Penguin paradise and geological freak: Why Macquarie Island deserves a much bigger marine park

Penguin paradise and geological freak: Why Macquarie Island deserves a bigger marine park

by Ian Cresswell, Andrew John Constable, Keith Reid and Nic Bax,

Credit: Agami/Marc Guyt, Author offered

Macquarie Island, round 1,500km southeast of Tasmania, is greater than only a distant rocky outcrop. In reality, it is the one piece of land on the planet fashioned fully from ocean flooring, which rises above the waves to kind peaks that teem with penguins and different chicken species, a few of them discovered nowhere else on Earth.

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These are simply among the explanation why this distinctive island, and the seas that encompass it, have globally vital conservation values. Our new independent assessment of those values kinds the scientific proof base of Federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek’s announcement last month of plans to considerably improve protections for the waters surrounding Macquarie Island.

By comprehensively assessing the obtainable information on the marine ecosystems and the various species that stay on and round Macquarie Island, our report reveals a subantarctic surroundings that’s essential for breeding and feeding for tens of millions of seabirds and hundreds of marine mammals.

Macquarie Island and its surrounding seas (to a distance of 5.5km) are already protected as a Tasmanian reserve, and the world (this time together with seas to a distance of 22km) can also be a World Heritage Area. A Commonwealth marine park additionally covers a lot of the southeast quadrant of the island’s “economic exclusion zone,” together with a sanctuary zone and two seafloor administration zones.

The federal government‘s proposed enlargement of the marine park would cowl the island’s whole financial exclusion zone, growing the world of Australia’s marine sanctuaries by greater than 388,000 sq. kilometers, a rise bigger than the world of Germany.

An excellent spectacle

Macquarie Island is the uncovered crest of the 1,600km-long undersea Macquarie Ridge, which makes Macquarie Island the one piece of land on the earth fashioned solely of oceanic crust.

Penguin paradise and geological freak: why Macquarie Island deserves a bigger marine park
The current marine park (inexperienced), and the proposed enlargement (yellow). Credit: Australian authorities

Macquarie Ridge is considered one of solely three such ridges that impede the eastward move of a present referred to as the Antarctic Circumpolar Circulation, leading to distinct variations between the west and east sides of the ridge, that are utilized in other ways by completely different species.

The oceanography is additional divided north to south by two main ocean fronts, the Sub-Antarctic Front and the Polar Front, creating three distinct our bodies of water. They are nearer right here than wherever else within the Southern Ocean, and as they work together with the Macquarie Ridge create at the very least six completely different large-scale oceanographic habitats.

This creates an impressive spectacle of untamed, pure magnificence and a various set of habitats supporting huge congregations of wildlife, together with penguins and seals. Fifty-seven seabird species, together with 4 species of penguins and 4 species of albatross, have been recorded on Macquarie Island, and 25 of those species have been noticed breeding there. The royal penguin and the Macquarie Island imperial shag stay nowhere else on Earth.

The ridge features a collection of undersea mountains that act as “stepping stones” linking subantarctic and polar animals on the ocean flooring, such as brittlestars.

Needing extra safety

Our report reveals the world round Macquarie Island isn’t nicely represented by the present marine park. In specific, the complete space to the west, and a lot of the northern and southern components of the Macquarie Ridge, will not be protected by the present marine park, however might be included within the proposed enlargement.

Our report additionally considers a number of choices for safeguarding the world’s distinctive ecosystems and concludes that essentially the most wise strategy, given the obtainable information, could be to declare the entire space across the Macquarie Ridge as a marine park, growing the safety outdoors the present sanctuary zone, whereas permitting the present fishery to proceed in a habitat safety zone.

Penguin paradise and geological freak: why Macquarie Island deserves a bigger marine park
A haven for penguins and different seabirds. Credit: Agami/Marc Guyt, Author offered

This offers the only, most expeditious reserve design that’s comparatively straightforward to implement, achieves environmental protection and sustainable fishing, acknowledges the significance of the complete Macquarie Island area, and offers essentially the most resilience to climate change.

Direct human impacts within the space are predominantly as a result of fishing and marine particles, though local weather change is an ever-present risk too. The fishery targets the deepwater Patagonian toothfish utilizing backside longlines, largely within the central zone of the Macquarie Ridge. This fishery is usually nicely regarded for its best-practice fishing strategies and dedication to optimistic environmental outcomes, and this fishing exercise would proceed below the brand new plans.

But if new fisheries had been allowed to develop concentrating on midwater species, or new industries resembling seabed mining had been permitted, these might instantly affect the seabirds, marine mammals and different species that stay in these areas.

The proposal put ahead by Minister Plibersek protects all the Commonwealth waters in two completely different zones of a marine park, successfully tripling the scale of the present marine park. It protects the marine area and permits the present fishery to proceed with out vital modifications to present practices or catches.

Restrictions on any potential future fisheries could be decided by the distribution of “sanctuary zones” which might preclude fishing, and “habitat/species zones,” which might accommodate sustainable fishing. Mining could be precluded below both class of safety.

What subsequent?

The authorities’s proposal indicators a transparent precedence for cover over improvement on this space. A interval of public session on the proposal will start in March. Any future improvement of the marine park would must be orderly and cautious, together with prior consideration of environmental impacts. Any modifications to the present fishery administration preparations ought to make sure that the modifications preserve or improve circumstances for a long-term sustainable fishery.

More broadly, our report additionally demonstrates the potential for, and significance of, compiling essentially the most up-to-date obtainable information for any area previous to any formal evaluation course of to replace Australia’s marine park community.

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Penguin paradise and geological freak: Why Macquarie Island deserves a much bigger marine park (2023, March 10)
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