australia alone, our ocean provides us with $25 billion worth of ecosystem services each year by way of climate regulation, carbon dioxide absorption, and oxygen production. Sea habitats like mangrove forests and seagrass meadows also boost climate resilience by trapping carbon and providing natural protection against storms and erosion.

The Australian Government has pledged over $67.4 million to protect Australia’s ocean and marine ecosystems including $14.8 million to tackle the impacts of ghost nets and plastic litter, and $28.3 million to enhance management of our Australian Marine Parks.

global ocean alliance

Dr Dean Miller, speaking on behalf of Great Barrier Reef Legacy, acknowledges that “it’s always fantastic for Australia to move forward on any ocean protection activities to show that we are committed to ensuring our oceans are healthy and plentiful for generations to come.”
He warns, however, “…with current issues facing oceans and particularly coral reefs it means more than just setting aside protected areas now – we are now in a time where taking proactive measures to minimise future disturbance will be paramount particularly in smaller reef systems if they are to survive at all.”

While it’s important to look further afield, we also need to ensure our local reefs are getting the attention they need, and to do that community groups and social enterprises need as much support as they can get as this is an area of much innovation and promise, yet are the most poorly funded under the current system. It’s these solution- and application-based groups that will be able to share their knowledge and experience with groups in other reef systems for successful outcomes in addition into protected areas, for if we can get it right here on the Great Barrier Reef, we will get it right for other places.

Dr Dean Miller, Great Barrier Reef Legacy

Didge McDonald, President of, and spokesperson for local Douglas Shire Sustainability Group also welcomes the announcement, and “notes the aim is to protect 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030. Douglas Shire has seen the devastating impact of climate change on the Great Barrier Reef. Whilst we applaud a commitment to global action, we urge the Federal Government to commit to drastically lowering Australia’s mining and burning of fossil fuels.”

While actions such as the Australian Federal Government joining the Global Ocean Alliance are a vital step forward in the recognition of the significance of our oceans to protecting the future of our planet and minimising the damage of climate change, it would seem, on the basis of our local experience, that there is still far more work to be done, and more commitments to be made.

Would you like to get more involved in protecting our oceans and marine environments?

Great Barrier Reef Legacy is a leader in collaborative coral reef research expeditions, education, stewardship and multi-media engagement. Built on over 35 years of expedition, tourism, multimedia and research experience, GBR Legacy delivers ground-breaking projects, innovative science, education and public engagement to accelerate actions vital to the preservation of coral reefs. Volunteer with GBR Legacy here.

Learn about Great Barrier Reef Legacy’s plans for a Coral Biobank in Port Douglas here.

Did you know?

  • The Pacific Ocean is wider than the moon. At its widest point, between the Malay Peninsula and Colombia, the Pacific Ocean is much wider than the moon. This expanse of ocean is 19,300 km across, more than five times the diameter of the moon!
  • The planet’s tallest waterfall is in the ocean. The Denmark Strait Cataract is an underwater waterfall located between Iceland and Greenland. It is formed by the temperature difference in the water on either side of the Strait. When cold water from the Nordic Sea meets warmer water from the Irminger Sea, the cold, dense water quickly sinks below the warmer water. It flows over the huge drop in the ocean floor, creating a downward flow with a drop of 3505 metres. This is significantly taller than the highest land-based Angel Falls in Venezuela with a drop of just under 980 metres. Niagara Falls also carries 2,000 times less water, even during peak flows.

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