The Heard Island and McDonald Islands Marine Reserve and Conservation Zone – A model for Southern Ocean marine reserves?
Recognition of the unique and largely unmodified nature of the marine environment within the Australian EEZ around Heard Island and the McDonalds Islands led to the proposal for a marine reserve in 2001. The reserve was designed based on all scientific data available at the time, including data on biota and geophysical features of the area, the principles of comprehensiveness, adequacy and representativeness of the protected areas, as well as providing control areas for assessing the performance of the marine reserve and impacts of fishing. In October 2002, following consultation with stakeholders, an area covering over 65 000 km2 was declared as an IUCN category Ia marine reserve. Some additional areas, where consensus could not be reached, became a Conservation Zone, with a process agreed to provide an assessment of the conservation values and fishing potential in the Zone. With the assistance of industry vessels, research fishing and benthic surveys have been conducted inside and outside the Conservation Zone. On the basis of these data, an agreement is now close to being reached which is likely to see portions of the Conservation Zone join the Marine Reserve, with the remainder reverting to be part of the Australian Fishing Zone. A similar procedure, based on a precautionary approach and satisfying criteria of comprehensiveness, adequacy and representativeness, including Conservation Zones to focus research on contentious areas while affording some level of interim protection, could be followed to facilitate the establishment of a system of marine protected areas elsewhere.