Source: Pixabay

Australia Takes a Historic Step: Phasing Out Gill Net Fishing to Protect the Great Barrier Reef

In a globally significant moment for ocean conservation, Australia and Queensland have announced a groundbreaking initiative to phase out commercial gill net fishing, a practice that has been detrimental to the Great Barrier Reef. The world’s largest coral reef system, recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Area, is set to benefit from a more than $160 million package aimed at safeguarding its precious marine ecosystem. This remarkable decision marks a crucial step forward in fisheries management and the preservation of this natural wonder.

The Great Barrier Reef

A Unique Ecological Marvel The Great Barrier Reef, comprising over 900 islands and 2,900 individual reefs, is home to an astonishing array of biodiversity. With 400 types of coral, 4,000 species of mollusks, and 1,500 types of fish, it stands as a testament to the unparalleled beauty and ecological significance of our planet’s oceans. Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Area, the reef holds a place of global importance.

“This announcement is shaping up as a globally significant moment for ocean conservation, fisheries management, and the Great Barrier Reef — one of the natural wonders of the world.” – Dermot O’Gorman, CEO of WWF-Australia

Source: Photo by Francesco Ungaro/Unsplash

A Net-Free Reef

Ensuring the Safety of Threatened Species The comprehensive package introduced by the Australian and Queensland governments seeks to create a Net-Free Reef, where threatened species like dugongs, turtles, and dolphins can thrive without the risk of entanglement in gill nets. By eliminating these fishing practices, the authorities hope to celebrate the achievement of a more sustainable and ecologically balanced Great Barrier Reef. “If all goes to plan, by June 2027 we’ll have a Net-Free Reef where dugongs, turtles, dolphins, and other threatened species can swim without the threat of becoming entangled and drowning in a gill net, and that’s a cause for global celebration,”  said Dermot O’Gorman, CEO of WWF-Australia.

Source: Photo by Eva Wilcock/Unsplash

Independent Data Validation

Enhancing Knowledge and Conservation As part of the initiative, independent data validation will be mandated for commercial fishing vessels, providing invaluable insights into the impact of fishing activities on the reef. This commitment will contribute to a better understanding of accidental bycatch and assist in the effective management of marine resources.

“The commitment to mandate the use of independent data validation on commercial fishing vessels is also welcome and long overdue. It means we’ll have a much better understanding of what’s happening out on the water, including how many threatened species are being accidentally caught.” – Richard Leck, WWF-Australia’s Head of Oceans

Protecting Hammerhead Sharks

A Critical Measure Acknowledging the urgent need for species protection, the Australian government has declared hammerhead sharks a commercial fishery “no-take” species. This decision aims to combat the capture and trade of these endangered creatures, further aligning fishing practices with the goal of preserving and recovering threatened species within the reef ecosystem. “The ongoing capture of endangered hammerheads for meat and fins has long been out of step with protecting and recovering threatened species in the reef.” says Darren Kindleysides, Chief Executive of the Australian Marine Conservation Society.

Source: Photo by Jéan Béller/Unsplash

The phasing out of gill net fishing in the Great Barrier Reef is a pivotal step towards preserving this magnificent natural wonder for future generations. By prioritizing the protection of marine life and committing to sustainable fishing practices, Australia sets an inspiring example for ocean conservation efforts worldwide. As discussions continue on the World Heritage status of the reef, this initiative serves as a beacon of hope for the future of our planet’s fragile ecosystems.

If you want to read more about this topic, check out this article about energy giant Ørsted giving it a try to grow coral under offshore windmills!

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Here are some simple, effective actions you can take to help save coral reefs and the fish, animals and plants that depend on them.

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