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The use of marine protected areas as a major tool in marine conservation is now accepted throughout much of the world. New South Wales is committed to a process of establishing a comprehensive system of marine protected areas for all marine waters under its jurisdiction. The current status of the NSW system is presented here and the role of science in the process of establishing and managing that system is explored. Scientific analysis has been able to greatly assist the selection of candidate sites for marine protected areas along the NSW coast, but the challenge for scientists now is to develop monitoring and evaluation procedures that will provide the basis for continuous improvement of the system. This is particularly important if the arrangement of marine protected areas is to function as an effective ecological network rather than merely as a collection of ecologically isolated elements.

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