Australia's Environment Ministry says it will create the world's largest marine reserve in the Coral Sea. The Ministry says the area has shallow reefs that support tropical ecosystems with sharks, coral, sponges and many fish species.
The proposal includes seas beyond the already protected Great Barrier Reef Marine Park off northeast Australia. The reserve would cover almost 400,000 square miles. Fishing would be allowed in parts of the reserve. The proposal announced in a ministry statement last Friday is now open for a 90-day comment period.
The protected zone would cover an area more than one-and-a-half times the size of France. New fishing limits would be imposed and exploration for oil and gas banned. The sea off the Queensland coast in north-east Australia is also the resting place of three US navy ships that sunk in the Battle of the Coral Sea in 1942.
Currently the world's largest marine reserve is a 545,000-sq-km area established by the UK around the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean. The Coral Sea reserve, if approved, would be approximately 989,842 sq km.