Government expands protection for the Coral Sea

Media Release


16 May 2015

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has agreed to the Australian Government's proposed extension of the Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait Particularly Sensitive Sea Area (PSSA) to protect the South West Coral Sea.

Overnight the IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee in London agreed to the new arrangements, which will see an additional 565,000 square kilometres of the South-West Coral Sea added to the existing Great Barrier Reef and Torres strait PSSA—a 140% increase on the current 403,000 square kilometres.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development Warren Truss said the adoption of the new PSSA will better protect this beautiful and unique oceanic region.

“The Coral Sea is one of the world's most distinctive and undisturbed marine ecosystems,” Mr Truss said.

“It behoves us to do all we can to reasonably and responsibly protect one of our greatest natural resources.

“Our new measures enhance protection for the Coral Sea—as well as the adjacent Great Barrier Reef World Heritage area—by helping ships traverse the region safely and avoid potentially hazardous areas.

“This is a concrete example of the Australian Government taking the necessary steps to protect the Great Barrier Reef, implementing measures outlined in the North East Shipping Management Plan released in October 2014.”

Designation as a PSSA helps to protect seas where significant ecological, socio-economic or scientific attributes may be vulnerable to damage by international shipping. The Great Barrier Reef was declared the world's first PSSA in 1990.

Three Associated Protective Measures will support the new PSSA, including a new Area to be Avoided and two supporting two-way routes. These measures will enhance ship safety by keeping traffic away from the many reefs, cays, islets, sandbars and shoal patches within the area.

This reduces the risk of groundings and allows more time for intervention in developing situations, such as a ship suffering a mechanical breakdown.

The PSSA will come into effect once the Associated Protective Measures are adopted by the IMO Maritime Safety Committee, expected in June. The APMs would come into effect six months later.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) represents Australia at the IMO to develop standards for ship safety, prevention of marine pollution from ships, search and rescue and maritime communications.

For more information on the new PSSA, AMSA has produced a 7:18 minute video detailing the proposal. Watch on YouTube at:

A broadcast quality download is also available at: