The Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) of the Department of the Environment and Heritage has invited submissions on a draft management plan for the Heard Island and McDonald Island (HIMI) Marine Reserve.

Australia’s most remote and isolated reserve, HIMI is located in the Southern Ocean about 4000 kilometres south-west of Perth, Western Australia.

The Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell, said the World Heritage-listed islands provided important breeding locations for seabird and seal species such as the southern giant petrel and southern elephant seal which have high conservation status under federal environment laws and international conventions.

“The waters of the Reserve surrounding the islands provide valuable foraging grounds for land-based marine predators such as king and macaroni penguins, black-browed albatross and Antarctic fur seals,” Senator Campbell said.

“The marine areas also contain important sea floor habitats and unique and vulnerable marine species that collectively make an outstanding contribution to Australia’s National Representative System of Marine Protected Areas.

“The draft management plan includes measures to ensure that the Reserve’s values are identified, protected and communicated to the public, most of whom will never visit this remote, wild and special place.

“There are comprehensive procedures designed to prevent the introduction of exotic species by humans to ensure protection of important terrestrial and marine species, habitats and ecosystems.

“It also includes measures to interpret the cultural heritage values associated with 19th century sealing activities and the earliest Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition," he said.

The draft plan takes into account submissions received during an initial public comment period in 2003. The closing date for submissions is 4 May 2005.

The AAD, which manages the Reserve on behalf of the Director of National Parks, will consider all comments received.

Further information is available at the Heard Island website.

The specially-designed website takes the visitor on a very special journey of the region including its history, heritage values and management responsibilities as well as presenting a comprehensive picture gallery of this important marine reserve.