Yesterday I referred to the Rural and Regional Affairs Committee the proposed Marine Bioregional Plan that will encompass Australia.
Environmental Minister Tony Burke has already issued interim maps of the marine parks. He is able to do so at the stroke of a pen, without any Parliamentary scrutiny or legislation.
The maps detail marine parks in the five bioregions: the South-West, North-West, North, the Coral Sea and the Temperate East.
The total Marine Reserve network for all the zones is 1.4 million square kilometres. This makes Australia’s current marine park protected areas approximately 24% of the world’s total marine protected estate. These zones are made up of green no-take zones, multiple use and general purpose zones, and special purpose zones with restricted fishing and no-trawling. The no-take green zones will affect recreational fishing.
The major damage will be to the commercial fishing fleet, the fish processors and onshore businesses, many in regional areas around Australia. Trawling will be banned completely from all marine zones. There will be approximately 250 fishing boats and trawlers that will be partly displaced or totally displaced from their fishing grounds. There will have to be a buy-out of licences and boats to reduce fishing effort so the remaining fishing ground won’t be overfished or overused.
These closures are some of the largest in the world. The repercussions need to be scrutinised by a Senate Committee. The recreational and professional fishermen also should have the opportunity to give evidence to the Committee on what effect these closures are going to have on amateur and professional fishers, and put their concerns on the record.
The professionals must also be given the opportunity to tell the Government what the closures will cost them, and what other effects this will have on their industry. The Government needs to say what compensation will be offered. Have they estimated the cost of buyouts of boats and licences? Who will monitor and police the huge areas that legal fishing will be banned in and will be left with no fishing boats to monitor illegal fishing? What compensation will be paid to fish processors? These are among many questions that must be answered.
Tony Burke has put up these large marine parks around Australia in response to a coalition of green groups, led by the American PEW Foundation, who have lobbied the Government for these closures to protect fish stocks.
The Australian fishing industry is one of the most well-managed and well-regulated in the world, and all Australian fish stocks are healthy. By closing vast areas to professional fishing, we are now importing 70% of our fish.
These import figures will increase as these closures take effect. Australia is now importing fish from countries that do not have our sustainable fishing practices or strong environmental standards.
There are so many questions that need to be asked and answered. A Senate Committee where the industry can get information is urgently required, particularly when there is no Parliamentary scrutiny, debate or Committee stage where governments can be questioned before the parks are declared.