Australia has taken a bold step and has created the world's largest network of marine reserves and will restrict fishing and oil and gas exploration in a major step to safeguard the environment and access to food.
Environment Minister Tony Burke has announced that the government expects to pay an estimated A$100 million ($128 million) to the fishing industry in compensation for the new restrictions on their operations. The marine reserve will take effect late this year.
The Coral Sea off Australia's north-eastern coast and the adjoining World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef will also be protected from oil and gas exploration. Both areas, which cover a total 1.3 million square kilometres, have very important reef systems which support ecosystems with sharks, coral, sponges and a huge variety of fish species.
The move means that the numbers of marine reserves off the Australian coast will be increased from 27 to 60.
The plan aims to guarantee future fish stocks by preventing overfishing. "We have an incredible opportunity to turn the tide on protection of the oceans and Australia can lead the world in marine protection," he said.