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Reef Report for Thursday, September 20, 2007

Campaign to Protect the Coral Sea Begins

This past week the World Wildlife Fund kicked off an international campaign to protect a large portion of the Coral Sea, one of the most intact and amazing marine ecosystems on earth.

The Coral Sea lies directly to the east of the Great Barrier Reef, an is a huge triangular patch of open ocean, bounded by Papua New Guinea to the North, and the Solomon Islands to the east. © World Wildlife Fund The area is largely deep open ocean, with a few small islands, atolls, and seamounts rising up from the ocean depths. These few reefs are scattered over some 780,000 square kilometers of ocean.

The area is well known amongst divers, as the Coral Sea provides some amazing diving on the isolated reefs. The distance from any large land mass means that visibility is always amazing, always over 30 metres. The area is well known for its pelagic species; sharks, manta rays, swordfish and other wide-ranging ocean predators are found in good numbers around the reefs and atolls. Dive trips visiting this are depart from Cairns and Port Douglas in Australia, on five to seven day live aboard trips. You can learn more about Coral Sea Dive trips here.

This very abundance of large fish is what causes the WWF concern. The isolation and exposed nature of these reefs has protected them from fisherman focusing on shark finning, but as shark populations are declining world wide it is thought that the abundance of the Coral Sea will eventually attract shark fishing boats.

The announcement caught the local fishing community by surprise. This huge area has just 18 commerical fishing operators, and they have been operating under modern fisheries management for the past 20 years, and point to the abundance of fish there as a sign that the fishery is being managed sustanably. The area is also already home to two Marine Reserves, and this group has signed a memorandum of understanding between with the Australian Government whereby they voluntarily agreed not to fish the atolls and reefs nearest the Coastline of Australia, as a way of providing the best dive experiences possible for scuba divers.

We urge you to support the creation of marine reserves everywhere. Rreserves are proven methods of protecting ocean ecosystems and in some cases assuring profitable and sustainable commercial fishing. As far as establishing a Coral Sea Reserve we will do our homework and report back to you when have had a chance to study the proposal.

More about Coral Sea Dive Trips

More about the World Wildlife Fund Coral Sea Campaign

Coverage of this story, from the UK Telegraph

More about Current Coral Sea Marine Reserves

(C) DiveTheReef The weekly reef report is written by Joel Groberg of DiveTheReef.com, who compiles them from the many conversations he has with dive staff in the area, as well as  many other local sources in the dive community.

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