Australia to Protect One-Third of Great Barrier Reef

In a major boon to Down Under ecology, fully one-third of the Great Barrier Reef will receive protection, the Australian government announced this week. The move will increase the protected areas of the reef by 40,000 square miles, thereby establishing the largest network of marine reserves in the world. No fishing will be allowed within the reserves, but tourism will be permitted, including snorkeling and scuba diving — which, with some 1.3 million dives per year, represents a critical component of the regional economy. Environmentalists welcome the protection but say it must be increased to include 50 percent of coral reef zones to adequately protect biodiversity. They also say that other factors, such as land-based pollution, offshore oil exploration, and climate change, continue to threaten the reef.