Coral Sea Marine Park plans lock us out: fishermen
THE Federal Government’s final blueprint for the world’s biggest marine park, off the north Queensland coast, has left fishers devastated.
Environment Minister Tony Burke released the final map for the proposed Coral Sea marine park, as part of 44 new marine reserves to cover Australia’s waters.
"It's time for the world to turn a corner on the protection of our oceans," Minister Bourke said this morning from Sydney.
"This is a massive step forward in ocean protection. We have decided to become the world leader in ocean protection. The jewel of the crown in the entire process goes to the Coral Sea."
The Coral Sea reserve, which covers 1.3 million sq km, adjoins the existing Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
The level of protection has been increased to encompass Osprey, Marion, Bougainville, Vema and Shark reefs.
It also has been boosted for Holmes Reef, off Cairns, and Flinders Reef, off Townsville.
Mr Burke said the Government wanted to protect the unique marine environment, while supporting coastal communities and local marine industries.
"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,’’ he said.
"We now go through one final 60-day consultation period. It’s too late for people to say I want this line shifted, or this zone painted a different colour.
"The question now is very straight forward: do we go ahead with the most comprehensive marine park network in the world or do we not?’’
Green groups were last night happy with the increased level of protection afforded in the final plan.
Marine Queensland northern chairman Wayne Bayne said Cairns’ charter boat industry would suffer under the zoning of Holmes Reef.
"It will be severe, and the commercial industry is going to suffer as well,’’ he said. "It’s much worse than what was anticipated.
"We argued against the Government doing that, because it is going to have a significant impact.
"It will be very interesting now to see what is going to be the potential damage to the industry.’’
He said the question still remained about how the mega-marine park would be policed.
Queensland Game Fishing Association North Queensland executive officer Mick Meiers said any extra protection would destroy the region’s charter boat and commercial fishing industries.
Mr Meiers said it would not be clear until the park was declared later this year, exactly what fishing restrictions would be in place within this zone.
"It means we will have nowhere within reach of the Coral Sea to fish at all,’’ he said.
North Queensland Conservation Council co-ordinator Wendy Tubman welcomed the announcement.
"It’s really important that we protect the reefs, they are such an important part of the Coral Sea, it’s where you get the important species and they’re hotspots for biodiversity," she said.
"There is so much demand on our resources and our environment these days, increasing numbers of people are wanting increasing use of resources. We just have to slow down."
Steve Ryan, of the Cairns and Far North Environment Centre believes the plan is a historic step in marine conservation.
‘‘Anything less than full protection of these reefs and deep waters between must be seen as a missed opportunity,’’ Mr Ryan said.
‘‘Protection of the reefs and surrounding waters are vital if sharks and other top marine predators, so crucial for maintaining ecological balance, are to be protected into the future.’’
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Concern: Members of the fishing and charter boat industry the question still remained about how the Coral Sea Marine Park would be policed.