New York Times editorial
It will soon be much safer to be a fish in Australia, now that the country is planning to turn nearly a third of its coastal waters into the world's largest network of marine preserves. The plan would restrict fishing and oil and gas drilling in a patchwork totaling 1.2 million square miles, including the Coral Sea and the Great Barrier Reef.
Despite the immensity of the plan, which is expected to be approved by Parliament and enacted this year, conservation groups have not been universally enthusiastic. Some say the government went too far to placate industrial fishermen and the oil and gas industries by leaving large swaths off western and southern Australia vulnerable to bottom-trawling and drilling.
Australian commercial and recreational fishermen are complaining, too. One fishing writer called this a victory for "extreme" conservationists and "their immensely wealthy backers," who "must be rubbing their hands with glee." It seems quite possible that the plan is a reasonable compromise.
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Australia's move comes at a time of growing awareness of the importance of marine reserves to ease the pressure on ecosystems and creatures that are acutely vulnerable to overfishing, pollution and a changing climate.