Environment Minister Tony Burke. (Photo: YouTube/DeptEnvironment)
Fishers to receive compensation over marine park expansion
Friday, June 15, 2012, 03:10 (GMT + 9)
Australia will soon have the world's largest network of marine parks, Environment Minister Tony Burke has announced. But fishers say the plan goes too far while the Greens argue it does not go far enough.
The Government will compensate commercial fishers with up to AUD 100 million (USD 99.6 million) for keeping them out of some of the new marine parks.
The network consists of five main zones surrounding each of the country’s states and territories.
It would expand the number of protected areas from 27 to 60 and span 3.1 million sqkm -- one-third of Australia's waters, CNN reports.
"It's time for the world to turn a corner on protection of our oceans," Burke affirmed. "Australia today is leading that next step."
"This new network of marine reserves will help ensure that Australia's diverse marine environment, and the life it supports, remain healthy, productive and resilient for future generations," he added.
The proposed network extends reef protection in the Coral Sea, ABC reports.
Dean Logan from the Australian Marine Alliance thinks the plan is bad news for commercial fishers. "It's basically saying to Australians you cannot be trusted to be good custodians of the environment," he said.
Professional prawn fishing groups contend that the marine park reserves will severely harm the prawn industry in northern Australia.
Austral Fisheries general manager Andy Prendergast noted that the marine reserves, particularly in the Gulf of Carpentaria, will lock fishers out of their main fishing grounds for Tiger and Banana prawn. The government’s move could thus eradicate Australia's free-range prawn fishing industry.
"There is a tipping point," Logan added. "If we can't get access to these areas, that could effectively put us out of business in time."
Still, the plan is not as ambitious as environmental groups had hoped, as they were pushing for banning all commercial fishing in the Coral Sea.
The Australian Conservation Foundation's Chris Smyth said he is still thrilled, as the news is better than no improvement at all.
"Obviously some of the areas we would have liked to have got are still being opened to oil and gas interests and commercial interests, but across the board we think it's a major achievement in terms of oceans conservation," he stated.
A final consultation process will take place before the initiative goes into effect.
"Over the coming months, the government will consult the fishing industry and fisheries management agencies on the design and implementation of a fisheries adjustment assistance package," Burke said.
- Fishers groups attack govt's marine park expansion plan
By Natalia Real