As shark populations, deplete the world over, predators of the Coral Sea appeal to illegal fishers that hunt for shark fins. As it is climate-sensitive, reefs are disappearing faster than rain forests.
This pristine region has a remarkably stout population of top-end predators – white tip and grey reef sharks, hammerheads, including other sea creatures like manta rays, tuna, trevally. The region remains vulnerable to illegal fishing, mainly for shark fins for the Asian market and oil and gas prospecting.
The region has another good source of income: a growing marine wildlife tourism industry worth millions. Estimates reveal that the Coral Sea tourism is worth as much as US$9.4 million a year in marine tourism. The region is considered one of the most spectacular diving destinations anywhere, largely because there are so many sharks in the water. It was nominated by Forbes magazine as being one of the world’s top 10 diving destinations.
The Coral Sea stretches over 780,000km2 of ocean – from the outer boundary of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef Marine Park to the South Pacific Islands of Vanuatu, New Caledonia and the Solomon Islands.
As the top predators are predated upon, they too need much protection. Populations of big oceanic predators such as sharks have plummeted 90 per cent globally since 1950. The decision for Coral Sea be converted into a protected region comes as a last refuge to salvage a priceless resource and irreplaceable habitat. Considering the climate trails, that Australia will have to face, it could definitely use the added income from marine ecotourism.