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Marine protection has plenty in reserve

VAST tracts of the country's oceans will be formally declared as protected areas on Friday as part of long-running efforts to establish the world's largest network of marine reserves.

The federal government will also announce details of $100 million for fishers to compensate for the impact of the reserves. Fishers will also have until July 2014 before restrictions on what practices can take place in the reserves come into effect.

The new marine reserves cover more than 2.3 million square kilometres of additional protected ocean along the South Australian, West Australian, NSW and Northern Territory coasts.

The vast Coral Sea, which sits between the Great Barrier Reef and the edge of Australian waters and is home to dozens of important marine species and coral reefs, will also be protected.

The declaration completes a ring of more than 3 million square kilometres of reserves right around the coast. Marine parks were established across the Great Barrier Reef and in Victorian and Tasmanian waters under the Howard government.

The Environment Minister, Tony Burke, said: ''Australia is a world leader when it comes to protecting our oceans, and so we should be, we've got responsibility for more of the ocean than almost any other country on Earth.'' He said the majority of the 80,000 submissions sent to the government since it first outlined the borders for the new reserves in June had been supportive.

Only some of the new reserves - which are in Commonwealth waters starting several kilometres off the coast - will completely ban fishing. Some will allow just recreational fishing, while others will permit some commercial fishing.

The opposition environment spokesman, Greg Hunt, said while the Coalition supported marine parks, the failure to change boundaries showed consultation with industry had been a sham.