Byron Bay lighthouse
Byron Bay lighthouse David Nielsen

It's official: world's biggest marine park

AUSTRALIA will boast the world's largest network of marine parks from today with the Federal Government's plan becoming law.

Environment Minister Tony Burke said more than 2.3 million sq kms would be protected under the plan, which drew criticism from fishing groups and Coalition for perceived lack of consultation.

Mr Burke said more than 80,000 submissions were received during the consultation process, most of which were supportive of the plan.

Australia is a world leader when it comes to protecting our oceans, and so we should be, we've got responsibility for more of the ocean than almost any other country on Earth, Mr Burke said.

Mr Burke also revealed a $100 million adjustment package would be available to commercial fisheries adversely affected by the marine park plan.

He said the plan would affect about 1% of Australia's commercial fishing industry.

The assistance will take the form of payments to fishing businesses based on their recent fishing history in those parts of the new marine reserves; competitive grants to improve the long term sustainability of fisheries displaced by the marine reserves, and the purchase of individual fishers' entitlements or quota units in affected fisheries.

"Even though the new marine reserves have been designed in a way to minimise impacts on industry and recreational users, the government recognises that there will be impacts on some fishers and we will support those impacted," he said.

"This means that from Saturday until the new management plans come into effect in July 2014, there will be no 'on the water' changes for users in the new areas added to the Commonwealth reserve estate."

Opposition environment spokesman Greg Hunt welcomed the new marine parks, but claimed there had been a lack of consultation.

This is a blow to both recreational and commercial fishing communities who had expected genuine consultation rather than a sham process.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott slammed the process leading to the decision to go ahead with creating the world's largest network of marine reserves, but said he would not repeal the law if elected next year.



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