Coalition plan attracts fishermen
THE local fishing industries have welcomed a Federal Coalition policy that would scrap the planning process for giant new marine parks.
But environmental groups have lashed the policy as ‘a cheap political stunt with no scientific basis'.
The policy, announced in a joint statement by Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, Fisheries spokesman John Cobb, Environment spokesman Greg Hunt and Shadow ParliamentarySecretary for Fisheries Richard Coleback, calls for a new planning process done in consultation with the community and industry groups, within the first year of a Coalition government.
The policy would also require any future decisions on the giant marine parks to consider peer reviewed scientific evidence, which would be made available to ‘affected communities and industries'.
ECOfishers chief executive Ken Thurlow, who has been lobbying to have fishing and related industriesallowed to participate in the planning process, gave the policy an enthusiastic welcome, saying it was ‘to die for'.
“The key plank in this policyannouncement is that the Coalition recognises there must be a real and reasonable balance between protecting our offshore marine biodiversity and ecosystems, and the social and economic needs of coastal communities,” he said.
The existing process, which began under the former Howard government, had been attacked by members of the local industry as being similar to the one that led to the formation of the Cape Byron Marine Park.
Fishers have claimed they were misled during planning for the Cape Byron park and that they were locked out of the fishing spots they nominated to have excluded from the park.
One of the proposed parks sits off the Richmond seat of Justine Elliot, but she was not available for interview. But Liberal candidate Joan Van Lieshout said the Coalition's new policy had resulted partly from her lobbying Mr Abbott on the issue.
Ms Van Lieshout acknowledged the suspicion felt by the fishing industry over the parks, and said the Coalition policy would allow them a place ‘at that table' in developing the reserves.
She said it was important the community and the industry had a voice in the process so they could trust it was taking account of their interests.
“I don't want to lose trust with the community in my electorate,” she said.
Nature Conservation Council chief executive Pepe Clarke said Australia's oceans were under-protected.
“Marine parks and their smaller sanctuary areas are recognised worldwide as an effective way to ensure sustainable marine ecosystems, yet only 5 per cent of Australia's oceans are currently fully protected. This falls well short of the minimum of 20pc recommended by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature,” he said.
Mr Thurlow said 34 per cent of NSW's estuarine and coastal waters were ‘locked up in marine parks, which were environmental duds'.