Author: Simon Cullen
Source: ABC News
Date: 16 November, 2012
Fishermen will be offered $100 million in compensation under the Government’s plan to extend marine reserves to cover more than 2.3 million square kilometres of ocean environment.
Today’s declaration of the marine parks officially puts into law new restrictions on what fishing and resources activities are allowed in certain areas.
The Government announced five draft marine reserves in June, saying it would consult with affected industries about how they should be implemented.
Environment Minister Tony Burke says the world’s oceans are under serious threat, and the extension of marine protections will help deal with the growing problem.
“As of midnight tonight, Australia becomes the world leader in protection of the oceans,” Mr Burke told reporters in Sydney this morning.
Under the plan, certain areas will be declared off limits to commercial fishing, while others will be protected from future oil and gas development.
Mr Burke acknowledges the plan will hurt the fishing industry, and has put forward a structural adjustment package to help the sector.
“The impact on wild catch fishing around Australia is in the order of around 1 per cent of their value of production,” he said in explaining the compensation on offer.
The assistance package will include direct payments to fishing businesses based on their recent history in areas where the marine protections will come into force.
There will also be a buyback of some fishing quotas where the overall allowable catch has been reduced because of the new reserves.
The Commonwealth Fisheries Association has already criticised the amount of money on offer, saying the new protections will have a substantial financial impact on the industry.
“The fact that the Government would propose to cap compensation and to restrict who they’re going to pay it to is astounding to me,” the Association’s Martin Exel told AM.
“We really honestly believe that anyone that’s negatively impacted – be they the truck driver that’s delivering fish or the fishermen at sea – should be compensated for setting aside all this water.”
The fishing industry says jobs will be lost, but it is hard to estimate how many.
Northern Territory-based commercial fisherman Bruce Davey says he plans to ignore the no-take zones which he says would decimate his business.
“In my case, I’m going to be losing about $150,000 worth of turnover,” he told ABC local radio.
“I’ve got so many businesses that rely on me buying fuel off them, truck drivers taking my product to Cairns fish shops.
“Now why kick me out and millions of dollars of investment just to put a green box there? I just don’t get it.”
Mr Burke believes the $100 million set aside by the Government will be more than enough to provide adequate compensation to the industry, because he says the boundaries have been worked out to minimise the disruption on the sector.
In terms of recreational fishing, Mr Burke says there will be no significant impact given the location of the reserves.
Funding from the package will begin to flow from mid next year, ahead of the new restrictions coming into force in 2014.
Until that time, there will be no “on the water” changes for fishermen in the affected areas, even though the new reserves have been officially declared now.
Queensland-based National Party Senator Ron Boswell, who has been an outspoken critic of the Government’s plan, says the declaration will be “very damaging” to both recreational and professional fishing.
He says the compensation on offer is inadequate, and has described the plan as a win for the Greens.
“(Fishermen) know that this won’t be the end – the Greens will come for more and more and more, and (fishing) will get progressively squeezed out as time goes on,” Senator Boswell said.
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says he is concerned that the marine reserves are not based on strong science, that the compensation package is inadequate, and that there has not been enough industry consultation.
Despite that, he says the Coalition would not repeal them if it wins the next election, but is promising a comprehensive review of the policy.
“We support strong environmental protection, but it cannot be at the expense of the livelihoods of people who make their living from the sea,” Mr Abbott told reporters in Sydney.
“And I think most Australians would be very disappointed if the result was that we eat more imported seafood.
“We think that these marine protected areas that have just been announced should be reviewed, not repealed.”
The Coalition’s Environment spokesman Greg Hunt says the fact that there has been no change in the boundaries since the draft policy was announced earlier this year shows the industry consultation was just a “sham”.