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Abbott left in Obama's wake as US acts on ocean conservation

The United States has taken further lead on climate, science and conservation with President Barack Obama using his executive powers to declare additional marine protected areas and increasing research funds for monitoring ocean acidification as part of push to deal with the impacts of pollution, climate change, and overfishing in our oceans.

The two-day US State Department marine conservation conference in Washington DC, attended by officials from 80 countries, heard from Australian reef expert Dr. Ove Hoegh-Guldberg from the University of Queensland who explained how carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is changing the chemistry and ecosystems of the ocean.

"The US's top diplomat, secretary of state John Kerry, opened the conference by stating that protecting the world's oceans was a 'vital security issue' for all nations," Senator Rachel Siewert, Australian Greens marine spokesperson said today.

"The leaders of the US are listening to our scientists about the threats to our ocean ecosystems from climate change, pollution, and overfishing but when the Australian delegates return will we find Tony Abbott listening to their evidence?

"The US have leapfrogged Australia yet again, this time by creating a series of marine reserves, while Tony Abbott continues to leave our own world class reserves without management plans.

"Tony Abbott's failure on the issue of marine protection shows his Government is intent on prioritising the profits of the powerful over the health of our oceans we all depend on," Senator Siewert concluded.

Kerry also used the international event to call for an 'ambitious' program to reduce the plastic pollution that is choking our marine ecosystems.

"The Australian Greens have been pursuing the Federal Government for many years on what action it is taking to tackle the significant problem of plastic pollution and other marine debris," said Peter Whish-Wilson, Australian Greens spokesperson on consumer affairs.

"The Abbott Government has a responsibility to deal with marine debris which has been listed as a 'Key Threatening Processes' under EPBC law since 2003, yet the funding for key science programs is in question.

"And with this unified, international call for action from all nations on marine plastic pollution will Tony Abbott finally stand up to Coke and the other packaging industry giants and deliver the 'cash-for-containers' legislation their lobbyists have blocked for a decade?

"Many Australians already do their bit each year to clean up our beaches and oceans - the Australian government needs to back the community's efforts instead of backing the industry lobbyists," Senator Whish-Wilson concluded.


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