The Federal Government invites the public to help the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) draft a management plan for the Heard and McDonald Islands Marine Reserve.

Heard Island and McDonald Islands (HIMI) are located in the southern Indian Ocean approximately 4500 kilometres south-west of Fremantle, Western Australia and around 1000 kilometres north of Antarctica.

The marine reserve encompasses Heard and McDonald Islands declared in October 2002 and the associated territorial sea, along with some adjoining ocean areas.

The Parliamentary Secretary for the Antarctic Dr Sharman Stone said that in all, 6.5 million hectares had been assigned strict nature reserve including the HIMI World Heritage area.

“The reserve will play a key role in protecting sub-Antarctic habitats and species including Patagonian toothfish and threatened seal and albatross species. It will also provide an effective conservation framework for sustainable ecological management, and a scientific reference area for the study of ecosystems within the HIMI area,” Dr Stone said.

The proposed plan will replace the existing management plan in place since 1996.

Dr Stone said that the public had an important role to play in helping to develop a management plan for this unique area.

The period for public comment will close on 19 May 2003, after which the AAD will prepare a draft management plan and seek further public comment.