The Australian government has significantly expanded the number of marine reserves around the continent. As a result, commercial fishing is now prohibited in an area of 3.1 million square kilometers (1.2 million square miles) - that's five times the current protection zone.
Scientists estimate the famous Great Barrier Reef situated on Australia's east coast can't be saved from the irreversible damage caused by global warming. Since 1985, half the reef's coral has been destroyed, and it is estimated that in 20 years time, the entire ecosystem could collapse.
Spanning across 2,600 kilometers (1,600 miles), the Great Barrier Reef is the largest of its kind. Each year, the reef receives around 2 million visitors attracted to its unique biodiversity, the warm climate and snorkeling and diving in clear, shallow waters ideal for observing marine life.
The Great Barrier Reef is particularly popular among water sport enthusiasts. With minimal sediment in the water, the view under water boasts high visibility. However, years of negligent diving has also contributed to the reef's damage.
In 1981, the United Nations listed the Great Barrier Reef a World Heritage site. The reef is commonly known as one of the seven wonders of the world. In March 2012, environmentalists called on UNESCO not to let the reef be destroyed.
Some areas of Lady Elliot Island, which is situated in the southern part of Great Barrier Reef, accommodate tourists. However, a maximum of 120 people are permitted on the island at one time and certain areas of the marine reserve can't be accessed due to bird conservation.
Those in the commercial fishing industry affected by the government's expansion of the protection zone are set to receive some 80 million euros ($102 million) in compensation. Sport fishing, however, be allowed to continue, bar in a few restricted areas.
In November 2009, an oil rig explosion off the west coast of Australia caused large amounts of oil to spill into the sea. Now, oil is only allowed to be drilled in certain areas of the sea outside of protection zones.
Australia's Environment Minister Tony Burke said these protection measures were a major achievement for the long-term conservation of Australia's oceans. "This announcement cements Australia's position as a world leader on environmental protection," he added. Conservation groups, however, said more work would be neccessary to protect the oceans.
In Australia, the world's largest marine park covers 2.3 million square kilometers (900,000 square miles), which includes the famous Great Barrier Reef.